17 October 2008

Global systemic crisis Alert

- Summer 2009: The US government defaults on its debt
- Public announcement GEAB N°28 (October 16, 2008) -

In this 28th edition of the GEAB, LEAP/E2020 has decided to launch a new global systemic crisis alert. Indeed our researchers anticipate that, before next summer 2009, the US government will default and be prevented to pay back its creditors (holders of US Treasury Bonds, of Fanny May and Freddy Mac shares, etc.). Of course such a bankruptcy will provoke some very negative outcome for all USD-denominated asset holders. According to our team, the period that will then begin should be conducive to the setting up of a « new Dollar » to remedy the problem of default and of induced massive capital drain from the US. The process will result from the following five factors studied in detail further in this GEAB:

1. The recent upward trend of the US Dollar is a direct and temporary consequence of the collapse of stock markets

2. Thanks to its recent « political baptism », the Euro becomes a credible « safe haven » value and therefore provides a « crisis » alternative to the US dollar

2. The US public debt is now swelling uncontrollably

3. The ongoing collapse of US real economy prevents from finding an alternative solution to the country’s defaulting

4. « Strong inflation or hyper-inflation in the US in 2009? », that is the only question.

Studying the case of Iceland can give an idea of the upcoming stages of the crisis. That is what our team has been doing ever since the beginning of 2006. This country indeed provides a good illustration of what the US and the UK should be expecting. It can be considered – and that is what most Icelandic people do today – that the collapse of Iceland’s financial system came from the fact that it was disproportionate to the size of the country’s economy.

Inflation in Iceland - 2003-2008 - Source Central Bank of Iceland

Financially speaking, Iceland thought of itself as UK [1], in the same way as, financially speaking, UK thought of itself as the US and the US thought of themselves as the entire world. It is therefore quite useful to study the case of Iceland [2] in order to understand the course of events that London and Washington will follow in the next 12 months [3].

What we see today is a double historical phenomenon:

. on the one hand, since September 2008 (as anticipated in the February 2008 edition of the GEAB - N°22), the whole planet has become aware that a global systemic crisis is unfolding, characterised by the collapse of the US financial system and its contagion to the rest of the world.

. on the other hand, a growing number of global players are beginning to act on their own, in reaction to the ineffectiveness of the measures advocated or implemented by the US though they are the centre of this global financial system. What happened with this first Euroland (or Eurozone) summit which took place on Sunday, October 12, 2008, and whose decisions, by their scope (close to 1,700-billion EUR) and their nature [4], resulted in a regain of confidence on financial markets from all over the world, is typical of the « post-September 2008 world ».

Map of deposit insurances in the EU - Source AFP - 10/09/2008

Indeed there is such a thing as a « post-September 2008 world ». According to our team, it is now clear that this past month will remain in the history books of the whole planet as the month when the global systemic crisis started; even if what is really at play is its decanting phase, the last of a series of four phases of the crisis described by LEAP/E2020 as early as June 2006 [5]. As always when it comes to large human groups, the perception of change among the general public only occurs when change is already far on its way.

As a matter of fact, September 2008 is the month when the « financial detonator » of the global systemic crisis exploded. According to LEAP/E2020 indeed, this second semester 2008 is the time when « the world dives into the heart of the impact phase of the global systemic crisis » [6]; which means for our researchers that, at the end of this semester, the world enters the « decanting phase » of the crisis, i.e. a phase when the outcome of the shock settles down. This phase is the longest (from 3 to 10 years, according to the country) and the one affecting the largest number of people and countries. It is also the phase when the components of new global equilibriums will start to appear, two of them being already described by LEAP/E2020 in this 28th edition of the GEAB in the graphic illustrations below [7].

Therefore, as we repeated it on and on since 2006, this crisis is far more important, in terms of impact and outcome, than the 1929 crisis. Historically, we are the very first players, witnesses and/or victims of a crisis affecting the whole planet, in a situation of unprecedented interdependence of countries (resulting from twenty years of globalisation) and people (the level of urbanization - and related dependence for all the basic needs – water, food, energy… - is also unprecedented). However, the 1929 experience and all its dreadful outcome, is still vivid enough in our collective memories to hope, if citizens are vigilant and leaders clear-sighted, that we will be spared from a « remake » leading to major conflagration(s).

Europe, Russia, China, Japan,... are certainly the collective players who can make sure that the unfolding implosion of today’s world power, i.e. the United States, does not drive the planet into a disaster. Indeed, except for Gorbachev’s USSR, empires have a tendency to strive in vain to reverse the course of History when they realize their might is escaping them. It then belongs to partner-powers to channel the process peacefully, as well as it belongs to the citizens and rulers of the concerned country to be clear-sighted and face the difficult times they are about to cross.

Total borrowings of US Depository Institutions from the US Federal Reserve (01/08/1986 – 10/09/2008) - Source Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis

The « emergency repair » of international financial channels, achieved by the countries of the Eurozone at the beginning of this month of October 2008 [8], should not hide three fundamental facts:

• The “repair” was necessary to curb the panic that threatened to squander the entire global financial system in just a few weeks, but what it heals temporarily is merely a symptom. It has just bought a bit of time, two to three months maximum, as the global recession and the collapse of the US economy (the table above shows the staggering increase of US banks’ borrowings from the Fed) will speed up and create new tensions in the economic, social and political fields, that must be anticipated and coped with as soon as next month (as soon as the “financial packages” have been implemented)

• The huge financial means allocated worldwide for « emergency rescues » of the global financial system, though they were necessary to put back in order the system of credit, are lost for the real economy when it is on the verge of facing a global recession

• The « emergency repair » results in further marginalization, and therefore weakening, for the United States, because it sets up processes that are contrary to those advocated by Washington for the allocation of the Hank Paulson’s and Ben Bernanke’s 700-billion USD TARP: bank recapitalisation by governments (a decision Hank Paulson has now come to follow) and interbank loan guarantees (in fact Euroland governments substitute to credit insurers, a mostly American industry at the centre of global finance since decades). These trends turn more and more decision-making relays and financial flows away from the United-States when because of the explosion of their public [9] and private debt they need them more than ever; not to mention pensions going up in smoke [10].

The last aspect shows how, in the coming months, solutions to the crisis and to its various sequences (financial, economic, social and political) will increasingly diverge: what is good for the rest of the world will not be good for the United States [11], and now, Euroland in the first place, the rest of the world seems determined to make its own choices.

The sudden shock that will result from the US defaulting in summer 2009 is partly due to this decoupling of decision-making processes of the world’s largest economies with regard to the US. It is predictable and can be dampened if global players start to anticipate it. As a matter of fact, it is one of the topics developed in this 28th edition of the GEAB: LEAP/E2020 hopes that the September shock has “educated” the world’s political, economic and financial policy-makers and made them understand that it is easier to act by anticipation than in a panic. It would be a pity if Euroland, Asia and oil-producing countries, as well as US citizens of course, discover one morning of summer 2009 that, after a long-week-end or bank-holiday in the US, their US T-Bonds and Dollars are only worth 10 percent of their value because a « new Dollar » has just been imposed [12].

link to charts

No comments: