The Dust Settles

As the dust settles on the massive “shock and awe” package announced over the weekend it is become painfully apparent that markets are not at all convinced that underlying issues surrounding Europe’s woes are on the path to being resolved. Undoubtedly the EUR 750 billion provided by the European Union (EU) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) will go a long way towards fixing the symptoms of the crisis but it will take a lot more action to convince markets that the measures to cut budget deficits, improve productivity and enact structural reforms are being carried out.

As a result of ongoing skepticism EUR/USD dropped to its lowest level since March 2009. The currency pair shows little sign of turning around and over the short-term EUR/USD is likely to test its 2010 low around 1.2510. Market positioning remains heavily short EUR suggesting some scope for short covering but any rebound in EUR/USD is being met with plenty of sellers and the upside is likely to be restricted to around 1.2885.

The size of the EU/IMF package means that financing issues for eurozone peripheral countries will not be a major concern and spreads are likely to continue to narrow against core debt. However, attention has turned to the next step in the process, in particular the path of fiscal consolidation necessary in the months ahead and the negative impact on the economies in Europe that this will entail. As US Fed Chairman Bernanke noted, the package from the EU/IMF is “not a panacea”.

Overall, the measures may have cheapened the long term value of the EUR rather than boost it as it has highlighted the many problems in having a single currency to encompass a wide variety of countries. The stark reality in having differing fiscal policies across the euro region whilst maintaining a single monetary policy has proven to be highly problematic.

At least for now, the economic data in the eurozone is providing some support, though it is questionable how long this will continue. Eurozone GDP grew by 0.2% in the first quarter of 2010 compared to the previous quarter, which was stronger than expected and growth in the second quarter actually looks like it will have picked up from this pace based on the indications from recent monthly data.

Further out, the real damage will begin and in particular economic activity in southern European countries will slow sharply even as the German economy remains resilient due to relatively strong export performance. Deficit cutting measures in Portugal, Spain and Italy will begin to bite into growth later this year and into 2011. The weakness in growth in Europe relative to the US economy, which is likely to perform relaitvely better, will provide further rationale to sell EUR/USD, though at some point markets may just shift their attention back to the burgeoning US fiscal deficit.

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