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Why Europe Matters… And How Spain Could Wipe Out Your 401(k)

Stock-Markets / Eurozone Debt Crisis Aug 06, 2012 - 12:38 PM GMT

By: Graham_Summers

Stock-Markets

Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleMany people have been writing in to ask me, “why are you focusing on Europe so much? Who cares about Spain?”

The short answer is that everyone should care about Spain. Spain could potentially take down the banking system in Europe, which would mean the US facing a Financial Crisis at least on par with 2008.


How would this unfold?

To understand this, you need to understand how the European banking system works. By now everyone knows that many European countries have massive debt problems: Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, and Spain, the infamous PIIGS.

Well, when these countries issue debt, it is mainly the European banks that buy it. So let’s say Spain issues €5 billion in new debt. Most of that will be snatched up by Spanish banks or some other European financial entity.

This bank will then park this debt on its balance sheet as a “senior asset” or an asset that has the least amount of risk (I realize this sounds insane given how bad Spain’s finances are, but this is how the banking system’s “risk models” work).

The bank will then use this Spanish bond to backstop loans to Spanish businesses, developers (not so much any more) even student loans: pretty much every other type of loan the bank might make.

On top of this, the bank will also use this Spanish bond to backstop hundreds of billions of Euros worth of trades.

Do you see the problem with this? If Spain defaults, one of the most important “assets” used to backstop its loan and trade portfolio goes up in smoke. At that point the bank is essentially insolvent and would have to liquidate its loan portfolio while trying to stave off a bank run (as you’ve likely noticed, Spain is facing bank runs galore).

So what? Who cares? This is Spain’s problem right?

Wrong. This is Europe’s problem as European banks across the board are sitting on Spanish debt: Spain’s sovereign bond market is €2.1 trillion in size.

So if Spain defaults, then a heck of a lot of EU banks (and some US banks for that matter) will see some of their “Senior Assets” go up in smoke, rendering them insolvent. This in turn could spread like wildfire throughout Europe’s banking system.

This is why the Spanish bank bailout was so rapid (it took only one weekend). EU officials know that if Spain’s banking system goes down, most of Europe will as well. This is also why EU officials continue to give money to Greece despite the clear fact that Greece is completely and totally bankrupt and has failed to meet fiscal demands placed on it throughout the EU Crisis.

Indeed, I wager most people at some point have asked themselves, “what’s the big deal about Greece? It represents only 2% of the EU economy. How is it that a country this small is still an issue after TWO YEARS!?!”

Now you know. By some estimates, Greece’s true debt exposure is north of $1 trillion. Lehman brothers had $649 billion in assets when it collapsed. Can you imagine the impact that a $1 trillion vacuum would have on the EU’s banking system (a banking system which backstops well over €200 trillion in derivative trades by the way).

How would the debt implosion of Spain’s $2.2 trillion in sovereign bonds affect the financial system? What about the effect of Europe’s $46 TRILLION banking system collapsing?

It would be Lehman by a factor of ten, easily.

So what does this have to do with the US?

The US banking system is $12 trillion in size. And this backstops over $220 trillion in derivative trades. Of this $220 trillion, 85% are based on interest rates. So…

If Spain, or any of the other PIIGS default, and Europe’s banking system (which is $46 trillion in size by the way) crumbles, interest rates across Europe will spike as the EU sovereign crisis spreads.

At the same time, Treasuries will spike pushing interest rates close to ZERO in the US, if not into negative territory (this happened when Lehman went under).

This in turn would very likely trigger an implosion of all those derivative trades based on interest rates. This blows up Wall Street and likely results in bank holidays and the stock market even being closed down for a period.

This is why Europe matters. This is why Spain could wipe out your 401(K). This is why European leaders are so frantic NOT to let a default occur in Greece or Spain (remember, the Spanish bailout was rushed through in less than a weekend).

In simple terms Europe is a HUGE deal for everyone. We’re not talking about some distant region far off in the distance that we will watch go down from our decks. We’re talking about systemic risk on a scale that would make 2008 look tiny in comparison.

This is why I keep talking about Europe so much. And it’s why I’m more concerned now than I was in early 2008. No joke. What’s coming will be truly horrific. I believe we have, at most, maybe 9-10 months to prepare for all of this (possibly less).

Those investors looking for actionable investment ideas could also consider our Private Wealth Advisory newsletter: a bi-weekly detailed investment advisory service that distills the most important geopolitical, economic, and financial developments in the markets into concise investment strategies for individual investors.

To learn more about Private Wealth Advisory and how it can help you navigate the markets successfully…

Click Here Now!!!

Graham Summers

Chief Market Strategist

Good Investing!

http://gainspainscapital.com

PS. If you’re getting worried about the future of the stock market and have yet to take steps to prepare for the Second Round of the Financial Crisis… I highly suggest you download my FREE Special Report specifying exactly how to prepare for what’s to come.

I call it The Financial Crisis “Round Two” Survival Kit. And its 17 pages contain a wealth of information about portfolio protection, which investments to own and how to take out Catastrophe Insurance on the stock market (this “insurance” paid out triple digit gains in the Autumn of 2008).

Again, this is all 100% FREE. To pick up your copy today, got to http://www.gainspainscapital.com and click on FREE REPORTS.

Graham also writes Private Wealth Advisory, a monthly investment advisory focusing on the most lucrative investment opportunities the financial markets have to offer. Graham understands the big picture from both a macro-economic and capital in/outflow perspective. He translates his understanding into finding trends and undervalued investment opportunities months before the markets catch on: the Private Wealth Advisory portfolio has outperformed the S&P 500 three of the last five years, including a 7% return in 2008 vs. a 37% loss for the S&P 500.

Previously, Graham worked as a Senior Financial Analyst covering global markets for several investment firms in the Mid-Atlantic region. He’s lived and performed research in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and the United States.

© 2012 Copyright Graham Summers - All Rights Reserved
Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.

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