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  • European Debt Crisis Never Went Away

    Since December, the European Central Bank has loaned over 1 trillion euros to banks in southern Europe. These were three-year loans with an interest rate of only 1%. The banks used most of this money to buy up sovereign bonds of their home countries. This served to drive down bond yields around the region, and most observers assumed that the European debt crisis had been solved - at least for a while.

    Yet over the last few weeks, the unexpected has happened: bond rates in countries like Spain and Italy have started to rise again to dangerously high levels. Ten-year Spanish bond yields climbed to the highest level since the ECB started allocating three-year loans in December. Yields rose above 6% last Friday and yesterday, which sparked new concerns that Spain may need yet another ECB bailout. Making matters worse, Spain's economy slipped back into recession in the 1Q.

    Interest rates are also rising in Italy, and its economy appears to have dipped into a recession as well. All of this news has accelerated concerns that the financial crisis in Europe is back. Yet I argue today that the debt crisis never went away! Don't be surprised if this problem returns to center stage over the weeks just ahead, and if it does, this will not be good news for equity markets around the world.

    While US stocks are enjoying a very strong day today, there's a critical government bond auction in Spain on Thursday; Italy has a big bond auction on April 27; and Spain has another large bond auction on May 3. If interest rates continue to rise and/or if Spain and Italy have trouble finding enough buyers, this will be bad news. That's our topic for today.

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  • European Debt Crisis Revisited - Implications For the US

    Today we take a fresh look at the European debt crisis which is worsening. Just over a month ago, EU leaders agreed on a second bailout loan for Greece to keep it from defaulting. That bailout loan had to be approved by all EU member nations, and several have refused to do so unless Greece can put up collateral. This has caused the bailout agreement to unravel and Germany's Chancellor Andrea Merkel is frantically trying to put it back together. If she fails, we could get another serious shock to the equity markets in the US.

    Meanwhile, the European Central Bank began buying huge chunks of government bonds from Italy and Spain to keep their credit markets functioning. Some argue that the ECB is not authorized to make such purchases but it is doing so anyway. It remains to be seen just how long the ECB can continue this large-scale quantitative easing. In any event, the European debt crisis is worsening, and I continue to believe that it will have more negative consequences for our markets here.

    A new CNN poll found that Americans' confidence in Congress is at a new low. For the first time ever, a majority of Americans want the bums in Washington voted out of office -- including their own Representatives in Congress. In past polls a majority wanted some members of Congress kicked out, but not their own Representatives. You'll find this story very interesting. Finally, I leave you today with a very good article written by Tony Blankley who offers President Obama some advice for his major speech on Thursday night.

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