2012-04-30hussman.net

Once upon a time, the stability of European government debt, the solvency of the European banking system, the prospects for the euro, and the speculative elements of the financial markets were all fairly distinct aspects of the financial landscape. Unfortunately, as the result of bailouts, monetary interventions, accounting changes, watered-down capital standards, and other kick-the-can strategies, all of these issues have become glued together, as the whole world has gulped down the elixir sold from the wagon of Ben Bernanke's Traveling Medicine Show. In response to strains in the European banking system due to risky sovereign debt holdings, the ECB made loans to those banks in return for "collateral" in the form of newly issued, unregistered bank debt, and the banks used much of the proceeds to take even larger positions in sovereign debt, against which no capital needs to be held. So rather than "fixing" the problem, the ECB simply bound the problems of the European banking system more tightly to its own balance sheet, and to the fiscal strains of European governments. Nobody cares right now - I get it. But understand that this is likely to end badly, particularly given that government debt typically grows sharply during recessions.

There is also a good discussion of growth company valuations and how long "exponential" growth curves are sustainable (not thinking of any company in particular COUGHappleCOUGH....)


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