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Friday, August 12, 2011

Electronic skin tattoo has medical, gaming, spy uses

A hair-thin electronic patch that adheres to the skin like a temporary tattoo could transform medical sensing, computer gaming and even spy operations, according to a US study published Thursday.

The micro-electronics technology, called an epidermal electronic system (EES), was developed by an international team of researchers from the United States, China and Singapore, and is described in the journal Science.

"It's a technology that blurs the distinction between electronics and biology," said co-author John Rogers, a professor in materials science and engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

"Our goal was to develop an electronic technology that could integrate with the skin in a way that is mechanically and physiologically invisible to the user."

The patch could be used instead of bulky electrodes to monitor brain, heart and muscle tissue activity and when placed on the throat it allowed users to operate a voice-activated video game with better than 90 percent accuracy.

"This type of device might provide utility for those who suffer from certain diseases of the larynx," said Rogers. "It could also form the basis of a sub-vocal communication capability, suitable for covert or other uses."

The wireless device is nearly weightless and requires so little power it can fuel itself with miniature solar collectors or by picking up stray or transmitted electromagnetic radiation, the study said.

Less than 50-microns thick -- slightly thinner than a human hair -- the devices are able to adhere to the skin without glue or sticky material.

"Forces called van der Waals interactions dominate the adhesion at the molecular level, so the electronic tattoos adhere to the skin without any glues and stay in place for hours," said the study.

Northwestern University engineer Yonggang Huang said the patch was "as soft as the human skin."

Rogers and Huang have been working together on the technology for the past six years. They have already designed flexible electronics for hemispherical camera sensors and are now focused on adding battery power and other energy options.

The devices might find future uses in patients with sleep apnea,
babies who need neonatal care and for making electronic bandages to help skin heal from wounds and burns.

Short Selling of Stocks Banned in France, Spain

France, Spain, Italy and Belgium’s bans on short-selling may fail to reverse the fall in financial stocks and instead may concentrate bets against banks elsewhere in Europe, according to lawyers, investors and academics.

British financial stocks dropped 41 percent in the four months after regulators imposed a ban on short selling following the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holding Inc. in September 2008. The benchmark FTSE 100 index fell 15 percent in the period. When the Securities and Exchange Commission prohibited short-sales for three weeks in September 2008 a Bloomberg Index tracking the 880 U.S. stocks affected fell 26 percent, outpacing the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index’s 22 percent decline.

European regulators are divided over how to respond after a rout that sent the region’s bank stocks to their lowest in almost 2 1/2 years this week. Germany and the Netherlands have said they don’t plan further restrictions on short sales, while British regulators said they don’t plan to limit the practice.

“In contrast to the regulators’ hopes, the overall evidence indicates that short-selling bans at best left stock prices unaffected and at worst may have contributed to their decline,” said Alessandro Beber, a professor at Cass Business School in London who’s studied short-sales bans in 30 countries.

Short-sellers sell borrowed shares with plans to buy them back later at a lower price, a practice politicians and some investors blame for roiling markets.
Partial Ban ‘Problem’

“The problem with a partial ban -- which is what we have now -- is that it moves the problem to other parts of the system,” Bob Penn, a financial regulation partner at law firm Allen & Overy LLP in London, said. “It would be reasonable to expect the short sellers to turn their attention to non-Italian or non-French banks with significant exposures to those jurisdictions, for example.”

Dexia SA (DEXB), KBC Groep NV (KBC) and Mediobanca SpA led the Bloomberg Europe Banks and Financial Services Index up 2.7 percent as of 1:20 p.m. in London. Dexia, Belgium’s biggest bank by assets, climbed 13 percent and KBC advanced 9 percent. The index is still down 25 percent this year.

“European bank stocks, while bouncing up in a knee-jerk response in September 2008 when a short-selling ban was announced, dropped sharply over the next few months as the financial and economic crisis worsened,” Barclays Capital analysts wrote in a report to clients today. “Short-selling bans have proven ineffective in the past, tend not to address the real underlying issues in Europe, reduce liquidity and increase the related risk premiums.”



