Tags: EU | Rescue | Plan | europe

EU Headed Down Wrong Path Despite Rescue Plan

Monday, 31 Oct 2011 09:37 AM

By Hans Parisis

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Investors should keep in mind that the eurozone crisis isn’t over yet. And as the single currency zone goes, so will go the major markets in the world, and that includes the U.S. I’m still convinced the EU is moving in a bad direction.

Now, to alleviate the eurozone sovereign debt crisis substantially, it is now of the outmost importance that the EU clarifies and implements fully and decisively the eurozone debt measures in order to break the extremely dangerous inter-linkage between:

• Sovereign debt and banking distress.

• Definitively dealing with Greece, once and for all.

• Ensuring that the sovereign debt crisis does not spread to other European countries.

• Securing appropriate capitalization and funding for banks.

Detailed information is urgently needed on how the euro-debt-deal package will be implemented in full. As I’ve said before, time is running out for Europe.

There is no doubt whatsoever that uncertainties regarding the short-term global economic outlook have risen dramatically in recent months. Events related to the eurozone debt crisis and fiscal policy in the U.S. will probably continue dominating economic developments in the foreseeable future. That could easily be a couple of years.

Consequently, both of these issues will continue to provide serious headwinds to the global economy.

Real GDP growth of all major economies diverge widely while the big emerging-market economies remain more buoyant than their developed counterparts, but, nevertheless, even here we see among them some softening developing.

In complete contrast, in the EU we now see an unwelcome marked slowdown with some patches of even mild negative growth. The latest estimates on growth released today by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), U.S. growth is projected to remain weak with a gradual pick-up from 2012 towards the end possible. Unfortunately, unemployment is expected to remain high in many advanced countries.

Several negative factors, including heightened perceptions of risk and financial market turbulence, are expected to weigh further on the economic outlook for G-20 economies.

It’s a fact that business and consumer confidence have weakened further, investment decisions are being postponed on the back of greater uncertainty, and household spending has come under pressure from lower equity prices, labor market slack and persistent housing market weakness, especially in the U.S. but also in Europe.

I think investors should take on very little risk by remaining cautious until details of the eurozone debt deal come out and see if they can be achieved.

Keeping your distance from last week’s euro-euphoria probably wouldn’t be such a bad idea, even as an investor you missed the spike.

The eurozone debt deal that would supposedly save the eurozone will probably fix nothing and there is a good chance it will soon give way to even larger problems in the weaker “southern” countries of the eurozone.

The contagion that started with Greece will ultimately, but hopefully not, spread much further than most still consider as impossible.

At least, that’s my opinion. Portugal, Spain, Italy, etc., can’t simply grow out of their debt and all the related problems when they are actually on the brink of contracting or are close to it. You don’t need a crystal ball to see that.

German Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann made some interesting remarks in the German daily Handelsblatt by saying, while criticizing last week Eurozone debt deal: “It would be disastrous if the impression arose that fiscal problems were being solved not by efforts in the affected countries, but chiefly via aid from others or debt restructuring measures … This would destroy confidence in sustainable public finances and faith in governments, and the crisis would spread to other countries.”

Weidmann adds that losses for Greece's private creditors would ease the country's debt burden but not solve its fundamental problems, and he also notes that the recent EU summit has lead to a collectivization of risks in the bloc.

All that said, this week we have on Thursday and Friday G-20 leaders will meet in Cannes, France where they will discuss another “Action Plan” that should include bold commitments to sound and mutually reinforcing macroeconomic policies and structural reforms. Decisive action by the G-20 could restore confidence and trigger more optimistic scenarios that are urgently needed for growth and job creation all over the world.

If recent G-20 summits serve as any reference it’s better not expecting too much. It’s also said that at the G-20 summit this week, leaders would also discuss the option of emerging nations contributing to the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) via the International Monetary Fund. We’ll have to wait and see what comes out of that.

As you could expect, my preference remains completely “isk off.” As long as uncertainties, lack of credibility that leads to absence of confidence remain well anchored as is the case for now, there is very little chance I would change my preference for “risk off” any time soon.

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