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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Portugal's Tragic Cost Of "Remarkable" Troika Compliance

It was all ponies and unicorns as the EU-ECB-IMF 'Troika' mission found 'no sign of reform fatigue' in their report today, noting the 'remarkable' nature of the fiscal adjustment. Perhaps they should have asked someone outside of the halls of government as this tragic story from The Guardian notes the Portuguese death rate rising as health and welfare cuts from the 'remarkable' austerity package are biting at the people hard. 

During February, there were 20% more deaths than normal and the cost cuts are blamed as a visit to the ER has more than doubled. There is a general strike, as we noted earlier, on Thursday as the leader of the unions notes "They are driving the country towards disaster". 

While the IMF believes that Portuguese debt is sustainable, most practicing market participants who do not have a gun to their head see full well the unsustainable nature of the Portuguese debt load seeing the IMF's position as "wishful thinking". There is a growing tension as Irene Pimentel notes "I worry that democracy is at stake" and on the people's apparent stoicism for now,"I think it will explode eventually, it is impossible for people to remain this passive."

Zero Hedge

Sabbath vs. Lord's Day?

Turkey clashes

7.6 Earthquake hits Mexico

Sheik Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah: Destroy all churches

If the pope called for the destruction of all the mosques in Europe, the uproar would be cataclysmic. Pundits would lambaste the church, the White House would rush out a statement of deep concern, and rioters in the Middle East would kill each other in their grief. But when the most influential leader in the Muslim world issues a fatwa to destroy Christian churches, the silence is deafening.

On March 12, Sheik Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, declared that it is “necessary to destroy all the churches of the region.” The ruling came in response to a query from a Kuwaiti delegation over proposed legislation to prevent construction of churches in the emirate. The mufti based his decision on a story that on his deathbed, Muhammad declared, “There are not to be two religions in the [Arabian] Peninsula.” This passage has long been used to justify intolerance in the kingdom. Churches have always been banned in Saudi Arabia, and until recently Jews were not even allowed in the country. Those wishing to worship in the manner of their choosing must do so hidden away in private, and even then the morality police have been known to show up unexpectedly and halt proceedings.

This is not a small-time radical imam trying to stir up his followers with fiery hate speech. This was a considered, deliberate and specific ruling from one of the most important leaders in the Muslim world. It does not just create a religious obligation for those over whom the mufti has direct authority; it is also a signal to others in the Muslim world that destroying churches is not only permitted but mandatory.

The Obama administration ignores these types of provocations at its peril. The White House has placed international outreach to Muslims at the center of its foreign policy in an effort to promote the image of the United States as an Islam-friendly nation. This cannot come at the expense of standing up for the human rights and religious liberties of minority groups in the Middle East. The region is a crucial crossroads. Islamist radicals are leading the rising political tide against the authoritarian, secularist old order. They are testing the waters in their relationship with the outside world, looking for signals of how far they can go in imposing their radical vision of a Shariah-based theocracy. Ignoring provocative statements like the mufti’s sends a signal to these groups that they can engage in the same sort of bigotry and anti-Christian violence with no consequences.

Mr. Obama’s outreach campaign to the Muslim world has failed to generate the good will that he expected. In part, this was because he felt it was better to pander to prejudice than to command respect. When members of the Islamic establishment call for the religious equivalent of ethnic cleansing, the leader of the free world must respond or risk legitimizing the oppression that follows. The United States should not bow to the extremist dictates of the grand mufti, no matter how desperate the White House is for him to like us.

The Washington Times

In Sweden, cash is king no more

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Sweden was the first European country to introduce bank notes in 1661. Now it's come farther than most on the path toward getting rid of them.

"I can't see why we should be printing bank notes at all anymore," says Bjoern Ulvaeus, former member of 1970's pop group ABBA, and a vocal proponent for a world without cash.

The contours of such a society are starting to take shape in this high-tech nation, frustrating those who prefer coins and bills over digital money.

In most Swedish cities, public buses don't accept cash; tickets are prepaid or purchased with a cell phone text message. A small but growing number of businesses only take cards, and some bank offices — which make money on electronic transactions — have stopped handling cash altogether.

"There are towns where it isn't at all possible anymore to enter a bank and use cash," complains Curt Persson, chairman of Sweden's National Pensioners' Organization.