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Obama: "Islam Has Always Been Part Of Our American Family"

At the Iftar dinner, a White House sponsored Ramadan event, President Obama says "Islam has always been part of our American family." Obama also says "this has been especially true over the past 10 years," referring to the attacks on September 11, 2001. Here's what he said:

"This evening reminds us of both the timeless teachings of a great religion and the enduring strengths of a great nation. Like so many faiths, Islam has always been part of our American family, and Muslim Americans have long contributed to the strength and character of our country, in all walks of life. This has been especially true over the past 10 years."

"In one month, we will mark the 10th anniversary of those awful attacks that brought so much pain to our hearts. It will be a time to honor all those that we’ve lost, the families who carry on their legacy, the heroes who rushed to help that day and all who have served to keep us safe during a difficult decade. And tonight, it’s worth remembering that these Americans were of many faiths and backgrounds, including proud and patriotic Muslim Americans."

Lots Of Countries In Europe Should Be Downgraded

There are ...... lots of countries in Europe that should be downgraded just as the US has been downgraded.

Jim Rogers

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Bank of American (Debt Man Walking)

This morning we learned that the first major quasi bailout of the 2011 crisis has begun, Bank of America has agreed to sell part of its home-loan portfolio to taxpayer controlled housing giant Fannie Mae. The 400,000 loans have an unpaid principal balance of $73 billion, Fannie Mae (taxpayers) are buying the rights to process and collect payments for more than $500 million. Now according to Bank of America, they gave the taxpayers a great deal, unloading loans that have a super high delinquency rate of 13% with more than half of all the loans located in troubled U.S. real-estate markets. By the way, Fannie Mae just last week requested another 5.1 billion from taxpayers in order to make up for continuing losses from supporting an unsustainable real estate market.
Freddie Mac recently requested an additional 1.5 billion as well, of course the Treasury Department is currently responsible for funding 90% of mortgages, so there is no doubt that the taxpayer funded giants will get more of our money. Experts love to say how we have to keep bailing them out or we would see a complete collapse in the real estate market, as if more affordable and sustainable housing prices is a bad thing. Ending the fraudulent  housing market would be painful for those depending on the fraud, but for those who would actually like to OWN their home and not rent it from the bank, seeing prices decline to affordable levels would be a great thing. 

Future Money Trends

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IDF concerned UN vote on Palestinian state may lead to tensions with Syria

IDF soldiers

The Israel Defense Forces is readying for possible engagement with the Syrian military in September, should the latter involve itself in new attempts by Palestinians in Syria to storm the border with the Golan Heights in connection with a UN vote on recognizing a Palestinian state.

The IDF acknowledges it may be necessary to deal with Syrian military intervention in such a scenario, which could occur if Syria tried to deflect world attention from the ongoing demonstrations in that country - and their bloody suppression - by creating an incident on the border.

If such a mass infiltration results in the IDF having to shoot at the protesters, the Syrian army may send units to "defend Syrian citizens."

Thus, for the first time since the Yom Kippur War, there could be a military confrontation, with the IDF being compelled to send forces to confront Syrian battalions.

Until now, the IDF assessment had been that Syrian President Bashar Assad was interested in maintaining quiet along the border.

But Assad's domestic troubles, coupled with evidence that he had previously - in May and in June - encouraged hundreds of Palestinians to storm the border, has changed that assessment.

The IDF will not use tanks in the West Bank even if there is an escalation of violence and a resumption of terror attacks, a senior Armored Corps officer said.

The army's assessment, he said, is that unlike during the second intifada, when tanks were used extensively in the territories, particularly during Operation Defensive Shield, "Now there are no large terror cells in the field or weapons that require tanks to deal with them."

Bringing tanks into the West Bank is likely to cause a higher number of casualties than necessary, at a time when the IDF will be trying to contain the violence, he said.

To prepare for what may occur in September, the army has also added to its officers' course at Training Base 1 a module on dealing with mass civilian disturbances. A full three days of the intensive six-month course is being devoted to the subject.

The module consists of one day learning how to use the various IDF riot dispersal measures, and a two-day workshop of psychological preparation for dilemmas that may arise in the field.

A senior commander at Training Base 1 said the mental preparation was needed, "because the cadets learn primarily how to fight an armed enemy, and dealing with civilians requires different measures."

During September, the IDF plans to post senior officers and battalion and brigade commanders at possible confrontation zones in the West Bank, and along the borders with Gaza, Syria and Lebanon.

