Investment Contrarians

Eurozone Could Collapse Sooner Than Many Think

By for Investment Contrarians |

120413_IC_leongThe eurozone and the euro are still around, but the more I see what is happening in that region, the more I think something must be done, given the financial crisis.

You have the eurozone in a recession and a financial crisis specifically driven by turmoil in Spain, Italy, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus, and Ireland.

Greece is broke, and it could take decades to recover from its financial crisis. Heck, Greece may have to go and ask for another round of bailout money if the financial crisis in the eurozone holds.

The financial crisis in Cyprus is a red flag that needs to be watched. And despite the small size of Cyprus’ economy, the country is a mess, with no recourse but to seek more bailout funds or risk a default and exit the euro.

The two pillars of the eurozone, Germany and France, are stalling. Germany contracted 0.6% in the fourth quarter and is another negative quarter away from a recession. France is in a similar predicament and will need to wrench its way out of its potential financial crisis.

Even big-time investor George Soros, who knows a thing or two about economies in trouble having made a billion dollars shorting the pound decades ago, is pretty convinced that Germany needs to rethink its strategy and consider leaving the euro to avoid its own financial crisis.

The problem that arises is that Germany is the major reason why the eurozone is still intact, when it maybe should have looked at kicking out Greece and Cyprus.

But as long as Germany is staying in the eurozone, the probability of survival, in spite of the financial crisis, is higher.

If Germany decides to exit the euro, I highly doubt the eurozone would survive the pending financial crisis. Worse yet, the region would fall into a financial abyss with numerous countries becoming bankrupt. This would impact not only the eurozone, but also the global economy, and it would drive a domino effect into Asia and North America with an economic Armageddon.

The eurozone Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), a good indicator of the region’s manufacturing, contracted with a 46.8 reading in March, according to Markit. The eurozone has not seen a 50-plus expansionary reading since August 2011. Spain and Italy, two key members of the eurozone, saw dismal PMI readings of 44.2 and 44.5, respectively. (Source: Watts, W.L., “PMI data shows deeper euro-zone factory downturn,” MarketWatch, April 2, 2013.)

And even worse, all of this is happening as the region’s unemployment rate continues to hold well above 20% in many countries. Without people going back to work, you cannot expect the economies to pull out of the economic contraction. For instance, Spain, with an unemployment rate of over 26% at the end of 2012, in my view, is close to asking for more funding. The number of unemployed among those who are from 16 to 24 years old is a staggering 55.1%. (Source:“Spain’s unemployment rate hits record 5 million in February,” Global Post March 4, 2013, April 11, 2013.)

So while Europe is an ocean away, renewed turmoil there could have a disastrous effect on economies around the world and could send many into new recessions. If this happens, I would consider looking at moving some money away from stocks and into gold and hard cash.

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