It's often noted that California has the world's eight largest economy. This depends on how you do that math. At $1.9 trillion, the Golden State is just south of Italy on the IMF list (at number 9). But...Italy is having some rather severe financial difficulties at the moment. So if its GDP slips — and it's already slipped pretty far — and California's increases, will California move up? Then we can lock Brazil in our sights! Then the UK!
Actually, before we get too excitied, we should remember that if California were in Europe, we'd be in serious trouble.
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The European currency Euro logo stands in front of the European Central Bank (ECB) in Frankfurt/M., western Germany on August 4, 2011.
Greek gets a new government. Italy will soon get a government. And still the markets aren't calmed. The Dow flirted with a 400-point drop all day before closing at minus-389. Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy have finally just come out and said it: There should be two Europes — one run by...Germany and France, with the Euro as its currency; the other limping along with whatever's left in the Franco-German wake.
For critics of the Euro — and there have been plenty since the single currency was introduced in the 1990s — this is an "it's about time" moment. But even relative supporters are yelling surrender. At the Financial Times, Martin Wolf throws up his hands:
Will the eurozone survive? The leaders of France and Germany have now raised this question... If policymakers had understood two decades ago what they know now, they would never have launched the single currency. Only fear of the consequences of a break-up is now keeping it together. The question is whether that will be enough. I suspect the answer is, no.
It's looking more and more like the Euro is toast. It's game over for Greece, and now Italy's bond yields have moved above 7 percent. Why is that such a big deal? Allow CNN to explain:
The 7% level is significant because that was the mark Ireland and Portugal crossed shortly before receiving bailouts from the European Union and International Monetary Fund. Ireland's actually rose above 8%, while Portugal's breached 9%. And yields for Greek bonds touched the 10% mark.
Italy's overall financial picture isn't especially terrible — people there have not borrowed themselves into a personal hole. It's just that the country's public finances are in tatters. And the third largest economy in Europe can't be in tatters. My Twitter feed isn't optimistic, as the Storify grab below demonstrates.
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CANNES, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 03: US President Barack Obama is welcomed by the French President Nicolas Sarkozy to the G20 Summit on November 3, 2011 in Cannes, France. World's top economic leaders are attending the G20 summit in Cannes on November 3rd and 4th, and are expected to debate current issues surrounding the global financial system in the hope of fending off a global recession and finding an answer to the Eurozone crisis. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Aren't you glad we don't have Greece to worry about anymore? After two years of crisis, the Greek economy is in full meltdown mode and the country's political system is falling apart. It has no hope of paying back its debt. The only question now is whether it will remain the Euro currency union, or whether default and bankruptcy will mean a return to drachma.
We now turn our attention to Italy, number three in economic size, behind German and France. There's enough money sloshing around the euro currency union to deal with Greece and similar small economies, but if Italy can't refinance its 1.9 trillion euros of debt, a bailout isn't currently a realistic option.
Unless maybe the Chinese pitch in. China has more than $3 trillion in foreign currency reserves, which it could pump into Europe. The question is what this would ultimately cost Europe, in terms of various trade-offs (pun intended), not to mention what it would cost China itself. This is Yu Yongding, former member of China’s central bank monetary policy committee, writing recently in the Financial Times:
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People walk by a National Bank of Greece in Athens on October 27, 2011. Greece reacted with measured relief on Thursday after European leaders sealed a deal to contain the eurozone debt crisis that slashes the country's huge debt by nearly a third. LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images
Has Europe finally solved its debt-crisis problem? Well, that depends on who you talk to. Yesterday, hot on the heels of the announcement that European financial leaders had labored into the wee hours to finally get their act together to rescue Greece and save the Euro, I heard an economist say she was pleased that Europe had finally agreed on a plan...to agree on a plan!
Yeah, not exactly a ringing endorsement of Europe's ability to right its listing ship of states.
Meanwhile, around the blogspshere, various voices weighed in. At Reuters, Felix Salmon took a deep dive into the matter of credit default swaps (CDS) on Greek debt (although it wasn't nearly as deep as some). You're not going to want to wade into this debate unless you're prepared to induce a pounding financial headache, but the topline summary is fairly simple.