Still, military officials believe young officers may find themselves and their soldiers facing complex situations alone, which is why this module was added to their training.

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Bob Chapman the financial survival

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Obama discusses Middle East peace with Netanyahu

US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have discussed regional issues and efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East, Xinhua reported Thursday.

Obama spoke to Netanyahu Wednesday to 'consult on regional issues and efforts to achieve Middle East peace', the White House said in a statement.

Netanyahu expressed appreciation for the US support for Israel's security, in particular the Iron Dome short-range rocket and mortar defence system, the statement said.

The two leaders agreed to continue to work closely together to address common security concerns, it further stated.
Iron Dome is an Israel-made system built to intercept incoming rockets, shot down eight short-range rockets fired by militants into Israel during a major escalation of violence along the Israeli-Gaza border in April.

The Stock Market Crash Of 2011?

How far does the stock market have to go down before we officially call it a crash?  The Dow is now downmore than 2,000 points in just the last 14 trading days.  So can we now call this "The Stock Market Crash of 2011"?  Today the Dow was down 519 points.  Yesterday, an announcement by the Federal Reserve indicating that the Fed would keep interest rates near zero until mid-2013 helped the Dow surge more than 400 points, but all of those gains were wiped out today.  It turns out that the Federal Reserve was only able to stabilize the financial markets for a single day.  Fears about the European sovereign debt crisis and the crumbling U.S. economy continue to dominate the marketplace.  With each passing day, things are looking more and more like 2008 all over again.  So what is going to happen if "The Stock Market Crash of 2011" pushes the U.S. economy into "The Recession of 2012"?
Just like in 2008, bank stocks are being hit the hardest.  That was true once again today.  Bank of America was down more than 10 percent, Citigroup was down more than 10 percent, Morgan Stanley was down more than 9 percent and JPMorgan Chase was down more than 5 percent.
Bank of America stock is down almost 50 percent so far this year.  Overall, the S&P financial sector is down more than 23 percent in 2011 so far.
How soon will it be before we start hearing of the need for more bailouts?  After all, the "too big to fail" banks are even bigger now than they were in 2008.
All of this panic is causing the price of gold to reach unprecedented heights.  Today, gold was over $1800 at one point.  If the current panic continues for an extended period of time, there is no telling how high the price of gold may go.
In the United States, much of the focus has been on the fact that the U.S. government has lost its AAA credit rating, but the truth is that the European sovereign debt crisis is probably the biggest cause of the instability in world financial markets right now.
The European Central Bank has decided to start purchasing Italian and Spanish debt, and there have been rumors that French debt could be hit with a downgrade.  Europe is a total financial basket case right now and unless dramatic action is taken things are going to get progressively worse.
Of course the U.S. is also certainly contributing greatly to this crisis.  The federal government is on track to have a budget deficit that is over a trillion dollars for the third year in a row.  The U.S national debt is a horrific nightmare, but our politicians keep putting off budget cuts.
The debt ceiling deal that was just reached basically does next to nothing to cut the budget before the next election.  Unless the "Super Congress" does something dramatic, the only "budget cuts" we will see before the 2012 election will be 25 billion dollars in "savings" from spending increases that will be cancelled.
The modest spending cuts scheduled to go into effect beginning in 2013 will probably never materialize.  Whenever the time comes to actually significantly cut the budget, our politicians always want to put it off for another time.
But in the end, debt is always going to have its day.  Our politicians can try to kick the can down the road all they want, but eventually a day of reckoning is going to come.
In fact, if the U.S. and Europe had not piled up so much debt, we would not be facing all of the problems we are dealing with now.
Things could have been so much different.
But here we are.
The truth is that this debt crisis is just beginning.  There is no magic potion that is going to make all of this debt suddenly disappear.
Most Americans have no idea how much financial pain is coming.  We have been living way beyond our means for decades, and now we are going to start paying for it.
Now that long-term U.S. government debt has been downgraded, huge numbers of other securities are also going to be affected.  In fact, according toa recent Bloomberg article, S&P has already been very busy slashing the ratings on hordes of municipal bonds....
Standard & Poor’s lowered the AAA ratings of thousands of municipal bonds tied to the federal government, including housing securities and debt backed by leases, following its Aug. 5 downgrade of the U.S.
That is the thing about financial markets - once the dominoes start to fall, the ripple effects can be felt for a long, long time.
So if this stock market crash gets even worse, will the Federal Reserve respond with even stronger measures?
They have already basically promised to keep interest rates near zero for the next two years.  So what else can the Fed do?
Well, many now believe that there is a very good chance that we could see another round of quantitative easing.
Not that more quantitative easing is going to help much of anything.  Rather than helping the economy, the last round of quantitative easing just pushed commodity prices through the roof.  But the Fed is unlikely to just sit there and do nothing while financial markets struggle.
But it is not just the financial markets that are having a difficult time right now.  Bad news is coming in from all over the economy.  The possibility that we could soon slip into another major recession is growing by the day.
Unfortunately, our economy is so weak already that a new recession would probably hurt even more than the last recession did.
Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody's Analytics, says that if we have another recession it "won't feel like a new recession. It would likely feel like a depression."
But the American people are in no mood for more economic pain.  Every recent poll shows that Americans are already fed up.
For example, a brand new Reuters/Ipsos poll found that 73 percent of the American people believe that the country is "on the wrong track".
So let's certainly hope that the current stock market crash does not set off another major global recession.  We certainly do not need things to get significantly worse than they are right now.
But whether it hits now or later, the truth is that a whole lot of economic pain is on the way.  The U.S. and Europe have been making really, really bad decisions for decades, and we are not going to be able to escape the consequences of those decisions.
The global financial system is one huge mountain of leverage, risk and debt.  A collapse is inevitable.
When you build a house of cards on a foundation of sand, you should not be surprised when it comes crashing down.
The next wave of the economic collapse is coming, and those that are wise will get prepared.

