Hope was once again in vogue Thursday night in President Obama’s acceptance speech, after having gone the way of the green shoots. Hope has been swirling around the financial markets as well. The Fed keeps dangling QE3 out in front of them. And ECB President Mario Draghi injected a mega-dose of it with his bond-buying promise. It goosed the markets even more and powered them to multi-year highs. Then came the jobs report.
The Republic of Cyprus, with its 840,000 people, has been in the Eurozone for less than five years. It and its banks burned through mountains of euros faster than anyone could count. Now they need a bailout whose magnitude balloons every time someone blinks. Yet, Cyprus has something other Eurozone debt-sinners don’t have: Russian money flowing back to Russia!
Bring home the bacon, or the speck, as it were, was the guiding principle for German Chancellor Angela Merkel when she frolicked in China last week. But her pleas to get the Chinese to buy the crappy bonds of debt-sinner countries in the Eurozone fell on deaf ears. This week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was hobnobbing with the Chinese elite. It turned into a clash fest, and instead of bringing home the bacon, she argued with the Chinese over everything and the South China Sea.
Slovenia joined the Eurozone in 2007, went on a borrowing binge that blind bond buyers eagerly made possible, dousing some of its two million people with riches, creating a real estate bubble that has since burst, and driving up its external debt by 110%. And in October, it may go bankrupt, admitted its Prime Minister. Because borrowing binges can last only so long if you can’t print your own money. And in Germany, the debate itself may tear up the Eurozone.
Why would France suddenly prohibit shale gas exploration? Sure, there are environmental issues: flammable drinking water, earth quakes, cows that die, radioactive sludge in sewage treatment plants…. But French governments have had, let’s say, an uneasy relationship with environmentalists. Its spy service DGSE, for example, sank Greenpeace’s flagship, the Rainbow Warrior, in the port of Auckland, New Zealand, killing one person. No, there must have been another reason.
People are holding their breath. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is to speak in Jackson Hole. There isn’t a soul in the markets that can shrug off even a single syllable. If his answer isn’t a clear yes, TV economists will parse his speech down to the last iota and look for commas that they haven’t seen before. Headlines stir the excitement. My blood pressure is up, my nails are bitten down to the quick, I haven’t slept in days. I’m ready. Oh dear Ben, I’m praying, let us have more QE.
It started on Monday. “Poverty is returning to Europe,” said Jan Zijderveld, head of Unilever’s European operations. The third largest consumer products company in the world was adjusting its commercial strategy to this new reality, he said, by redeploying to Europe what worked in poor countries of the developing world. Other stars of the industry affirmed it. “The logic of pauperization,” L’Oréal CEO Jean-Paul Agon called it.
On Treasure Island, a former naval base in the San Francisco Bay, there’s a spot the Navy calls “USS Pandemonium Site I,” occupied by multi-family housing units. Potential contaminants: Radium-226 and cesium-137. Contamination, according to the Navy, is “unlikely.” But the Health Department finds 93 spots where radiation is up to 2.7 times the normal exposure level. In one area, it’s 4,380% above the annual dose limit.
A hullabaloo has flared up in Germany over squashing democratic discussions on whether or not taxpayers should endlessly pay to keep Greece in the Eurozone and protect bondholders—the ECB and national central banks—from having to recognize reality on the worm-eaten Greek debt in their basements. The tools: political pressure, fake moral outrage, and ridicule. Now politicians have something big to hide behind.
The arm-wrestling between the US and Switzerland over funds that US citizens have stashed away in Swiss bank accounts has been going on for years. In Germany, a similar fight has broken out, albeit with more consideration for the rich. Other governments, desperate for moolah, are also going after their own with funds in Switzerland. Now it turns out the Swiss themselves, long praised for their tax compliance, also evade taxes. But it’s “officially silenced to death.”