Excellent article here by Woody Brock elaborating on the issues in Eastern Europe that I have been honed in on for months.
The wheels are coming off
But that is not the whole story. It is not even the most worrying part of the story. For the true horror to emerge, we need to turn to Eastern Europe for a minute or two. Nowhere has the credit boom been more pronounced than in Eastern Europe. And nowhere is the pain felt more now that credit has all but dried up. One measure of the credit fuelled bonanza is the deterioration of the current account across the region. Credit Suisse has calculated that in four short years, from 2004 to 2008, Eastern Europe’s current account went from +6% to -6% of GDP2. That is a frightening development and is likely to cause all sorts of problems over the next few years.
Meanwhile Western European banks, eager to milk the opportunities in the East after the iron curtain came down, have acquired many of the region’s banks. Now, with many Eastern European countries in free fall, ownership could prove disastrous for an already weakened banking industry in the West.
US banks are better off
US banks are in less of a pickle. Unlike the subprime debacle which hit both the US and the European banks hard, US banks have little exposure to Eastern Europe. To prove my point, according to the IMF, European banks have 75% as much exposure to US toxic debt as American banks, but 90% of all cross border loans to Eastern Europe originate from Western European banks. And, to add insult to injury, European banks have been much slower than US banks in terms of recognising their losses. Write-offs now total about $750 billion in the US and only about $325 billion in Europe.
The deterioration in Europe is truly staggering….