Economic Collapse

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10 housing markets that will collapse this year

Image: Home for sale in Miami

The real estate market is already in the deepest depression in modern U.S. history. If you think it can’t get any worse, think again.

In several cities, the real estate market is about to drop even more. Home values in many of those cities, such as Las Vegas, have already collapsed as unemployment has shot higher. And with no hope of quick recovery, housing prices are expected to continue to fall. 24/7 Wall St. identified ten housing markets that are expected to drop by at least another 10 percent by 2012.

Methodology: We used data from the Fiserv Case-Shiller Indexes, which track real estate activity in 380 cities. We selected those that are forecast to have the largest percent price drop between the first quarter of this year and the first quarter of next. We added several other pieces of information to our city-by-city information, including June unemployment levels, median household income, and when home prices are expected to reach their troughs in each market.

Median household income in these cities tended to be near the U.S. median, and in some cases well below. We expected to find high unemployment in these cities. This turned out to be the case. In all but one of the cities we examined, unemployment was well above the national average. The rate was over 18 percent in two of the cities. This link between unemployment and expected future drop in home prices shows again how insidious the housing price problem is.

Home prices fell from all-time highs in 2006. Home equity tapped by second mortgages had been a tremendous source of income then for families who used it for retirement saving, education, and simple consumer purchases. Three years later, many of those homes were worth less than their mortgages. A large population of homeowners still owed a second mortgage. The burden of those two home loans happened to come at a time when national unemployment rose from 4 percent in the mid-2000s to 10 percent. The mix of unemployment and high mortgage payments ripped the home market apart.
The ten markets on the 24/7 Wall St. list of “Housing Markets That Will Collapse This Year,” and several other like them, may not see a full recovery in home prices for years. Inventories in these markets tend to be large. Demand tends to be low as the unemployed cannot be buyers. Finally, fear of further price drops all exacerbate the problem. No person or organization, including the federal government, has been able to help support the housing market, although the administration has tried. 

10. Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Expected price drop:
 -11.1 percent
Median family income:$58,800 (194th highest)
Unemployment rate: 11.8 percent
Median home price:$196,000 (55th highest)
Projected to hit lowest level: Q2 2013

9. Bethesda, Md.
Expected price drop:
 -11.5 percent
Median family income: $114,100 (the highest)
Unemployment rate: 5.1 percent
Median home price: $417,000 (5th highest)
Projected to hit lowest level: Q3 2012

8. Salinas, Calif.
Expected price drop: 
-11.8 percent
Median family income: $62,100 (145th highest)
Unemployment rate: 12.8 percent
Median home price: $240,000 (34th highest)
Projected to hit lowest level: Q2 2012

7. El Centro, Calif.
Expected price drop:
 -12.1 percent
Median family income: $43,300 (10th lowest)
Unemployment rate: 28.6 percent
Median home price: $130,000 (70th lowest)
Projected to hit lowest level: Q1 2012

6. Miami, Fla.
Expected price drop: 
-13 percent
Median family income: $47,800 (32nd lowest)
Unemployment rate: 13.4 percent
Median home price: $175,000 (76th highest)
Projected to hit lowest level: Q2 2013

5. Merced, Calif.
Expected price drop:
 -13.2 percent
Median family income:$42,900 (8th lowest)
Unemployment rate: 18.6 percent
Median home price:$112,000 (38th lowest)
Projected to hit lowest level: Q2 2012

4. Detroit, Mich,
Expected price drop: 
-13.4 percent
Median family income: $49,000 (47th lowest)
Unemployment rate: 12.7 percent
Median home price: $42,000 (the lowest median home price)
Projected to hit lowest level: Q2 2012

3. Las Vegas, Nev.
Expected price drop:
-13.9 percent
Median family income: $58,900 (196th lowest)
Unemployment rate: 12.4 percent
Median home price: $140,000 (90th lowest)
Projected to hit lowest level:
Q4 2012

2. Riverside-San Bernardino, Calif. 
Expected price drop: -15.6 percent
Median family income: $59,700 (190th highest)
Unemployment rate: 13.7 percent
Median home price: $181,000 (70th highest)
Projected to hit lowest level: Q1 2012

1. Naples, Fla.
Expected price drop: 
-16.6 percent
Median family income: $62,800 (137th highest)
Unemployment rate: 10.5 percent
Median home price: $225,000 (40th highest)
Projected to hit lowest level: Q4 2012


BEIJING — China's first aircraft carrier swept through fog-shrouded waters Wednesday to open sea trials that underscore concerns about the country's growing military strength and its increasingly assertive claims over disputed territory.

The mission by the refurbished former Soviet carrier marks a first step in readying the craft for full deployment. China says the ship is intended for research and training, pointing to longer-term plans to build up to three additional clones of the carrier in China's own shipyards.

"As a major economy, China on the one hand should take more responsibilities for the world and on the other hand, it has some new security interests that it needs to protect. Under the circumstances, China's naval power needs to grow accordingly," said Wang Shaopu, director of the Center for Pan-Pacific Studies at Jiaotong University in Shanghai.

Information about the cruise was tightly restricted in line with the Chinese military's habitual secrecy, although the official Xinhua News Agency indicated that the step had been planned for some time. The 1,000-foot (300-meter) vessel departed through fog from the northern port of Dalian where it is being overhauled.

"After returning from the sea trial, the aircraft carrier will continue refit and test work," Xinhua said.

The United States on Wednesday urged greater openness from China about its military capabilities and asked for a formal explanation of how the aircraft carrier would be used.

"China is not transparent as other countries, it's not as transparent as the U.S. about its military acquisitions, its military budget. This causes concern," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told a news conference in Washington.

"We are prepared to be extremely transparent with regard to U.S. military positions and equipment, and we would like to have a reciprocal relationship with China," she said.

China has spent the better part of a decade refurbishing the carrier formerly known as the Varyag after it was towed from Ukraine in 1998, minus its engines, weaponry, and navigation systems.

Beijing's carrier program is seen as the natural outgrowth of the country's burgeoning military expansion, fed by two decades of near-continuous, double-digit percentage increases in the defence budget. China's announced military spending rose to $91.5 billion last year, the second highest in the world after the United States.

While the development of carriers is driven largely by bragging rights and national prestige, China's naval ambitions have been brought into focus with its claims to disputed territory surrounding Taiwan and in the South China Sea.

Taiwan, the self-governing island democracy claimed by China as its own, has responded to the growing Chinese threat by developing missiles capable of striking carriers at sea. An illustration at a display Wednesday of military technology in the capital Taipei showed a Hsiung Feng III missile hitting a carrier that was a dead ringer for the former Varyag.

