Tuesday, February 17

The financial crisis: Is Europe tanking?

The February 15 Telegraph column by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard that I linked to my February 15 Ducking götterdämmerung post has been receiving considerable attention on both sides of The Pond; I'm told that Drudge even linked to it and that yesterday the Polish government -- or maybe it was just Polish foreign exchange traders -- blamed the column and others written in a similar vein for causing panic about Poland's forex problems.

Ambrose is reportedly a perennial Bear but even a broken clock is right twice a day and I think the data he used in his arguments hold up. And he's not the only one to warn of a financial meltdown in Europe that could engulf the rest of the world. The Zero Hedge blog sounded the alarm as early as February 10 with the cheerily titled A Glance At The Upcoming Eastern European Cataclysm; that makes the title for Ambrose's piece -- Failure to save East Europe will lead to worldwide meltdown -- seem tame in comparison.

Last night James Sinclair linked to a February 16 Financial Times Alphaville blog post on the meltdown and added these comments:
An unwind is taking form right now, this minute, (9:10PM ET - Feb 16) that may or may not be contained by international central bank action. Even if central Europe does not financially implode the world money system today, it is just around the corner. [...]
The Alphaville post, by Izabella Kaminska, is titled Forex failure continues in Poland; it also mentions Ambrose's column:
It's getting bleaker by the minute in Eastern Europe. In case you didn't catch the latest from the Telegraph's Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, he warned at the weekend how a growing crisis in Eastern Europe could cause nothing less than a total collapse in the West, or as he put it: "If one spark jumps across the euro zone line, we will have global systemic crisis within days."
As to why Americans haven't been hearing very much from the mainstream media about the cascading financial crises in Europe -- if the central banks there don't pull a rabbit out of the hat, I'm sure we'll be hearing a great deal very soon.

But Americans are understandably focused on the US part of the financial crisis. And there was a three-day weekend. And the crisis in Europe is complex, and involves foreign exchange trading. The MSM in this country, particularly television reporting, don't handle complexity well.

I note there are a number of links at the Alphaville site about the European crisis. So that seems to be one of the go-to places for news about whether Europe is hanging on.

However, what we really need right now is an Internet site that keeps a running tally, region-by-region, of how the world is being impacted by the financial crisis. There probably are such sites; I just haven't seen one yet. Right now what I'm seeing and hearing is a lot of 'Lookee here, Lookee there.' Lookee at the crisis in China, Look there at the crisis in Dubai, Lookee here at Poland, etc. You get epistemological whiplash that way. Not helpful for clear thinking.

To see the big picture we need headings for about ten prioritized categories of data, for easily comparing how the crisis is impacting major world regions. And all of it updated at least a couple times a day.

The computing power is available, so is the Internet. So his should be the first time in history that the general public doesn't need to stumble around blindfolded during an economic crisis that impacts much of the world.

Above all, what we need is to replenish the IMF coffers and get the IMF working on an overarching forex fix that I think should involve SDR, as I noted in the Götterdämmerung post. At the least this could stave off trade wars resulting from the crisis.

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