EFSF

Gavyn has made some changes to the presentation of the table due to readers’ comments summarised in the footnote. The argument is not changed.

Another week, another summit. Once again, we are being told, this time by Italian prime minister Mario Monti, that there is only one week left to save the euro. Yet the crisis still does not seem sufficiently acute to persuade eurozone leaders that a full resolution is necessary.

The next summit on June 28 and 29 will unveil a long term road map towards fiscal and banking union, which in better economic circumstances could appear highly impressive. But the market is currently focused on the shorter term. Unless there is some form of debt mutualisation at the summit, resulting in a decline in government bond yields in Spain and Italy, the crisis could rapidly worsen.

Debt mutualisation can come in many forms. The European Redemption Fund, proposed by the Council of Economic Experts in Germany (and discussed here) seems to have receded into the background this week but could still have an eventual role. More immediately, the main option on the table seems to be the use of the eurozone firewall (ie a combination of the EFSF and ESM) to buy secondary government debt, or inject capital directly to the banks. But the problem here is simple: a lack of money. Read more

In typical European fashion, a summit deal which seemed out of reach at midnight last night was triumphantly unveiled at 4am. The deal does not, and was not intended to, have any effect on the core problems facing the eurozone. There is still an urgent need to restore growth to economies which are hamstrung by uncompetitive business sectors, and continuous fiscal tightening. Recession still looms, especially in the southern economies.

What the deal is intended to provide is adequate medium term financing for sovereigns and banks which have been facing urgent liquidity problems. On that, it is notable that the summit has not really raised any new money, apart from an increase in the private sector’s write-down of Greek debt by some €80bn.

All of the remaining “new” money, including €106bn to recapitalise the banks and over €800bn to be added to the firepower of the EFSF through leverage, has yet to be raised from the private sector, from sovereign lenders outside the eurozone, and conceivably from the ECB.

There is no guarantee that this can be done. The eventual out-turn of this summit will depend on whether this missing €1,000bn can actually be raised. Read more

Euro symbol at the European Central Bank

Euro symbol by the European Central Bank headquarters. Image by Getty.

When the idea of leveraging the European Financial Stability Facility to increase its firepower was touted as the solution to the European sovereign debt crisis at the International Monetary Fund meetings last weekend, markets rallied sharply. They saw this (rightly) as the first sign of a policy initiative which might actually be large enough to get ahead of the deteriorating crisis. But I commented here on Sunday that there was no real indication that Germany was ready to embrace the scheme and, sure enough, Wolfgang Schäuble, finance minister, yesterday described the approach as “a silly idea” which “makes no sense”.

Germany’s public opposition to increasing the size of the EFSF may be partly tactical, given tomorrow’s key vote on the fund in the Bundestag. But it is also based on a crucial sticking point. The strong economies fear that increasing the size of the fund would result  in them losing their own triple A status and they have consistently given a greater weight to these costs than to the less certain, but potentially much larger, costs of a euro breakdown. Read more