Europe Faces Gravest Challenge Since WWII

17 May

From AAP (via The Australian):

Warnings that Europe faces its gravest challenge since World War II and that the “contagion” from troubled states such as Greece could quickly spread have heightened anxiety in global markets after a steep plunge on Friday reversed much of the week’s gains.

The optimism that followed last week’s E750 billion ($1.05 trillion) European bailout evaporated late on Friday, with markets across the continent plunging and Wall Street closing sharply lower.

The euro tripped to its lowest level against the US dollar in 18 months on Friday on fears of years of weak economic growth in the 16-nation European bloc. The euro is at a record low against the Australian dollar, buying just $1.3974, down from more than $2 early last year.

The euro was not helped by comments by US President Barack Obama’s top economic adviser Paul Volcker, who spoke on Friday of the potential “disintegration” of the 16 nations that share the euro currency. And Paris has had to deny reports that President Nicolas Sarkozy threatened to pull France out of the euro to force German Chancellor Angela Merkel to bail out Greece.

European Central Bank president Jean-Claude Trichet at the weekend called for more action by euro-zone governments to improve fiscal governance.

“We are now experiencing extreme tensions,” he said in an interview with Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine. “In the market, there is always a danger of contagion — like the contagion we saw among the private institutions in 2008.”

And from Business Spectator:

Yesterday, Angela Merkel, German chancellor, warned that the $1 trillion rescue package had only bought Europe time, and that further steps were needed to address the differences in competitiveness and budget deficits between the member countries.

In a speech to the annual German trade union conference, Merkel emphasised that speculation against the euro was only possible because of the huge differences in economic strength and the levels of debt between individual eurozone members.

Meanwhile, the head of the European Central Bank, Jean-Claude Trichet, emphasised that it was urgent that eurozone countries rectify their budget deficits.

In an interview with the German magazine, Der Spiegel, Trichet said that the world was now facing “the most difficult situation since the Second World War – perhaps even since the First World War. We have experienced – and are experiencing – truly dramatic times.”

He said that after the events of 2007-8, “private institutions and markets were about to collapse completely”. That triggered governments to step in with very bold and comprehensive financial support.

The problem was that markets were now questioning whether some governments could afford to repay their debts.

Click here for 9 simple charts that show why a collapse of the Eurozone is inevitable.

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