That was the result of yesterday’s referendum in Greece, which officially just referred to Europe’s most recent bailout proposal. But unofficially, the resounding “No” refers to so much more. Germany’s “Austerity First” approach. Five years of deepening economic recession. Membership in the euro currency itself.
It’s no surprise, then, that markets worldwide got blasted overnight and earlier today. Dow futures plunged by more than 200 points (before recovering to down 50-ish by the close) … the euro currency and interest rates tumbled … and commodities got spanked across the board.
So the most important, logical question is: “What happens now?” Here are my answers:
First, the leaders of France and Germany met today in Paris to discuss where to go next and to come up with a unified negotiating position.
That meeting preceded an emergency summit of all European leaders tomorrow. In advance of that gathering, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has basically told Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras: “Your move” – saying it’s up to him to offer a new debt relief proposal.
Second, in Greece, the combative finance minister Yanis Varoufakis resigned – broomed by Tsipras for being too combative.
|Will Greece stop using the euro?|
Banks are rapidly running out of cash, with some ATMs reportedly dispensing even fewer or no euro notes at all. That’s because the Greek banking system went into the weekend with a cushion of only 1 billion euros – and the European Central Bank refused to increase the amount of emergency aid it will provide again today.
So it comes as little surprise that the existing program of capital controls and the ongoing bank holiday has been extended for even longer through at least Wednesday (and likely much longer!). Pharmacies are running short of medicine, and worries are growing that tourists will start shunning Greece in greater numbers. That would cut off one last major source of foreign money the Greece has been relying on.
Third, Greece’s financial situation is worsening by the day. Analysts estimate any new bailout program may need to be $20 billion to $30 billion larger now than it would have been a few months ago, given the further deterioration in the economy and banking sector.
European power brokers don’t want to concede and give Athens the massive debt write-offs it wants out of fear that will only encourage other indebted nations to demand the same thing. But if they keep dithering and fail to stem the bleeding soon, the costs of a fresh deal will keep spiraling higher. After all, as the Wall Street Journal notes …
“As the euro shortage drags on, the government in Athens likely will be unable to pay its external creditors. Ordinary Greeks won’t pay taxes, rent or credit-card bills to keep the euros they have. The government will be forced to pay its internal obligations through scrip — in effect, checks promising a future payment in euros.”
|“European power brokers don’t want to concede.”|
That last point is the most important. The vote significantly increases the chance of a Grexit from the euro currency union. The country already missed a 1.6 billion euro debt payment to the International Monetary Fund, and it owes the ECB 3.5 billion euros on July 20.
There’s no way in you-know-where Greece can pay that, at least not in full face value euros. So it may need to start issuing massive amounts of IOUs, roll out a new parallel currency, or re-denominate its debts in a new drachma currency.
We keep being told by the powers-that-be in Europe not to worry about that event. They say the losses will largely be borne by public institutions like the ECB and European governments rather than private banks and investors, cushioning the blow.
But isn’t that kind of like how former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told us the subprime crisis was “well-contained”? We all know how that wonderful advice worked out.
Bottom line: I’ve been paring down some risk and raising cash for a little while now, thanks to the increased risk of significant market turmoil. We’re trading at key levels in many markets, and depending on whether those levels hold or fold, it may be time to raise even more.
In the meantime, stick with super-cheap stocks and stocks in sectors and markets that either A) have nothing to do with Greece or B) should actually benefit from capital flight away from troubled countries and toward stronger ones!
So what are your thoughts? What do you think the Greek “no” vote means – for U.S. markets and the stocks you hold? Is this the start of a new bear market … or is all that money fleeing Europe likely to land on our shores as a relatively safety move? How should (or will) policymakers respond to the heightened volatility?
Here’s the link to the Money and Markets website. Please share your thoughts ASAP.
Events are happening fast in Europe and in the global markets. But I wanted to quickly touch on some of the comments that came in over the holiday weekend in response to my piece on the June jobs numbers.
Reader Richard blamed the policies pursued by the Obama administration for ongoing lackluster growth. His take: “It was demonstrated twice that money given to the consumers gives a 2 1/2 multiplier effect, which is not available if the money is given to the producers. The President’s policies are holding us in the recession. His misapplication of the TARP fund allowed us to crash. He is the actor that is killing us.”
Reader Patrick T. also said we need to enact new policies to get the economy on track. His view: “We need to do several things that aren’t going to fly with the Obama administration. First, is to lower the corporate tax rate to 15%. With corporate tax rates at 40%, the highest in the world, our corporations are punished for making a profit. If the tax rate was lowered to 15%, we would see a lot more investment that could fuel job creation enormously.
“Second, regulations are killing our companies. As if Obamacare is not enough, now Obama has the EPA destroying the coal industry with their ridiculous regulations to stop the hoax called global warming. Third, the Arctic and Continental Shelf need to be opened for oil drilling. Also, government lands with huge oil deposits need to be opened for drilling. Energy independence is a national security interest.”
The problem according to Reader Bruce, however, is that we can’t even trust the economic numbers we do get. And the response from the Federal Reserve and the rest Washington to those numbers has been wholly inadequate. His comments:
“The government figures lie, except for a few. Unemployment numbers are a sham since after receiving unemployment benefits to the max, they drop out of the numbers, and that’s reflected in the lowest labor participation rates in about 40 years. Include the latest assault on small business just announced, and you have the formula for more anemic job growth.
“All in all, and after squandering $18 trillion, the ‘money printers’ have terribly little to show for it, and we’re in debt up to our eyeballs … forever. Pity the middle class, the poor suckers who work hard, save their money and wind up supporting the ‘other’ 50% of the labor force. It’s European Socialism.”
Clearly, we’d all like to see better economic growth here in the U.S. – but there’s a lot of disagreement about how to get it. So the best we can all do is navigate the choppy waters via safer, prudent investments designed to prosper despite Washington policies, not because of them.
Any other thoughts I didn’t cover adequately here? Then tell me about them over at the website here.
Chinese shares have shed a whopping $2.4 trillion in value just in the past few weeks, a decline that spurred the government into action over the weekend. Propaganda pieces in major media outlets urged investors to stay calm and buy shares. The central bank established an indirect liquidity program to provide money to brokerages to buy shares.
Several major mutual funds and state-backed funds said they would buy as well. Plus, IPOs of new companies have been suspended. The efforts helped Chinese markets rally, but not by as much as the government likely expected.
As if we didn’t have enough crises to deal with, the Iran-U.S. nuclear negotiations have now run well past their June 30 deadline – with no deal yet signed. I’ve heard a lot of happy talk about how negotiators are getting close, but obviously no results as we head into a pivotal week for the Vienna talks. If nothing is signed by Thursday, it doubles the review period that Congress gets for any compact to 60 days from 30.
What a victory for the U.S.A. women, huh? I was thrilled to see the national soccer team play so well against Japan right out of the gate, and to keep the pressure on for the full match. The 5-2 result was the first Women’s World Cup victory for the U.S. since 1999, and the third overall.
So what do you think of the Chinese market turmoil, the Iranian negotiations, or the thrilling soccer victory? Let me know over at the website when you get a minute.
Until next time,