Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Germany’s “Failed” Bond Auction


“We are caught, it seems, in one of those self-reinforcing loops that almost always presage a collapse.”

— Michael Pettis, China Financial Markets

Germany’s “failed” bund auction on Wednesday was a real gamechanger. It means that Europe’s biggest and most powerful economy will not escape the contagion that’s swept across the south. Germany’s borrowing costs will rise and it’s finances will be put under a microscope. But that’s just the half of it. What’s roiling the markets is that investors are now pricing in the probability of a eurozone breakup. That’s what all the commotion is about; the nightmare scenario is beginning to unfold.

Here are the facts: Of the €6 billion in 10-year bonds that were offered at Wednesday’s auction, only €3.6 billion were purchased leaving the Bundesbank with the remaining €2.4 billion, which is 39 percent of the total allotment, the highest ratio on record.

The auction was, in the words of one trader “a complete disaster” mainly because it showed that Germany is not the safe haven that many thought it was. German debt has become a “risk asset” overnight just like that of Greece or Italy. (although to lesser degree) Investors are fleeing Europe altogether and moving their money into Gilts and US Treasuries. Take a look at this from the Wall Street Journal:

“Euro-zone leaders say they are determined to save the single currency. But the smart money is voting with its feet. First, short-term U.S. dollar-funding markets effectively closed, then the senior unsecured-bond markets shut down, then the interbank market. Now, corporate customers appear to be withdrawing their deposits from some countries’ banks. With an estimated €1.7 trillion ($2.29 trillion) of funding to roll over in the next three years, the stresses in the euro-zone banking system look doomed to get worse….

If eurozone leaders are serious about saving the euro, they must find ways to persuade the smart money to stay.” (“Europe’s Smart Money Votes With Its Feet”, Wall Street Journal)

So, the eurozone is experiencing a bankrun, only, so far, much of the money has merely shifted from the weaker countries to the stronger. Now that’s beginning to change. But don’t be deceived, the problem isn’t Germany’s debt-to-GDP ratio or its prospects for future growth. The problem is that it’s linked to other teetering sovereigns in a single currency suicide pact, and there’s no way to get out unscathed. Here’s an excerpt from the Guardian:

“Global investors headed for the eurozone exit on Thursday after leaders of the area’s three biggest economies squashed residual market hopes for a huge intervention by the European Central Bank (ECB) to solve the sovereign debt crisis….

Angela Merkel again ruled out any expanded role for the ECB and stamped down proposals for single, eurozone-wide “eurobonds” to share the risk of sovereign debt. The ECB, she said, was only responsible for monetary policy….

Merkel … agreed only that early agreement to boost the EU’s bailout fund, the European financial stability facility, could help resolve the immediate crisis…She reiterated the view she expressed to the Bundestag a day earlier that eurobonds or the collectivisation of sovereign risk were neither “necessary nor appropriate” and could function only at a later stage of fiscal union.” (“Fear sweeps markets as Germany rules out ECB intervention”, Guardian)

Merkel’s rejection of eurobonds and fiscal transfers is a death warrant for the eurozone. She also refuses to allow the ECB to act as lender of last resort which would stem the flight out of government bonds. Here’s what a senior trader at a US bank told the Financial Times:

“We are now seeing funds and clients wanting to get out of anything that is denominated in euros and that includes Bunds because they don’t know what will happen to monetary union.”

See? Germany may be an industrial powerhouse and have it’s house in order (economically), but that’s not going to matter if the capital flight continues. It will face the same excruciating reckoning as the others.

So, what’s the solution?

In truth, there are only two options; either move towards total political and fiscal integration (A United States of Europe) or scrap the euro-project altogether and dissolve the union. If policymakers continue to procrastinate (“the politics of dither”), then the market will impose its own solution which will involve a cascade of bank and corporate defaults, soaring unemployment, agonising deflation and a decade of severe depression.

So, is there any chance of a positive outcome to the EU debt crisis? Here’s how economist James Galbraith answered that question:

James Galbraith: “No, I don’t think so. To get there you would have to have a complete reversal of the ideas that presently govern Europe. You would have to have a much greater sense of solidarity, a greater willingness to put European funds into the periphery in a serious and sustained way, and you’d have to have a plan for their growth and development. None of those are presently in the offing.” (Daily Ticker)

EU leaders haven’t changed their minds about anything. In fact, they’ve rejected every idea that might have helped, which is why the eurozone will not pull out of its death spiral.

For the video of Galbraith see link:


MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, forthcoming from AK Press. He can be reached at

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 25, 2016
David Swanson
Halloween Is Coming, Vladimir Putin Isn’t
Hiroyuki Hamada
Fear Laundering: an Elaborate Psychological Diversion and Bid for Power
Priti Gulati Cox
President Obama: Before the Empire Falls, Free Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal
Kathy Deacon
Plus ça Change: Regime Change 1917-1920
Robin Goodman
Appetite for Destruction: America’s War Against Itself
Richard Moser
On Power, Privilege, and Passage: a Letter to My Nephew
Rev. William Alberts
The Epicenter of the Moral Universe is Our Common Humanity, Not Religion
Dan Bacher
Inspector General says Reclamation wasted $32.2 million on Klamath irrigators
David Mattson
A Recipe for Killing: the “Trust Us” Argument of State Grizzly Bear Managers
Derek Royden
The Tragedy in Yemen
Ralph Nader
Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think
Norman Pollack
Centrist Fascism: Lurching Forward
Guillermo R. Gil
Cell to Cell Communication: On How to Become Governor of Puerto Rico
Mateo Pimentel
You, Me, and the Trolley Make Three
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare
Oscar Ortega
Clinton’s Troubling Silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Patrick Cockburn
Aleppo vs. Mosul: Media Biases
John Grant
Humanizing Our Militarized Border
Franklin Lamb
US-led Sanctions Targeting Syria Risk Adjudication as War Crimes
Paul Bentley
There Must Be Some Way Out of Here: the Silence of Dylan
Norman Pollack
Militarism: The Elephant in the Room
Patrick Bosold
Dakota Access Oil Pipeline: Invite CEO to Lunch, Go to Jail
Paul Craig Roberts
Was Russia’s Hesitation in Syria a Strategic Mistake?
David Swanson
Of All the Opinions I’ve Heard on Syria
Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Rob Urie
Name the Dangerous Candidate
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Neve Gordon
Israel’s Boycott Hypocrisy
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Victor Wallis
On the Stealing of U.S. Elections
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Stanley L. Cohen
Equality and Justice for All, It Seems, But Palestinians