He says that's a problem for elderly people in rural areas who don't have credit cards or don't know how to use them to withdraw cash.

The decline of cash is noticeable even in houses of worship, like the Carl Gustaf Church in Karlshamn, southern Sweden, where Vicar Johan Tyrberg recently installed a card reader to make it easier for worshippers to make offerings.

"People came up to me several times and said they didn't have cash but would still like to donate money," Tyrberg says.

Bills and coins represent only 3 percent of Sweden's economy, compared to an average of 9 percent in the eurozone and 7 percent in the U.S., according to the Bank for International Settlements, an umbrella organization for the world's central banks.

Three percent is still too much if you ask Ulvaeus. A cashless society may seem like an odd cause for someone who made a fortune on "Money, Money, Money" and other ABBA hits, but for Ulvaeus it's a matter of security.

After his son was robbed for the third time he started advocating a faster transition to a fully digital economy, if only to make life harder for thieves.

"If there were no cash, what would they do?" says Ulvaeus, 66.

The Swedish Bankers' Association says the shrinkage of the cash economy is already making an impact in crime statistics.

The number of bank robberies in Sweden plunged from 110 in 2008 to 16 in 2011 — the lowest level since it started keeping records 30 years ago. It says robberies of security transports are also down.

"Less cash in circulation makes things safer, both for the staff that handle cash, but also of course for the public," says Par Karlsson, a security expert at the organization.

The prevalence of electronic transactions — and the digital trail they generate — also helps explain why Sweden has less of a problem with graft than countries with a stronger cash culture, such as Italy or Greece, says economics professor Friedrich Schneider of the Johannes Kepler University in Austria.

"If people use more cards, they are less involved in shadow economy activities," says Schneider, an expert on underground economies.

In Italy — where cash has been a common means of avoiding value-added tax and hiding profits from the taxman — Prime Minister Mario Monti in December put forward measures to limit cash transactions to payments under €1,000 ($1,300), down from €2,500 before.

The flip side is the risk of cybercrimes. According to the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention the number of computerized fraud cases, including skimming, surged to nearly 20,000 in 2011 from 3,304 in 2000.

Oscar Swartz, the founder of Sweden's first Internet provider, Banhof, says a digital economy also raises privacy issues because of the electronic trail of transactions. He supports the idea of phasing out cash, but says other anonymous payment methods need to be introduced instead.

"One should be able to send money and donate money to different organizations without being traced every time," he says.

It's no surprise that Sweden and other Nordic countries are at the forefront of this development, given their emphasis on technology and innovation.

For the second year in a row, Sweden ranked first in the Global Information Technology Report released at the World Economic Forum in January. The Economist Intelligence Unit also put Sweden top of its latest digital economy rankings, in 2010. Both rankings measure how far countries have come in integrating information and communication technologies in their economies.

Internet startups in Sweden and elsewhere are now hard at work developing payment and banking services for smartphones.

Swedish company iZettel has developed a device for small traders, similar to Square in the U.S., that plugs into the back of an iPhone to make it work like a credit card terminal. Sweden's biggest banks are expected to launch a joint service later this year that allows customers to transfer money between each other's accounts in real-time with their cell phones.

Most experts don't expect cash to disappear anytime soon, but that its proportion of the economy will continue to decline as such payment options become available. Before retiring as deputy governor of Sweden's central bank, Lars Nyberg said last year that cash will survive "like the crocodile, even though it may be forced to see its habitat gradually cut back."

Andrea Wramfelt, whose bowling alley in the southern city of Landskrona stopped accepting cash in 2010, makes a bolder prediction: She believes coins and notes will cease to exist in Sweden within 20 years.

"Personally I think this is what people should expect in the future," she says.

But there are pockets of resistance. Hanna Celik, whose family owns a newspaper kiosk in a Stockholm shopping mall, says the digital economy is all about banks seeking bigger earnings.

Celik says he gets charged about 5 Swedish kronor ($0.80) for every credit card transaction, and a law passed by the Swedish Parliament prevents him from passing on that charge to consumers.

"That stinks," he says. "For them (the banks), this is a very good way to earn a lot of money, that's what it's all about. They make huge profits."

Yahoo News

Syria rebels quit eastern city, army on offensive

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Rebel fighters were forced to flee the eastern Syrian city of Deir al-Zor on Tuesday in the face of a fierce army assault, suffering the latest setback in their bid to oust President Bashar al-Assad.

