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Axel Merk: Making Sense Of The Impact Of Brexit

A special edition podcast
Monday, June 27, 2016, 8:22 PM

A very sleep-deprived Axel Merk joins us for this special edition podcast. Axel and his team have pulled late nights over the past few days following the Brexit vote results in real-time and the ensuing aftermath.

Axel, CEO and founder of the Merk Funds, is originally from Europe and one of the best experts we know on the currency markets, as well as monetary policy. In this podcast, he explains why he sees the Brexit as a sea-change in sentiment that will have far-reaching implications for Britain, Europe, and the rest of the world -- though it may take years before they are fully recognized and expressed. He expects the post-Brexit future to more market volatility, more populism as political stability weakens, more (ineffectual) fiscal spending to goose economic growth, and likely more armed conflict around the world. » Read more

Insider

Europe: Welcome to the Domino Effect

Expect EU economies to topple with accelerating rapidity fro
Monday, March 4, 2013, 3:52 PM

Executive Summary

  • France:  Bet on a bankruptcy of the French government
  • Italy:  Will not be able to fund its debt obligations without external help
  • Spain:  The best outcome at this point is years of grinding financial repression 
  • UK:  At growing risk of a big upward spike in price inflation, leading to a currency crisis

If you have not yet read Part I, available free to all readers, please click here to read it first.

Individual States

France

Perhaps the cameo event that best describes French attitudes was the recent correspondence between Maurice Taylor Jnr, head of Titan International, the tire manufacturer, and Arnaud Montebourg, France's Minister for Industrial Renewal. While it was good theatre, the serious points were that on average a French worker at an industrial plant works for three hours a day, and that the Minister resorted to threats that any Titan products imported into France would be “inspected by the relevant authorities with extra zeal.” That is the way things are done in France: Upset the Minister or a government functionary and none of your product gets to market, as Mr Taylor will shortly find out.

France has an official unemployment rate of about 10.5%, which would be somewhat higher if it were not for three-hour days in many of the factories. Taxes on employers are among the highest in Europe, and employment legislation is so onerous that employing an extra hand is the last option for all private sector employers.

Large companies, such as Peugeot-Citroen, generally tolerate poor labour productivity and sub-standard quality products partly because the unions are strong, and partly because senior managers look to government to “help” by providing subsidies and by other means. Consequently, private-sector manufacturing is not competitive, and sales in the troubled Eurozone are collapsing. Peugeot’s share price says it all.

Decades of government protection have left France’s industrial sector in the weakest position of the larger Eurozone economies. Smaller businesses, outside the major cities, are heavily reliant on agricultural produce and hospitality, much of which is undeclared, untaxed, and untaxable. Furthermore, France’s farmers have long been beneficiaries of the EU’s agricultural subsidies, and have never had to be efficient. » Read more

Blog

Europe is Drowning Under Too Much Government

Its banks are being increasingly propped up by the U.S.
Monday, March 4, 2013, 3:52 PM

The Christmas and New Year's break, when Europe shuts down and stops thinking, is now well and truly over, and we are reawakening to the same old problems: Greece, Spain, Cyprus, Portugal, Italy, France…all with their hands out for money from Germany, Holland, Finland, and Austria.

The holiday from the banking crisis, which was the result of the determination of the ECB to put a lid on it, is also over, with yields on the supplicant countries’ debt rising again.

However, joining the bad news list is the United Kingdom. Ominously, the pound is sliding in the foreign exchange markets, providing a very tricky background for Chancellor Osborne’s budget on March 20th. I shall examine the UK’s position later, but first let’s update ourselves on developments in the Eurozone.

The reality is that all the problems of the Eurozone are still with us, despite the fall in bond yields and their modest subsequent recovery. There is now the likelihood that we are about to enter the final phase of the end of the Eurozone experiment, with far wider consequences. So we need to pick up the story where we left off. » Read more

Insider

Europe's Mexican Standoff

All's fine until someone blinks
Tuesday, November 20, 2012, 3:08 AM

Executive Summary

  • Germany is unlikely to break solidarity with the rest of the Eurozone while Merkel remains in charge. But she may not last as long as she'd like.
  • France's economy is deteriorating at an alarming rate.
  • Most of France's "stability" to date is due to inflows of money fleeing Spain and Italy. That will stop soon – and then what?
  • The UK is suffering from many of the same ills as the U.S. However, its banks are too dependent on Eurozone debt for it to take drastic counter-measures, and so it is handcuffed to the future of the Continent.
  • All is well as long as no one defaults or no one leaves the Eurozone. With each player's position deteriorating, how long can the status quo last?

If you have not yet read Europe Is Now Sinking Fast, available free to all readers, please click here to read it first.

In previous articles, I have given Peak Prosperity's enrolled members the lowdown on the weak Eurozone governments and looked at the crisis from Germany’s point of view. With respect to Germany, all that can be added is that her political elite is still frozen in inaction and show no signs of snapping out of it. Mrs Merkel, particularly, is still pursuing the out-of-date Euroland ideal. It is as if she has decided that she has no alternative. Come what may, it will have to succeed in the end, and she is not going to be the one who calls “uncle.”

I don’t know how these things work in Germany, but in the UK there comes a point where “the men in grey suits” metaphorically tap the leader on the shoulder and politely instruct him or her to resign. It happened to Mrs Thatcher, and unless she has a change of heart, it could happen to Mrs Merkel before next November’s German elections. And when that happens, the withdrawal of Germany from the euro can be expected to begin.

In this article we will update the deteriorating situation in two other key players on Europe's chessboard: France and the United Kingdom. And we'll reveal why the current system is like a Mexican standoff: Everything is stable until someone makes a move. Then all hell breaks loose... » Read more