The 10 Countries Most At Risk Of A Meltdown

We’re not out of the woods yet.

Should the world economy stagnate, or worse yet “double-dip”, a handful of countries could once again be pushed to brink.

Meltdowns come in many shapes and forms, yet they always result in a pariah state.

Who are the most likely candidates for this?

Hope you’re not living in the meltdown countries>>

Spain

Don't be surprised if Europe ends up bailing out Spain.

While their finance minister recently declared that the worst of the crisis was over, Moody's and many analysts believe the country's banking system may be concealing massive loan losses.

20% unemployment, 3.5% 2009 GDP contraction, and a collapsed 10-year housing bubble appears to contradict the banks' apparent stability.

London-based Variant believes real estate losses alone could total $370 billion, or about one quarter of Spain's economy.

If true, and Spain doesn't face the music, the country could endure a Japanese-style lost decade.

Dubai

Building a giant theme park and calling it a city cost Dubai extraordinary amounts of money, much of it borrowed.

With property prices down 50%, huge amounts of money has been lost and the city state was required to receive financial support from rival Abu Dhabi.

Still, Standard & Poor's believes the government has insufficient money to support its flailing government companies and will require further support.

Many property projects remain vacant and useless while $80 billion of debt, huge for Dubai, sits on the government balance sheet.

Dubai's survival during any further economic downturn will most likely depend on it retaining friends in high places abroad.

Iran

Iran is at risk of both a political and an international relations meltdown, should the government's anti-democratic or nuclear ambitions take a wrong turn.

Either scenario could prove too much for the weak domestic economy to bear.

Previously rampant inflation is under control, most recently near 10%, yet could easily resurface.

Rising unemployment hit 11% recently and is fueling poltical tension.

Falling oil prices caused by to a global double-dip would be disastrous for the country since 85% of government revenue comes from the oil sector,

Meager expected GDP growth of 1.5% in 2010 doesn't provide much room for error should major instability take hold.

Latvia

Latvia's currency, the Lat, could implode and take down both foreign lenders and local borrowers with it.

Fear of such a collapse is sucking credit out of the economy since few want to be caught dead holding Lat.

The economy has collapsed with an expected 18% drop for 2009.

Latvia's long-standing currency peg is thus now under extreme pressure. If freely-traded, some believe the Lat could fall in value by as much as 30%.

This would inflict massive losses on foreign banks heavily exposed to the country and local borrowers stacked with foreign currency debt.

Damned if they do, and damned if they don't, Latvia is caught in a currency bind.

Ireland

The spectacular collapse of a property bubble almost turned the Ireland into another Iceland.

They're not out of the woods yet.

The economy is expected to contract over 7% this year and could fall further in 2010. Many Irish households face negative equity situations similar to that of many Americans.

Deflation has firmly taken hold and the banks remain fragile.

The country is struggling to decide how best to save the system. Bad policy or renewed economic hardship could easily bring Ireland back to the brink.

China

China is charging into the future with such mass and velocity that any sudden slow-down could result in a train wreck.

Government stimulus used to avoid an economic downturn may now be creating mountains of bad debt and vast expanses of excess manufacturing capacity.

The loan losses and factory under utilization this could cause might very well end up destroying major banks and annhilating industrial profitability should the economy slow too fast.

Moreover, mass unemployment any crisis would create is surely a nightmare scenario for a government whose only legitimacy rests on rapidly increasing prosperity.

Thus there is only one option for the party - full speed ahead.

Venezuela

If inflation were a barometer of economic success, Venezuela would be an economic titan.

The country's inflation will be the highest in the world both this year, at 28%, and for many years to come according to The International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Not only will the economy contract in 2009, but it could also contract in 2010 despite expected growth for most other economies.

These weak forecasts assume a growing global economy.

Should the world actually stagnant, Venezuela could be done for. The country remains highly dependent on oil prices, which would likely be slammed by any global economic double-dip.

Lithuania

Lithuania's economy fell a shocking 20% in the second quarter of this year, which was the worst decline for any European nation.

Similar to Latvia, the country's currency peg is under extreme pressure and deflationary forces have taken hold.

If forced to abandon the peg, resultant devaluation would mean huge losses for domestic borrowers with foreign currency debts.

While the country has recently been able to issue local currency government bonds, something Latvia failed to do, bond buyers could end up very wrong.

Moody's recently downgraded the country and budget deficits show no sign of abating. The IMF expects economic contraction to continue in 2010.

Korea

While North Korea is a repeat offender when it comes to meltdowns, even the far better run South Korea could be headed for a unique bust of its own.

Despite a global real estate downturn, South Korean housing prices have been on fire.

Seoul property prices jumped 20% year to date, while consumer confidence in housing is at record levels.

Low interest rates and floating rate mortgages could be fueling a speculative boom that could end badly once easy money and easy mortgages come to an end.

It all sounds so eerily familiar, doesn't it.

If a bubble pops, it could come at a horrible time since South Korea is just starting to rebound from the economic downturn.

USA

Surely you know all the risks still facing the American economy. We're massively in debt to the rest of the world; highly exposed to an oil shock, and we have enemies that want to kill us all around the world. 'Nuff said.

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