In a separate blow to their cause, a respected human rights group accused the armed opposition of committing torture and arbitrary executions during the 12-month uprising - charges previously only leveled at the state security apparatus.

Despite recent successes, Assad still faces significant outside pressure. Ally Russia signaled on Tuesday it would support a U.N. statement backing a mission by envoy Kofi Annan to end the bloodshed so long as there was no ultimatums.

In addition, Moscow joined calls for both the army and rebels to grant daily ceasefires that would enable humanitarian missions to areas of Syria worst hit by the fighting.

The lightly armed rebel forces have been forced into retreat across the country in recent weeks, with the army using heavy armor to chase them from towns and cities, chalking up its latest victory in Deir al-Zor, which lies on the road to Iraq.

"Tanks entered residential neighborhoods, especially in southeastern areas of Deir al-Zor. The Free Syrian Army pulled out to avoid a civilian massacre," a statement by the Deir al-Zor Revolution Committees Union said.

Government troops also shelled residential areas in the cities of Hama and Homs, and the nearby town of Rastan, killing at least 10 people, while a soldier died in a raid on an army checkpoint in the south, opposition sources said.

Reports from Syria cannot be independently verified because authorities have barred access to rights groups and journalists.

After failing to hold significant stretches of land, analysts say the rebels appear to be switching to insurgency tactics, pointing to bloody car bomb attacks in two major Syrian cities at the weekend and the sabotage of a major rail link.


The United Nations says more than 8,000 people have died in 12 months of turmoil and diplomats warn the fighting could develop into a civil war pitching Assad's Alawite sect and its minority allies against the majority Sunni Muslim population.

The government says 2,000 members of the security forces have been killed by foreign-backed "terrorists" and denies accusations of brutality and indiscriminate violence.

In a new twist, the advocacy group Human Rights Watch said the rebels were guilty of serious crimes, citing cases of kidnapping, torture and cold-blooded killings.

"The Syrian government's brutal tactics cannot justify abuses by armed opposition groups," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at the New York-based Human Rights Watch, in an open letter to dissident groups.

Russia has in the past declined to back Western and Arab-backed U.N resolutions condemning government violence, arguing that the actions of rebels should also be criticized.

In a fresh effort to form a united international front on the mounting crisis, France has circulated a Western-drafted statement for the U.N. Security Council deploring the turmoil and backing peace efforts by U.N.-Arab League envoy Annan.

Britain's U.N. envoy said he hoped the statement would be adopted on Tuesday, with Russia announcing it would back the text on two conditions -- that there is no ultimatums and that Annan release full details of his peace plan.

Annan dispatched a team of five experts to Damascus on Monday to discuss ways of implementing a peace initiative, including a mechanism to let international monitors into the country. Syria has questioned the value of such a mission.


In an unusual development, Syrian rebels released an army general abducted in the Damascus suburb of Douma in return for prisoners and bodies of insurgents and civilians held by police, an opposition source familiar with the deal said on Tuesday.

"Naeem Khalil Odeh has been released in return for several prisoners and 14 bodies," the source said from Douma, referring to the general, adding that he had been seized last week.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has contacts throughout Syria, said army shelling had killed seven people in Homs early Tuesday, while a married couple and their child died in a mortar attack in nearby Rastan.

Homs became the epicenter of the year-long rebellion against Assad and has been repeatedly targeted by government troops, who are believed to have swept most rebel gunmen from the city.

There has also been fighting further to the north around Hama, and opposition sources said Syrian tanks had bombarded the city early Tuesday to try to dislodge Free Syrian Army rebels who had resumed operations there despite several army sweeps.

The Free Syria Army has proved little match for Assad's well-armed security apparatus, and experts said the opposition appeared to be changing tactics.

Car bomb attacks in the capital Damascus and second city Aleppo killed at least 30 over the weekend, while rebels also destroyed a railway bridge linking Damascus to Deraa, according to official Syrian media.

"The Syrian opposition prematurely tried to hold territory and take on the Syrian Army. This was a bad and costly mistake," said Joshua Landis, the head of Middle East Studies at the U.S. University of Oklahoma.

Yahoo News

Strange sounds stump Clintonville

CLINTONVILLE - Residents in a Waupaca County community say they are puzzled by some explosion-like sounds.