Over the past year, China has seen a flare-up in spats with Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam and had its relations strained with South Korea -- all of which have sought support from Washington, long the pre-eminent naval power in Asia.

China defends its carrier program by saying it is the only permanent member of the United Nations Security Council that has not developed such vessels and that it has a huge coastline and vast maritime assets to defend. Beijing has also said its carriers would be employed in international humanitarian efforts, although the ex-Varyag's ski jump-style flight deck severely limits the loads its planes can carry.

As the world's second-largest economy, China says it lags behind smaller nations such as Thailand and Brazil, as well as regional rival India, which have purchased carriers from abroad.

While Chinese carriers could challenge U.S. naval supremacy in Asia, China still has far to go in bringing such systems into play, experts said. The U.S. operates 11 aircraft carrier battle groups and its carriers are far bigger and more advanced.

Wednesday's exercise was essentially a test of the ship's propulsion system, with preparations to launch and recover aircraft still a long way off, said Andrei Chang, editor of Kanwa Asian Defence magazine.

"This was really just for show. They still have a long way to go," Chang said.

The Xinhua report did not say how long the sea trial would last. But a statement posted on the website of the Liaoning Maritime Safety Authority said vessels will be barred from entering a small section of the sea off Dalian until 6 p.m. (1000 GMT) on Sunday.

Positioning a carrier off its coast would boost the range of China's naval aircraft, increasing their ability to hit U.S. bases in Japan, South Korea and possibly Guam.

Beijing is believed to be developing a carrier version of the Russian Su-33, dubbed the J-15, a step that has angered defence officials in Moscow who accuse China or stealing their defence technology.

Both the European Union and the United States ban weapons sales to China, leaving Russia as its main overseas arms supplier.

With Moscow's defence industry declining in production and innovation, Chinese leaders have taken to marrying old Soviet platforms with cutting-edge Chinese technology. The same approach has been taken with the space program, where a capsule based on the former Soviet Soyuz design has been reengineered using new technology.

In contrast to China's slew of new frigates, submarines, and other warships, the carrier will actually add little to the country's naval capabilities, according to Western analysts.

"At best, it could makes some waves in the South China Sea and intimidate the poorly equipped navies of Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines," said Jonathan Holslag of the Brussels Institute of Contemporary China Studies.

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Weaker euro states could lose local banks

European flags are up in front of European Parliament, the Louise Weiss building

Equity analysts at Standard & Poor's, the credit rating agency, said that the problem with the European banking system is that it is "not aligned to the single currency area" and that larger banks with operations across the region were likely to replace smaller single country-focused lenders.

"We envisage that banks operating on a more EU-wide basis, alongside an ECB with appropriate powers, would be an important part of a sustainable euro project," said Tony Silverman, a financial analyst at S&P.

"This may mean peripheral countries should not necessarily expect to have their own domestic banks," he added.

Mr Silverman points out that about 50pc of eurozone deposits lent through the European Central Bank and the interbank market are to banks that have loans in excess of their deposits, adding there is a "conspicuous" absence of banks that are net lenders to the market.

"We would question whether this is sustainable and indeed to what extent such funding can meaningfully be regarded as temporary," said Mr Silverman.

Banks in countries such as Greece, Portugal and Ireland have become dependent on ECB funds to remain in business and loans originally seen as short-term have become an integral part of their funding.

The eurozone crisis has put a focus on these issues and there are now doubts as to whether many of these lenders remain viable as independent entities in the longer term.

"Eurozone countries have as much right to their own banks as Northumberland," said Mr Silverman.

Ireland is undertaking a drastic reform of its banks and is in the process of merging four of its largest lenders to create two new – what is hoped will be more solid – banks able to eventually be returned to the private sector having been nationalised. In Spain too, the authorities have pushed the country's regional savings banks – known as cajas – to merge to create larger banks.

However, Mr Silverman's analysis suggests that even these larger institutions will remain unsustainable in the long-term due to their domestic focus.

Figures for May show that ECB borrowing by Spanish banks increased for the first time in nine months, pointing to an increased funding risk among the smaller savings banks.

In France there are also concerns that the funding markets are becoming increasingly wary about the country's banks.

The telegraph

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