Euro optimism is once again gushing through the system on the hope that the debt crisis could be wished away with a nod by German Chancellor Angela Merkel or with a wink by the Bundesbank at the European Central Bank, which is dying to print unlimited amounts of moolah to buy sovereign bonds—and old bicycles, if it has to—in order to force yields down for debt-sinner countries like the US Spain and Italy. But in Greece there has been an incident.
Natural gas may be the most mispriced commodity these days. Its price has been below the cost of production for so long that the industry is suffering serious consequences with billions in losses—dollied up as “non-cash accounting charges.” Leveraged players are trying to keep their chin above water by selling assets. And drilling activity is collapsing. But demand for natural gas by power producers has been booming—and it’s killing coal one powerplant at a time.
Here are some easy tricks that I found to be very helpful in maintaining at least some sort of privacy and security for life on the internet (Note: This is in addition to keeping Windows, anti-virus software, Java, Flashplayer, etc. updated). Smartphones: If you use a smartphone (and a lot of apps) for everything…
The Eurozone wasn’t supposed to be a house of cards. And as long as there was “confidence” that it would work, it worked: the financial markets offered cheap no-questions-asked loans to the most profligate governments that sucked up phenomenal amounts of money. But all that remains from this drunken frenzy are mountains of decomposing debt. Now taboos are violated, sacred cows are slaughtered, and the euro has been tossed on the chopping block.
“That amount of radium found to date cannot be explained by gauges, deck markers, and decontamination activities,” wrote Stephen Woods, an environmental cleanup manager at the California Department of Public Health, about Treasure Island, the rectilinear speck of land in the San Francisco Bay two-and-a-half miles of white caps from our kitchen window. It summed up decades of US Government efforts to bury nuclear sins under layers of ignorance.
“Default is not necessarily destructive,” said Panayiotis Lafazanis, a Greek politician. “It is a weapon of the weak when they reach the point of not being able to pay their debts.” Closer to the truth than anything else emanating from Greek politics. “Not necessarily destructive” for the Greeks, but highly destructive for the European Central Bank that ended up with the Greek bonds; and for banks with derivative exposure to them. Hence the bailouts. To keep the bondholders afloat, not the Greeks—no one wants to recapitalize the ECB.
It’s been tough for natural gas drillers. Prices crashed. Drilling activity collapsed. Producers are writing down their natural gas assets by the billions. And the bloodletting continues. On the other side, power generators have switched from coal to natural gas, pushing their consumption of it to new highs. A trend started two decades ago with a new technology and the usual suspect, Congress. A toxic brew for coal.
For German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her ilk, it’s going to be a steamy August and an even steamier September and October with political battles left and right, to be fought mano a mano, as the Eurozone debt crisis and the growing bailout rebellion in Germany are migrating from parliamentary discussions, closed-door meetings, and shaky EU summits—21 of them so far—to electoral politics. Voters may finally have a say. And it doesn’t look good for the euro.
Germany and Austria may have their differences, and their love for each other may not always be palpable, but when it comes to money, they’re joined at the hip. And have been for decades. The peg of the Austrian schilling to the Deutsche mark that was put in place in the early 1970s survived even external shocks, for example when Italy devalued the lira on January 6, 1990, or again on September 14, 1992. Now the euro debate took on sharp tones in Austria. With a new theme: “Insolvency Procrastination.”
We’ve all heard about Wall Street employees who lost their jobs and ended up doing something unrelated, chasing after a dream, starting up a software company, working on a crab boat, teaching English to immigrants, run a taco truck, become a pole dancer…. So there should be indices that measure the number of people undergoing sudden and unlikely career changes—to give us a better gauge of the real job market.