Sunday, February 15, 2009

Some damn thing in the Balkans

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard has a great horror story in today's Int'l Herald Tribune.

(Some) highlights from the article:
The Vienna press said Bank Austria and its Italian owner Unicredit face a "monetary Stalingrad" in the East.
[Editor note: Hmmm.]
Eastern Europe has borrowed $1.7 trillion abroad, much on short-term maturities. It must repay – or roll over – $400bn this year, equal to a third of the region's GDP.
In Poland, 60% of mortgages are in Swiss francs. The zloty has just halved against the franc.
Hungary, the Balkans, the Baltics, and Ukraine are all suffering variants of this story. As an act of collective folly – by lenders and borrowers – it matches America's sub-prime debacle. There is a crucial difference, however. European banks are on the hook for both. US banks are not.
Spain is up to its neck in Latin America, which has belatedly joined the slump (Mexico's car output fell 51pc in January, and Brazil lost 650,000 jobs in one month).
Britain and Switzerland are up to their necks in Asia.
. . . there is no EU Federal Reserve yet ready to act as a lender of last resort or to flood the markets with emergency stimulus.
IMF, which has already bailed out Hungary, Ukraine, Latvia, Belarus, Iceland, and Pakistan – and Turkey next – and is fast exhausting its own $200bn (€155bn) reserve. We are nearing the point where the IMF may have to print money for the world, using arcane powers to issue Special Drawing Rights.
[Editor's note: What's this about Special Drawing Rights?]
Latvia's central bank governor has declared his economy "clinically dead" after it shrank 10.5pc in the fourth quarter.
Germany contracted at an annual rate of 8.4pc in the fourth quarter.
[Editor's note: I think we're well past arguments of Keynesian vs Austrian economics. Try, how long do you boil the water before it's safe for drinking? And what if I don't have a pot to boil it in?]

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