- George Friedman: Italy Is the Mother of All Systemic Threats
by George Friedman, http://www.mauldineconomics.com/
Italy has been in a crisis for at least eight months, though mainstream media did not recognize it until July. This crisis has nothing to do with Brexit, although opponents of Brexit will claim it does. Even if Britain had voted to stay in the EU, the Italian crisis would still have been gathering speed.
The high level of non-performing loans (NPLs) has been a problem since before Brexit. It is clear that there is nothing in the Italian economy that can reduce them. Only a dramatic improvement in the economy would make it possible to repay these loans. And Europe’s economy cannot improve drastically enough to help. We have been in crisis for quite a while.
Banks were simply carrying loans as non-performing that were actually in default and discounting the NPLs rather than writing them off. But that only hid the obvious. As much as 17 percent of Italy’s loans will not be repaid. This will crush Italian banks’ balance sheets. And this will not only be in Italy.
Italian loans are packaged and resold, and Italian banks take loans from other European banks. These banks in turn have borrowed against Italian debt. Since Italy is the fourth largest economy in Europe, this is the mother of all systemic threats.