There are still really no answers in Clintonville about whom or what caused the loud booms people say they heard Sunday night and into the morning.

The police department started getting calls shortly before 2 a.m. from people saying their homes were rattling and shaking. The calls focused on the northeast area of the city.

Both Clintonville city leaders and residents say they are confused.

"It was kind of like constant boom, boom, boom!” said resident Joseph Clauson. "And you could feel like the ground shaking beneath you and whatnot.”

"It almost felt like a heavy duty thunderstorm, but it was shaking though,” said resident Al Miller.

"And we both just started searching the house,” said resident Lindsay Pockat.

Police, fire and utility crews first looked for obvious causes, like elevated gas levels in manholes and sewers. But city officials say nothing was out of the ordinary. Now they are looking at other possibilities.

"We've talked to meteorologists, geologists. We've talked to our county and the counties around, seeing if people have explosive permits,” said Clintonville City Administrator Lisa Kuss.

The city did confirm there are no mining or explosive companies working in the area.

While the calls for the noises started late Sunday night and early Monday morning, Art Bassette says he's heard the same noises over the last couple months.

"But it would be just one loud clap and I just thought somebody's playing. Some kids had some firecrackers and didn't know what to do with themselves. I don't know. I don't think anybody else knows, do they?” said Bassette.

City officials say they believe the public is safe.

Kuss says she talked with the United States military. Military officials say they have nothing going on in the area which would cause the booming sounds.

Kuss says the sounds and shaking has decreased since Monday morning.


Obama's budget would add $6.4 trillion to debt

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Lawmakers on Friday were handed the official score card on President Obama's proposed budget for 2013.

The Congressional Budget Office concluded that the president's budget would add less to the country's debt than if lawmakers simply extend a number of favored policies, such as the Bush-era tax cuts. It would also shrink annual deficits to the point where they no longer are growing faster than the economy.

And yet debt levels at the end of the decade under Obama's budget would still remain too high for comfort.

The president's budget would add $6.4 trillion in deficits between 2013 and 2022, the CBO said.

Under the so-called alternative fiscal scenario, where Congress simply extends a number of favored policies, cumulative deficits would reach nearly $11 trillion.

The president's proposals would bring debt held by the public to 76% of GDP at the end of the period measured, up from 68% last year.

Debt held by the public includes U.S. bonds bought by investors, but excludes money owed to government trust funds, such as Social Security and Medicare.

Independent deficit watchdogs have been urging lawmakers to put in place a debt-reduction plan to lower public debt to at least 60% by the end of the decade.
Obama's unveil's $3.8 trillion budget

One reason why Obama's budget fails to do so is because it doesn't adequately address entitlement costs, such as Medicare.

The president has publicly advocated striking a "grand bargain" -- which would involve entitlement and other spending cuts as well as tax increases -- to reduce the country's long-term debt burden. But fraught negotiations with House Republicans fell apart over the summer.

The CBO analysis shows that the president's budget would end up stabilizing the debt -- meaning the country's deficits stop growing faster than the economy. The annual deficit in his proposal would fall to 2.5% of GDP by 2017 -- well below the 8.1% projected for this year. But they would climb back to 3% by 2022. And barring any more significant debt-reduction plans, deficits thereafter would continue on a northward trek.

Obama: Slash corporate tax rates and breaks

Annual spending levels in Obama's fiscal blueprint average 22.5% of GDP, above the 20.7% historical average. But his budget would put discretionary spending on a downward trajectory, from 8.4% of GDP this year to 5.2% at the end of the decade.

Under the president's budget, the government's revenue intake would climb to an average of 19.4%, above the 18.1% historical norm and well above the 60-year lows reached during the recession.

Part of the reason for the increase is due to a strengthening economy. But partly it's due to the estimated $950 billion in new revenue he'd raise from a host of proposals, the largest of which is his call to limit the value of itemized deductions for high-income households, which alone is estimated to raise $520 billion over a decade.


Assad to Annan: Syria missiles will preempt any military intervention

The Middle East has unknowingly been living for ten days under threat of a regional war, which DEBKAfile’s military sources disclose was delivered by Syrian president Bashar Assad to UN-Arab League peace envoy Kofi Annan when they first met Saturday, March 10. Assad warned him in no uncertain terms that Syria was ready to unleash its missiles against any country preparing for military intervention in Syria before they moved.

