Friday, October 07, 2011

The Dexia Domino Falls

Dexia?  What's that, some compact European car?  Oh, it's a European bank that's insolvent even though plenty of stress tests said it would be just fine.  Funny, I've never heard of it.  Not many people in the U.S. had heard of Creditanstalt in the 1930s, but that was the European bank that kicked off a lot of other insolvent dominoes when it went bust early in Great Depression 1.0.  Everything old is new again. 

We're going to hear more about desperate European moves to float credit to underwater banks.  They'll buy time but they won't matter.  Germany prepares its own Plan B to ringfence banks' equity support within national borders, almost as if it expects the IMF to exhaust itself with QE aimed at sovereign debt.  Germany seems to be hedging its bets in case the grand experiment in Continental unity proves too good to be true.  Better to leave equity backstops in national hands if some nations are forced to quit the euro. 

We should all hedge our bets.  Stockpiling several months' worth of preserved food and household consumables is a good Plan B in case a credit freeze makes transcontinental logistics temporarily untenable.  Wearing old clothing as long as possible is also a good plan in case rioting mobs start fighting over the last pair of jeans in the storefront window before they firebomb the whole mini-mall in frustration.  There are plenty of good Plan Bs left over from the 1930s if we start doing our homework.  Everything old is new again.  

Full disclosure:  No positions in any European banks at this time.