17 October 2009

GEAB N°38 is available! Global Systemic Crisis – The European Union at a crossroads in 2010: an accomplice or a victim of the collapse of the dollar?

The major trends at work in the 4th and 5th phases of the global systemic crisis (the decanting phase and the global geopolitical dislocation phase) are unveiling every day (1). Everyone has now realized that the United States is being swept into an uncontrollable spiral involving widespread insolvency of the country and gross incompetence of the U.S. elite in implementing the necessary solutions. The foretold US default is well underway as exemplified by the falling dollar and the flight of capital from the country: only the name of the liquidator and the recognition of the bankruptcy are still missing, but it shouldn’t be long now. Following the example of its leader, the Western bloc (which Japan has undertaken to move away from, implementing completely new political, economic, financial and diplomatic policies (2)), is in total decay symbolized by NATO’s coalition in Afghanistan (3).

According to LEAP/E2020, in 2010, the European Union having four strategic core requirements, will be compelled to take a number of urgent decisions in a context of a fast collapse of the Western camp that could be summed up as the US Dollar’s fate. The decisions taken by the EU will define the role the Europeans will be playing in the post-crisis world: either they start to appear as key-players in recasting tomorrow’s world and bring forward their own vision of the future, seeking the partners they need with no exceptions; or they remain the willing victims of a sinking Western Bloc, blindly following Washington's descent into hell. In the first case, the EU fulfills its historic purpose of restoring the Europeans’ command over their collective destiny; in the latter, it would just prove to be the Western equivalent of the Comecon (4), a futureless appendix of the protective superpower.

Heavy trends are already visible which, according to our team, have began to push Europe in a number of predictable directions. However, the intellectual weakness of Europe’s present political leadership (in the EU and member-states alike) compels us to soften our forecasts.

In all cases, since the EU is the world’s largest economic and trade power (5), the continuing development of these trends will soon impact directly on a large number of major economic, financial, and strategic factors: exchange rates, commodity prices, growth, social systems, budget balances, global governance…

In this 38th issue of the GEAB, besides ‘strategic and operational recommendations to survive the crisis’ and their ‘crisis-related country-risk anticipations for 2009-2014’, our team has decided to analyze these four requirements to which the EU will be compelled to find answers full of consequences:

1. Addressing the failure of the monetary system based on the USD and not becoming helpless when 1EUR=2USD
2. Avoiding exploding budget deficits like those in the US and UK
3. Responding to the aggravation of the Iran/Israel/USA crisis and war in Afghanistan by defining a specific European position
4. Learning to deal independently and constructively with the new key players of the post-crisis world: China, India, Brazil and Russia in particular.

It impossible to envisage waiting later than 2011 to deal with everyone of these crucial aspects (crucial for both the Europeans and the rest of the world). Just imagine what would happen if the Europeans remained passive beyond 2010, while faced with these four requirements:

1. If the Europeans are content to watch the Dollar sink, their exports to the US and the dollar-pegged countries will fall dramatically, exacerbating the economic and social crisis in the EU.
2. If the Europeans, their leaders in particular, are content to let public deficits swell, like France is currently doing, the Eurozone will soon become prey to profound disagreements between Northern and Southern Europe.
3. If European leaders are content to follow the Israel/Washington line in dealing with Iran’s nuclear issue and to fall in behind the Obama administration regarding Afghanistan, they will soon be faced with growing public dissatisfaction which they are not prepared nor in a good position to face, a guarantee of serious political instability in every member state.
4. If the Europeans are content to refuse independently debating the interests they have in common with the Chinese, Indians, Brazilians and Russians, they willingly deprive themselves of any means to bring forward their perspective on the previous three issues, as no significant move can be accomplished without them (6).

Historical change in China-India share of global GDP (1500-2008) - Sources: Bloomberg / Gluskin Sheff - 2009
According to our researchers, 2010 is certainly a crucial year for the Europeans and their collective future. The relationship of the EU, and particularly of the Euro, with the dollar will be decisive for the Europeans, as much as for the Dollar and the global monetary order altogether. Not that the Europeans chose the year (2010) or the subject (the Dollar) (the leaders of the Euroland would certainly prefer to go on with their « business as usual »), but History is very ironical in calling the US “allies” bluff: sinking now with Washington or swimming without Washington.