While not mentioning them by name, the Syrian ruler was referring to Britain, France, Norway, Holland and Italy whose navies and air forces were last week drawn up ready for action in positions in the eastern Mediterranean and bases in the Middle East, including the Royal Air Force Akrotiri facility in Cyprus.

A Western military source reported to DEBKAfile Monday night, March 19 that those European forces were standing ready to cordon off certain Syrian regions and cities as “security zones” off limits to Syrian units including its air force.

Cruising opposite the Syrian coast are the USS Enterprise and the French Charles de Gaulle, both aircraft carriers. They are part of the combat disposition the West has arrayed against Iran and from their Mediterranean posts would take part in a military confrontation erupting in the Persian Gulf.
In his conversation with Annan,Turkey was the only foe Assad named specifically as his first target for a pre-emptive missile assault. He stressed he would have no qualms about attacking Turkey.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyep Erdogan is due to set out next week on a visit to Seoul where he will rendezvous with US President Barack Obama, possibly on March 28, for policy alignment on the Iranian nuclear threat and the year-old Syrian crisis. Our Washington sources report that Obama has set aside six hours for his conversation with Erdogan.

From the South Korean capital, the Turkish leader is scheduled to fly straight to Tehran. The primary Middle East issues, a nuclear Iran and the Syrian impasse. are therefore destined to reach a critical point in the coming days.

This may partly explain the announcement from, Russian Black Sea headquarters at Sevastopol Monday that two Russian naval vessels had put into the Syrian port of Tartus. The vessels’ mission and names were not disclosed, excepting that one carried a unit of “anti-terrorist marines” and the other was a military tanker which joined a Russian naval reconnaissance and surveillance ship already tied up in Tartus.


Spain Torments Draghi on Deficit as Banks Tap Loans: Euro Credit

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy may be enjoying the European Central Bank’s emergency funds too much for Mario Draghi’s comfort.

Rajoy’s loosening of a pledge to cut Spain’s deficit within days of the central bank’s latest three-year loan offering to banks has confronted the ECB president with just the behavior it wants to avoid. ECB officials are concerned the respite they have won for the region’s most vulnerable nations has eased pressure on them to address the budget shortfalls that first provoked the turmoil.

March 19 (Bloomberg) -- Riccardo Barbieri, chief European economist at Mizuho International Plc, talks about Italy's issuance of inflation-linked bonds and the outlook for the Spanish and Italian economies. He speaks with Andrea Catherwood on Bloomberg Television's "Last Word." (Source: Bloomberg)

Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank. Photographer: Hannelore Foerster/Bloomberg

“There’s a moral hazard element to this,” Ken Wattret, chief European economist at BNP Paribas SA in London, said in a telephone interview. “The ECB is clearly worried that in some countries the lower the risk premium on sovereign debt, the less urgency there will be to make some changes.”

Spanish 10-year borrowing costs have fallen 63 basis points to 5.19 percent since the ECB’s measures were announced in December, providing what Rajoy described as a “great relief” as Spanish lenders’ central-bank borrowings surged to record levels. His defiance on the deficit presents the ECB with the same quandary it faced last year, when former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi’s government backpedalled on austerity pledged in return for ECB purchases of the nation’s bonds.
‘Relative Calm’

Draghi, who instituted the three-year loan program a month after taking over from Jean-Claude Trichet, has stepped up calls on governments to use easier market conditions to strengthen economies. The Frankfurt-based central bank’s effort “needs to be complemented by the work of national policy makers,” he said on March 13.

ECB Executive Board member Jose Manuel Gonzalez-Paramo, a Spaniard, said on March 5 that “the relative calm” achieved by the central bank “will not be durable if it serves as a pretext for national governments to relax their efforts now.” Governing Council member Erkki Liikanen has also urged governments to use the lull to fix their economies.

It’s “important that no country creates negative surprises,” said Liikanen, who heads the central bank in Finland, one of six euro-region countries still rated AAA. He spoke in a March 15 interview.
Budget Rules

Those comments follow a battle between Spain and its euro- region partners over the size ofdeficit it should aim for. On March 2, the same day European leaders signed up to a tighter set of budget rules, Rajoy announced his government would target a shortfall of 5.8 percent of gross domestic product this year, instead of the 4.4 percent agreed previously. That was scaled back to 5.3 percent after finance ministers drafted a specific statement on Spain following a late-night meeting on March 12.

