End of the Euro?: The IMF warns that one country leaving the single currency could force its entire collapseBy Hugo Duncan PUBLISHED: 12:45 EST, 17 April 2012 UPDATED: 04:28 EST, 18 April 2012
In its World Economic Outlook report, the International Monetary Fund said the collapse of the crisis-torn single currency could not be ruled out.
It was the first time the Washington-based institution has accepted the prospect of the eurozone splitting up and follows fears over the health of the Spanish economy.
The IMF predicted a return to recession in the eurozone this year but upgraded its growth forecasts for Britain.
However, it warned that the world remains at risk of collapsing into a slump that would rival the Great Depression – with ‘acute risks in Europe’ the major threat.
‘Things have quietened down but there is a very uneasy calm,’ said IMF chief economist Olivier Blanchard. ‘I have a feeling that at any moment things could get very bad again.’
Speaking at the launch of the half-yearly report in Washington, Mr Blanchard said there was ‘no plan’ in place to deal with a country leaving the euro.
However Greece is widely expected to default on its crippling debts and quit the doomed single currency.
‘If such an event occurs, it is possible that other euro area economies would come under severe pressure as well, with a full-blown panic in financial markets,’ the IMF report said.
‘Under these circumstances, a break-up of the euro area could not be ruled out. This could cause major political shocks that could aggravate economic stress to levels well above those after the Lehman collapse.’
U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers imploded in September 2008 – plunging the world economy into the worst recession since the 1930s. The IMF said that although ‘the outlook for the global economy is slowly improving again’ it is ‘still very fragile’.
It warned of the ‘possibility that several adverse shocks could interact to produce a major slump reminiscent of the 1930s’.
The IMF forecast growth of 0.8 per cent in Britain this year – more than the 0.6 per cent it predicted in January, but less than last September’s target of 1.6 per cent. Its 2013 forecast was unchanged at 2 per cent.
Asked about the IMF’s comments on the eurozone, a Downing Street spokesman said: ‘The eurozone still needs to get its house in order. Those issues still exist and no doubt will be a focus of discussions at the coming meeting of the IMF towards the end of the week, which the Chancellor will be attending.’
The IMF said Britain will outperform Germany and France this year – their economies are expected to grow by just 0.6 per cent and 0.5 per cent respectively.
The Italian and Spanish economies are forecast to decline by 1.9 per cent and 1.8 per cent, while a slump of 4.7 per cent is expected in Greece following a 6.9 per cent drop in 2011.
But the report warned that output in the eurozone could fall by 3.5 per cent over the next two years if the debt crisis escalates.
This would knock 2 per cent off the world economy, said the IMF, while a 50 per cent rise in the oil price would lower output by a further 1.25 per cent.
In the absence of such ‘shocks’ the global economy is expected to grow by 3.5 per cent this year, down from 3.9 per cent in 2011, with the U.S., Canada and Japan leading the way in the developed world.
‘Because of the problems in Europe, activity will continue to disappoint in the advanced economies as a group, expanding by only about 1.5 per cent in 2012 and by 2 per cent in 2013,’ said the report.
- Euro meltdown will be a bigger disaster than the credit crunch’ (express.co.uk)
- IMF: Euro Break-up Cannot Be Ruled Out (news.sky.com)
- IMF Exploits Euro-Crisis to Create Global Money Power (mb50.wordpress.com)
Submitted by Tyler Durden on 01/30/2012
Surging Greek and Portuguese bond yields? Plunging Italian bank stocks? The projected GDP of the Eurozone? In the grand scheme of things, while certainly disturbing, none of these data points actually tell us much about the secular shift within European society, and certainly are nothing that couldn’t be fixed if the ECB were to gamble with hyperinflation and print an inordinate amount of fiat units diluting the capital base even further. No: the one chart that truly captures the latent fear behind the scenes in Europe is that showing youth unemployment in the continent’s troubled countries (and frankly everywhere else). Because the last thing Europe needs is a discontented, disenfranchised, and devoid of hope youth roving the streets with nothing to do, easily susceptible to extremist and xenophobic tendencies: after all, it must be “someone’s” fault that there are no job opportunities for anyone. Below we present the youth (16-24) unemployment in three select European countries (and the general Eurozone as a reference point).
Some may be surprised to learn that while Portugal, and Greece, are quite bad, at 30.7% and 46.6% respectively, it is Spain where the youth unemployment pain is most acute: at 51.4%, more than half of the youth eligible for work does not have a job!
Because the real question is if there is no hope for tomorrow, what is the opportunity cost of doing something stupid and quite irrational today?
- CHART OF THE DAY: Everyone Agrees This Is The Scariest Chart In Europe (businessinsider.com)
- CHART OF THE DAY: The New Scariest Chart In Europe (businessinsider.com)
- CHART OF THE DAY: The Next Big European Scare-Chart We Have To Start Talking About (businessinsider.com)
- Everything You Need To Know About Europe In Three Charts (zerohedge.com)
- Europe Has Worst Day In Six Weeks (zerohedge.com)
- This Is Europe’s Scariest Chart (zerohedge.com)
The 2012 Barrons Roundtable came out this morning and the discussion is always interesting.
I think he’s a bit dramatic, but given that he’s one of the few roundtable members who has been able to connect the dots (for the most part) his comments are always worth considering (see past performance from Roundtable members here):
Zulauf: Europe is going to be key this year for the markets and the economy. China is slowing; the emerging world is slowing, and the U.S. is barely above water, constrained by its structural problems. I have called the euro a misconstruction since its birth. The problem is a difference in competitiveness among European countries, and you can’t solve it by lending money to the less competitive countries. You have to deflate wages and prices in the south, and inflate the north. But given Germany’s history, it will never inflate.
The members of the euro zone agreed in December that each country could have a structural deficit of no more than half a percent of GDP. If a deficit goes above 3% of GDP, the country will be sanctioned. This agreement now has to be ratified in all countries. But when you agree to such a prescription and you are uncompetitive, your currency is overvalued by 30%, you can’t devalue, and your nominal interest rates are too high, that is a recipe for a depression. It is a death sentence. Several countries won’t ratify the contract, and the next day their markets will be repriced accordingly. They will exit the euro, and the turmoil will go to the next level. Greece is bust in either case. If you can devalue your currency by 40% or 50% in that situation, at least you will have the chance to see the sun again and recover.
Zulauf: The banking system goes bust. Assume Greece won’t repay anything, or at most 10% of its total debt. It is not just the government but the private sector that is bust. That means banks in other countries will be in trouble, which means they will be nationalized. Governments won’t have the money to pay for this, so they will assume even more debt. That is the chain of events I expect in 2012, and if you believe it won’t affect the U.S. you are dreaming. The estimated notional value of the over-the-counter fixed-income-derivatives market in Europe is estimated to be about 60 trillion euros. There are many links to the U.S. banking system, although we don’t yet know who is positioned how. If one country exits the euro, all hell will break loose.
Zulauf: Every European country will be in recession in 2012, and probably in 2013.
- Felix Zulauf: The Die is Cast (ritholtz.com)
- Felix Zulauf, Interviewed by King World (ritholtz.com)
- Felix Zulauf on Europe and more (investmentpostcards.com)
- The lure to leave the euro may prove irresistible (finance.fortune.cnn.com)
- Europe’s economies: A false dawn (economist.com)
- Running Through Italian Default Scenarios (businessinsider.com)