Sunday, June 3, 2012

To Be or Not To Be: EU Shows signs of cracking

Twenty years ago, when the idea was circulating about a unified currency in Europe, it seemed like such a brilliant concept, based upon sound economic and political arguments. Today, it almost seems like an impossible dream. Landon Thomas of the New York Times asks in his article "Can they muster the will and resources to keep the euro zone from breaking apart?

As the world looks on, and markets take defensive positions, the Euro crisis unfolds like the climax of a mystery novel. Greece's dramatic elections - where the people ousted Sarkozy, opting for an unlikely candidate, Fran├žois Holland. The outcome of the election was a clear sign that the people were not ready for the strict austerity measures needed to turn their economy around. Bailout alone was not going to save Greece, it was only expected to buy them time to pull their policies, and fiscal plan together. The political and civil unrest in Greece, gave little hope for a turnaround. Instead the notion of Greece leaving the European Union resurfaced with somber overtones of reality.

By the end of May, Spain had decided to pump 19 billion Euros into its struggling Lender, Bankia, SA, as a strategy to illustrate stability, and quell any notion that the crisis continues for its financial sector, in light of Greece's downward slide. This is a prop-up strategy that is effective in influencing perception, which is crucial in the realm of investors and financial markets. The US equivalent of $24 billion, was a rich injection that is twice the amount Spain spent in the recent past to straighten out the banking sector during US housing market collapse - causing a global rippling affect. Spain is swiftly reacting to mitigate a repeat of the fiscal mayhem stemming from billions of dollars lost in toxic mortgage-backed securities.

Meanwhile, two weeks ago, S&P downgraded Bankia, and several other Spanish Banks, causing worldwide concern. The rating agency made matters worse by painting a gloomy near-term forecast for the region, citing their belief that Spain is heading toward a double dip recession. S&P also noted that there was a reasonable expectation of an increase in troubled assets. On the heels of Frances downgrade, and Spain’s fiscal concerns, the question becomes, was this unified currency such a sound economic and political move in the first place. Friday, the DOW closed 300 points lower, illustrating investor sensitivity to the Euro Crisis - although, it should be noted that market anxiety was further stimulated by the soft jobs report.

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K Reilly
The Cohn-Reilly Report