Rajoy’s move pushed Spanish borrowing costs above those of Italy for the first time in six months. Spain enjoyed lower bond yields than Italy since the ECB started buying both countries’ debt in August, when Italian lawmakers then weakened a 45 billion-euro ($59 billion) austerity program that Berlusconi’s government said was aimed at satisfying ECB demands.

Spanish 10-year borrowing costs were 5.19 percent at 10:23 a.m. Lonton time today, 38 basis points more than Italian yields and 317 basis points more than equivalent German securities. The spread over German yields compares with a record of 503 basis points reached on Nov. 18.
‘Stern Challenge’

Spain’s looser deficit target does make sense in an economy that the government expects will shrink 1.7 percent this year, said Sebastian Paris Horvitz, chief market strategist at HSBC Private Bank Suisse SA in Geneva.

It is “less bad news on the growth front,” and indicates that “everybody is aware that there is a level of austerity that goes against the final goal of bringing back fiscal soundness,” he said. The ECB’s action has also “avoided a meltdown in Europe’s financial system.”

The 3 percent deficit target that remains in place for next year is a “stern challenge” that may “condemn Spain to another full-year economic contraction in 2013,” said Raj Badiani, an economist at IHS Global Insight in London. The gap was 8.5 percent in 2011, wider than the 6 percent target set by the Socialist government that handed over to Rajoy in December.

Spain’s ruling People’s Party is studying scrapping some tax deductions and accelerating payments in preparation for the 2012 budget to be presented on March 30, El Pais reported yesterday, citing unnamed officials at the Budget Ministry.
Bond Purchases

The success of the ECB three-year loan program and its focus on banks has blunted officials’ bargaining power to prevent governments such as Rajoy’s from backtracking on pledges, BNP Paribas economist Wattret said. The ECB’s earlier policy of buying struggling nations’ bonds gave it “wiggle room” to hold off purchases, he said.

The ECB previously stood by as Italy’s borrowing costs surged to records, only intervening after Berlusconi’s government fell. Purchases of government securities fell by half in the week that Berlusconi quit as prime minister. He resigned on Nov. 12, to be replaced by current premier Mario Monti.

“If the banks want the money, they get the money irrespective of whether the governments deliver or not,” Wattret said. “The moral hazard associated with it is a bit more problematic.”
Bank Borrowings

Spain’s banks actively sought and lapped up ECB cash. Francisco Gonzalez, chairman ofBanco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA (BBVA), the nation’s second-largest bank, urged the central bank in November to offer loans of about three years, saying such a measure would allow lenders to support government debt.

Spanish banks increased holdings of the nation’s bonds to 202 billion euros in December, from 178 billion euros in November, Treasury data show. They borrowed 152 billion euros from the ECB in February, three times as much as they were taking a year ago.

Rajoy’s government will remain under pressure to meet its commitments particularly because it is a test case for the European Union’s new budget guidelines, aimed to enhance the credibility of the euro, said Jacques Cailloux, chief European economist at Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc.

“There’s an unwritten rule that if you play by the rules you get support,” he said in a telephone interview. “If Spain comes out as a less good student, the ECB is not going to be in any easy position.”


'Damascus blasts prove outside forces arming rebels for more bloodshed'

Carmageddon: European New Car Sales Crash, Worst February in History

The European new car market crashed in February. According to data released by the European manufacturers’ association ACEA, new car sales were down 9.7 percent in February. Two months into the year, car sales in the EU are down 8.3 percent from the same period a year earlier.

The harmless looking percentages hide the fact that this February was the worst of the millennium. Only 888,878 units changed hands in the EU27 in February, the lowest level since comparing months made sense (going back further is futile, the EU was much smaller then…) Even during carmageddon, European had not seen a February as bad as this one.

EU basket cases Greece and Portugal saw their new car sales nearly halved. These are relatively unimportant markets, by now, tiny Luxemburg has more car sales than Greece. If Greece would leave the EU, it would not even register in the car statistics. What hurts much more is the deterioration of the volume markets. France is down 20.2 percent, not boding well for PSA and Renault. Italy is down 18.9 percent, putting pressure on Fiat. Flat sales in Germany spared Europe a double digit tanking.
Mish's global Economic