Some interesting events to ponder over the weekend, though not many of them came from the G8 summit which, as is customary, was strong on rhetoric but bare of any specific policy measures to tackle the euro zone crisis. However, markets seems to have tired of their panicky last few sessions. German Bund futures have opened lower as investors took profits rather than seizing on any positive news. European stocks have edged up.
It does appear that with the ascension of France’s Francois Hollande, the G8 firmament turned into G7 (or maybe 5 since we didn’t hear much from Japan and Russia) versus 1 (Germany) but as things stand we’re still heading for a fairly anaemic “growth strategy” unless euro zone leaders coalesce behind the notion of giving Spain and Greece longer to make the cuts demanded of them. Spain has moved the goalposts further in the wrong direction, revising its 2011 deficit up to 8.9 percent from 8.5 and blaming the overspending regions. That means its already loosened target of 5.3 percent for this year is now even harder to achieve.
Hollande is talking up the case for common euro zone bonds but that will not wash with Berlin for a long time yet. Sources said Monti used the G8 forum to promote a pan-European bank deposit guarantee fund. Good idea but that too will only be conceivable if the European financial sector is on the point of toppling. And who will underwrite it? There is talk too of allowing the EFSF to lend direct to banks to ease the Spanish government’s reluctance to ask for help. That may have a slightly better chance of success but Berlin doesn’t like this idea either.
Look no further than the German Chancellor’s take on the summit – it was all a great success, she said. Everyone agreed that we need both growth and fiscal consolidation.
Angela Merkel is one the one with her hand on the purse strings and she knows the markets will only allow so much fiscal loosening.
However, the hefty 4.3 percent pay rise secured by Germany’s most powerful union, IG Metall could be a sign that Berlin is starting to loosen the edges of its anti-inflation culture in order to foster a bit of domestic demand. Any profound return to euro zone growth is going to require some internal imbalancing – and that means Germany buying more from its partners to allow them to export more.
No one can accuse Merkel of being disengaged. Despite denials from Berlin, it seems she may have suggested to the Greek president that a referendum on euro membership should be held in parallel with the June 17 elections, a pretty astonishing intervention in another country’s democratic process.