It’s May Day and most of Europe, barring Britain, is taking a holiday so maybe it’s a day to take stock.
But first, a nervous glance at little Slovenia. Last night Moody’s cut its debt rating to junk, forcing Ljubljana to abandon a planned bond issue which looked set to raise several billion dollars and making a fifth euro zone sovereign bailout much more likely. Given the ham-fisted effort to rescue Cyprus didn’t put markets into a spin, it’s unlikely Slovenia will upset the euro zone applecart but it’s a reminder that this crisis isn’t over and won’t be until the currency bloc gets serious about creating a banking union. Slovenia’s problems, like Cyprus’s, are rooted in the banking sector, which is stifled by about 7 billion euros in bad loans.
One bullet was dodged when the Cypriot parliament narrowly approved its bailout late yesterday, which will avert bankruptcy but at a painful cost.
Looking at the wider picture, Item One on the agenda is that after euro zone inflation plunged to 1.2 percent yesterday – way below the European Central Bank’s target of close to but below two percent – it now has the greenest of green lights to act at Thursday’s policy meeting.
We already had it on very good authority that a quarter-point interest rate cut is on the cards, which will take rates to a record low 0.5 percent. However, nobody is under any illusion that that alone is going to lift the currency bloc out of recession, one reason perhaps that a debate is now raging over the benefits of cutting debt versus going for growth at a governmental level.