The Great Debate UK

from Felix Salmon:

Why European debt defaults are necessary

Jim O'Neill of Goldman Sachs is now going around saying that the eurozone needs "solidarity," and that Germany in particular needs to get with the all-for-one-and-one-for-all program, after getting itself into this mess by encouraging far too many countries to join the euro in the first place. At the same time, the survival of the euro, he says, "requires Germany to be not so noisy and aggressive about how other countries should run their economies."

You can see the problem here: if enacted, it would mean that the European periphery can run up massive debts, safe in the knowledge that Germany will pay them off. Willem Buiter calls this by its proper name—permanent fiscal transfer—and says that it's "most unlikely" even in Ireland, let alone in (say) Greece.

Even Buiter—who now works for Citigroup, remember, which has a long and painful institutional memory when it comes to sovereign lending—is talking about the fact that some kind of default (he calls it "restructuring") will be necessary, certainly in Greece and Ireland, before markets have any confidence that the problems in those countries are resolved.

Certainly the current pain in Greece—retail sales down 10% year-on-year—feels very similar to the deflationary nightmare that Argentina lived through pre-default. The post-default chaos was worse, but the fact is that default was needed, in Argentina, to get the country back onto a growth path. And Argentina's debt levels were much lower than those in the European periphery.

from James Saft:

Pension savers get the boot

From Dublin to Paris to Budapest to inside those brown UPS trucks delivering holiday packages, it has been a tough few weeks for savers and retirees.

Moves by the Irish, French and Hungarian governments, and by the famous delivery company, showed that in the post-crisis world retirees, present and future, will be paying much of the price and taking on more of the risk.

Why we have to support Ireland

-

IRELAND-POLITICS/– Laurence Copeland is a professor of finance at Cardiff University Business School. The opinions expressed are his own. –

Supporting Ireland to the tune of a few billion quid must look like a no-brainer to the British Government. We should not make the same mistake as the Germans, who managed to get the worst of both worlds over Greece – forced by the scale of their bank exposure to support Greece, but providing the money with ill will, causing bitterness rather than gratitude – and now repeating the error in the Irish case.

Will the euro survive Europe’s latest sovereign debt crisis?

-

IRELAND/Kathleen Brooks is research director at forex.com. The opinions expressed are her own.

Ireland’s banking crisis reached boiling point this week. The Irish authorities are still adamant the country doesn’t need a bailout and are trying to draw a distinction between a sovereign bailout (which Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen, Finance Minister Brian Lenihan et al claim they don’t need) and banking sector support (which they most definitely do).

Thank you, Gordon Brown

Photo
-

BRITAIN-INFLATION/–Laurence Copeland is a professor of finance at Cardiff University Business School. The opinions expressed are his own.–

If the economics profession has sunk in public estimation in the last two or three years, it would hardly be surprising. Our failure to predict the crisis is something which cannot be simply brushed aside lightly, as some of my colleagues would love to do.

What is the extent of Ireland’s crisis?

-

- Kathleen Brooks is research director at forex.com. The opinions expressed are her own. -

The euro’s resilience in the third quarter has been astonishing. Since reaching a low against the dollar in June, the single currency has appreciated by an impressive 14 percent. This has coincided with the Irish financial crisis reaching boiling point, culminating in the announcement on Thursday by the Irish authorities of the final bill for winding down Anglo Irish Bank.

from Felix Salmon:

The European crisis gets quietly worse

Edward Hugh has a must-read overview of the euro crisis as it stands right now: not nearly as panicked as when everybody was concentrated on Greece back in May, yet in many ways worse than that.

Greece still seems certain to default sooner or later, and its bonds are trading at levels very near to those seen in May. Spain has improved a bit -- but that tiny improvement seems to have been accompanied by a significant rise in complacency on the part of the government, so it's unlikely to last long. And both Ireland and Portugal have deteriorated significantly.

from Felix Salmon:

Why Ireland is bailing out foreign banks

Robert Peston has a theory for why Ireland can't bail in the sophisticated institutions which lent untold billions to the country's beleaguered banks:

Take a look at the latest figures from the central bankers' bank, the Bank for International Settlements, on just the exposure of overseas banks to Ireland (in other words, credit provided by pension funds, hedge funds and wealthy individuals would be on top of this).

from Felix Salmon:

When secret meetings are boring and useless

The WSJ has a great little story proving once and for all that just because something is secret doesn't mean it's interesting. Apparently, for a year or so, a "secret task force" met at ungodly hours on the sidelines of various euro-events in cities like Brussels and Luxembourg. Its members were hand-picked, its task momentous: to come up with a plan should a eurozone country enter a crisis and threaten the currency union.

But it achieved, to a first approximation, exactly nothing, beyond simply keeping its own existence a secret. (If the markets had found out that the committee existed, they would probably have taken it as a sign of weakness and worry on the part of the Europeans, and increased pressure on the likes of Greece.) By the time that the Greek crisis flowered, there was no plan at all, and ultimately the European bailout had to be hammered out at summit level, mainly between Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel.

“Impossible” balancing act to perform with stress tests

Photo
-

-Tiffany Burk is the European Market Analyst at Travelex Global Business Payments. The opinions expressed are her own.-

Commentators have suggested that the hype surrounding the release of the EU bank stress tests has made it feel more like a PR campaign than a credible financial analysis.

  •