In the image of all the developments involved in the ongoing global systemic crisis, time is going through a process of contraction: events are happening a lot faster. On this subject, we are surprised to hear various « experts » describing Robert Fisk’s article entitled « The Demise of the Dollar » (7) - where the author suggests that the Russians, Chinese, French, Japanese and Gulf oil-producing countries would be discussing the idea of pricing oil in a currency other than the US Dollar within nine years - as eccentric. According to LEAP/E2020, the only surprising element in this analysis is in the nine year delay. In fact, this development will occur much earlier, within two years, under the pressure of events.

In order to realize the extraordinary speeding up of History created by the crisis, let’s remember what kind of a place the world was nine years ago. Nine years ago, G. W. Bush had recently been elected; 9/11 would take place in two years from then; the US were neither stuck in Afghanistan nor in Iraq; Katrina had not yet destroyed New-Orleans; one Euro was worth 0.9 USD; Russia was a country adrift the EU was preparing a constitution meant to be popular; China was a poor international player; the US economy was shown to the world as an example and the United Kingdom was preaching ultra-liberalism throughout Europe; Wall Street’s investment banks seemed invincible,… the list could go on and on. What is highlighted is that each of these events seemed unthinkable to most “experts” just a few weeks before they happened. Therefore it is, in fact, very naïve to consider that it will take nine years until oil is priced other than in dollars, a currency utterly dependent on central banks’ will (increasingly a « bad » will, by the way) to buy, buy and buy more just for the sake of its survival.

As early as the second quarter of 2009, central banks from all over the world undertook to stop accumulating US dollars (dollars accounted for 37 percent only of their currency purchases while they account for 63 percent of their reserves) (8). As early as July 2009, close to USD 100 billion worth of net capital fled the US (9), at the precise moment when the US was claiming to be able to attract more than USD 100 billion a month to help finance the federal deficit (not to mention the other deficits).

In this situation, a fundamental question must be asked: who is really buying these USD 100 billion worth in Treasuries each month? Certainly not US citizens, indebted beyond any reason and left without savings or credit. Certainly not foreign private investors, more and more concerned about the economic health of the US. Certainly not the Chinese, Russian or Japanese central banks, more concerned about curbing their purchases of long-term bonds, and even starting to sell their Treasuries or exchange their long-term bonds against short-term ones. Strangely enough, the Bank of England alone seems to still have this appetite (10). Therefore, we are left we the “usual suspects’, i.e. the Fed and its network of « primary dealers ». “Money printing” is taking place on a far greater scale than acknowledged by the Fed under its official policy of « quantitative easing ».

Change in foreign purchases of Long-Term US securities (1979 – 2009) - Source: Market Oracle / Sean Brodick - 09/2009
As the US announced a federal budget deficit of USD 1,000 billion a year over the next decade (11), who can honestly believe that the rest of the world would accept nine more years being paid in funny money? Maybe those who found it impossible that Wall Street could collapse in September 2008? Or those who thought Obama would change America and the world (12)? Or else those who persist in thinking that the American consumer will rise from his ashes and fuel the « impossible recovery » (13)?

Unlike last year, no panic will come to the rescue of the dollar. This time, the US currency is seen more as a sham than as a safe haven. Indeed decoupling of the rest of the world (Asia, South America and Europe in particular) is underway (14) and it is precisely the reason why 2010 is such a crucial year for the Europeans. If they don’t do anything about it, the Euro will become a safe-haven currency and it will rise until it suffocates the European economy. The Eurozone must therefore become more aggressive and discuss with the other big economic and financial players how to avoid the Euro soaring against the Yuan, the Yen and all the other currencies of its trade partners.

On this aspect, the EU doesn’t have a choice: it cannot be lasting policy to purchase billions of USD every day that lose value every day as a result of the increasing pace at which they are printed (15). Moreover, the EU is in the strongest position to negotiate with the IMF for the suppression of the US right of veto and for sharing power with the « re-emerging » powers (16).

Relative weight of big players in global wealth - Source: IMF - 2009
As usual, external events will push the Europeans to act in a united and proactive manner. In the present case, according to LEAP/E2020, the issue of the Dollar will be a powerful stimulus for European action in 2010. History, whose only “sense” is the sense of irony as often recalled by our team, is apparently ready to give the Europeans the role everyone thought would be played by the Chinese…


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