Why the latest eurozone bail-out is destined to fail within weeks
I want last week’s European bail-out to work. My sincere hope is that collective and decisive action by the eurozone’s large member states will stabilize global markets, at least for a while, so allowing the global economy to catch its breath.
As someone who works in financial services, I follow the markets – in the West, across Asia and the entire world – closer than most. Since the Bear Stearns collapse in March 2008, through the demise of Lehman Brothers and its ghastly aftermath, much of my professional life has been dominated by the angry flashing of those little lights on a Bloomberg screen.
In recent years, the violent gyrations on financial markets have been deeply discomforting, causing angst among market professionals, like me – but that is the least significant aspect. For those little lights represent, of course, the ebbs and flows of cash which, in turn, determines the fate of real businesses. It is at the sharp end of employment and livelihoods, dispossessed homes and broken families that the human impact of financial turbulence is most keenly felt.
So, yes, I want such turbulence, which will never be fully-eradicated, nor should it be in a free-market system, to now lessen to more manageable levels. Yet the responses of our politicians to recent financial troubles – hiding behind complexity and kicking the can down the road – have not only failed to temper the volatility, but have actually made it much worse.
Last week’s eurozone “agreement”, for all the related fanfare, was a case in point. Far from making the situation clearer, allowing investors to make considered assessments, this latest announcement made Western Europe’s grotesque debt crisis even more acute, sowing further infectious spores of confusion.
The deal itself, unveiled dramatically in the early hours of Thursday, was met with the now obligatory “relief rally”. The FTSE All-World equity index soared 4.1pc, helped by signs of renewed US economic growth. European bank shares spiked no less than 12pc on Thursday, as traders recognised, for all the official obfuscation, the latest dollop of government largesse.
By late Thursday, though, and certainly on Friday, the warning signs were there. Global bond markets, by character more sober and smarter than the excitable equity guys, were voting against the deal. This is alarming. For it is only by selling more bonds that the eurozone’s deeply indebted governments can roll-over their enormous liabilities and keep the show on the road.
Some say Western governments shouldn’t “accept” what the market says. “Who do these trading people think they are,” I hear from the lips of the educated but financially-illiterate political elite. Let’s be clear – if global bond markets stop lending to a number of large Western economies, we are in the realms of unpaid state wages and pensions, transport chaos and closures of schools and hospitals – sparking the prospect of serious civil unrest. Forgive my intemperate tone, but these are the dangers we face. And I’m afraid the only rational response to Thursday’s announcement is that the probability of such undesirable outcomes has just been increased.