CRASH 2: The search for people to blame shifts gear.

Monti Mario’s Flying Yellow Peril

“Britain prepares for Remembrance Sunday” announced the second-biggest headline at the BBCNews website earlier this morning. I’m all for remembrance of the staggering sacrifices made by British and American soldiers seventy-odd years ago, but I’d hardly call this news. I’d say on the whole that, far from being prepared, about 70% of the population need to do some revision…..starting with who Adolf Hitler was.

It is no more than what happens on a day when nothing happens. Now we have 24/7 news and 00/0 analysis or questioning of it, the space has to be filled somehow. However, on what the hacks are inclined still to call ‘a slow day’, there is still ample news to hand about the fact that the world is scattered with unpleasant, mad and incompetent people all desperate to blame the other guy. It may be old news, but it’s one  helluva lot more entertaining than any of the new News.

Klaus Regling – Mr EFSF – has returned from being given a Chinese fortune cookie in his ear to announce that market volatility “is getting in the way of leveraging the fund’s firepower”. Everyone’s looking for an excuse in these dark days, but this one is a pearler. “You know,” smiles Klaus, “It was all looking great until Italy went loopy”. Absolutely. A good tip for the Eurocrats would be, ‘If you’re going to have a person in charge of bazookas, don’t choose one who looks and sounds like the old gay bloke on Flog It’. Regling has no lead in his pencil because nobody wants to buy a crock of Hellenic and Roman junk. We could be in the middle of the biggest, maddest economic boom in human history, and nobody would want to even own it, let alone buy it. The cost of radioactive protection alone would make it prohibitive.

President Obama, meanwhile, wants to ‘hitch up the US economy to Asian growth’. Reuters has the story on Barry’s cunning plan:

‘Obama, who was born in Hawaii and spent part of his childhood in Indonesia, will host Asian leaders including Chinese President Hu Jintao and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in Honolulu this weekend to seek to improve trade ties across the Pacific. He will then travel to Australia to announce plans to boost the U.S. military presence in the region and will be the first American president to attend the East Asia Summit in Bali. There, he will heap attention on the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia as well as India’.

That’s it. O’Bama is going to press the flesh, and get himself as far up that Pacific Rim as he can. My God, but he’s fighting dirty now: he may be far too cool to roll his sleeves up, but this man could charm the arse off an elephant. (In the original Reuters piece, all the countries have a live link, so you can work out where they are. Even Australia.)

America’s problems being thus solved, Italy looks set to choose a Prime Minister called Monti. I mean, you just wouldn’t, would you? But the thinking seems to be, “Hell, the other guy called Mario is now known as Supermario, and this guy’s called Mario too, so it’ll be The Two Supermarios”. Monti Eyetie’s Insolvency Circus. Mario Draghi is something of an oxymoron in being a skilled banker; also he looks the part. But Mario Monti was – wait for it – an EU Competition Commissioner, sort of akin to being a Newscorp Truth Regulator. I’m inspired.

The Two Ms. No, that doesn’t really do it either. M&Ms? A couple of chocolate beans. Hmm….leave it with me. Maybe we don’t need any nicknames anyway, given that Italian 10-year bond yields were down 17 basis points to 6.72% on the news this morning. Monti Pizza’s Leaning Tower of Junk. Let’s park the nicknames for now. You know – see how things develop.

As any Murdoch hacker could tell you, those pesky keyboards and sticky fingers can play havoc with the outputs. And this seems to have happened to some poor unfortunate at Standard & Poors yesterday, whose accidental click on a third A damned France to a 27 basis point rise in bond yields on the day. Sarkozy, Baroin and anyone else they could round up has been demanding  ever since: everything from blowing S&P up to declaring war on the US has been demanded. Demander in French, however, means ‘to ask’, and this is what the more sensitively conspiratorial people have been doing ever since: how the hell do you suggest in a website piece about France’s credit rating – and knowing that $12trillion in Italian marble is careering down the mountainside towards France – accidentally? The credit rating agency’s explanation sounded as if it could’ve been co-written in 1972 by Haldeman and Ehrlichman (my italics):

“As a result of a technical error, a message was automatically disseminated today to some subscribers of S&P’s Global Credit Portal suggesting that France’s credit rating had been changed. We are investigating the error. There will be no whitewash at the Poorhouse”.

Actually, I made the last sentence up. But even without that pay-off, the statement makes it sound as if the loss of a third A is already in the works, like the Queen’s obituary: ‘Hell guys, we all know it’s gonna happen – what’s to get excited about?’ Thus, S&P accidentally set off the automatically queued up news that France is  f**ked. Gimme that JCB Homer, let’s see if we can get in a little deeper here.

OK, let’s see. The FT reports that the ‘error’ occurred under a sub-section called…..downgrade. Not Gold Reserves Healthy, or French Farmers Still Rich, or even Banks Recapitalising, but downgrade. As accidents go, this one is up there with the invasion of Poland.

But we should end, appropriately, in the home of the blame game, the United States of America. For those of you who don’t follow the US media, they are (a) much more skilled, and harder on the Establishment, than our shower of order-takers; and (b) nevertheless keen to have Americans hold their heads up in the face of what they know – everyone knows except Capitol Hill – is coming. The minute things started to go all Greco-Italian in the eurozone, all the financial media in the States have been piling the blame for everything onto the EU.

I’m all for hiring the dumper truck as well as the JCB when it comes to heaping tons of ordure on the bureaucratic clowns and selfish political sticklebacks who have let the Euromess segue into its current state of steaming poo-pile. But the origins of the crisis lie elsewhere – in the long term with the architects of the eurozone who wouldn’t listen…and in the medium term, with sovereign lenders who exploited the Ezone’s flaws in the most despicable manner. So I thought this snippet from the Wall St Journal this morning was a gem:

‘European turmoil and slowing growth in Asia are threatening the export boom that has helped prop up the shaky U.S. economic recovery.’

In order to underscore this alternative view from the one-dimensional universe, the WSJ observes that ‘U.S. companies sold a record $180.4 billion in goods and services to foreign customers in September, up 1.4% from the prior month’.

Adding the third dimension that gives our planet its cosy, physical feel, let me in turn point out that (a) 1.4% does not a boom make (b) neither does one month (c) the steeply rising import figures mean that the US deficit is still rising (d) there’s a nuclear pancake where the housing market was (e) most of those companies put profit to the line via cash hoards when they should’ve been planning for Armageddon (f) there is no recovery in America beyond hordes of cash helicoptered onto the consumers and banks (neither of whom did the required thing with it) and (g) the US National Debt is 42 times bigger than the entire contents of Fort Knox.

But hey – what with a boom and Barry whistle-stopping his way round Ayerszhuur, you’d think the Yerpeans could get their sheeyit together, Goddamnit.

More later if anything happens.