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Posts Tagged ‘Eastern Europe’

Athens Today. London Tomorrow? Washington Next Week?

Posted by Larry Doyle on May 5th, 2010 8:20 AM |

With social unrest increasing in Greece, anxieties skyrocketing across the EU, and the Euro making new 12 month lows, the question begs as to whether this crisis within the EU can be contained. Is the EU, with the support of the IMF, willing to collectively underwrite the fiscal disaster currently focused within Greece? The German citizenry is showing very little appetite to subsidize this Greek tragedy.

While the EU’s political fortitude is a critical question, ultimately the reality of the mountainous debt levels must be faced. Global government stimulus has been able to mask, if not outright disguise, these debts for a period, but the debts themselves are not going away. How will the EU address this debt?

1. Devalue. That’s a given. It’s only a question of how and when.
2. Restructure. Look for more on this.
3. Default. Do not discount this reality. (more…)

Revisiting the Weakest Link

Posted by Larry Doyle on October 7th, 2009 12:44 PM |

Are all regions of the world improving? Will Asia lead the globe to greener pastures and brighter days? Well, if so, the trek through the fields will not be easy and we will encounter many storms along the way.

While Australia’s raising rates yesterday is an indication of an improving economy in that country, as one moves out of Asia into eastern Europe we encounter a decidedly different dynamic. Let’s revisit the ‘weakest link,’ that being Eastern Europe in general and the Baltic nation of Latvia specifically.

I initially addressed the economic weakness in this part of the world last February in writing, “The Weakest Link.” Today, we learn that Latvian Currency Scare Rattles Markets:

The Swedish krona and a range of eastern European currencies have tumbled as Latvia appears to edge closer to devaluing its currency.

In a re-run of the last major devaluation scare, Latvia failed to attract any bids for one of its treasury bill auctions earlier Wednesday. The country’s treasury received no bids for its offer to sell eight million lats ($16.7 million) of paper maturing in April 2010.

The poor auction results are the latest sign of economic stress in the Baltic nation, where the government is struggling to meet budget cuts required by the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and other bilateral lenders in return for aid.

The Swedish krona, linked to Latvia through Sweden’s large banking exposure to the country, tumbled as news of the failed auction emerged. The euro extended earlier gains to reach a peak at SEK10.3670 against the krona.

Meanwhile, Europe’s emerging market currencies, which often suffer from nerves over risk when Latvia’s problems intensify, also fell.

The euro soared to over HUF269 against the highly risk-sensitive Hungarian forint, from under HUF267 at the start of the day. The euro also swept to over PLN4.24 against the Polish zloty, from a low of PLN4.18.

The Turkish lira and, to a lesser degree, the Czech koruna, also weakened. The failed bond auction was “not good news,” said Nigel Rendell, a European emerging markets strategist at RBC Capital Markets in London.

“It has all the makings of the final chapter in the Latvian story,” he added. In credit markets, the cost of insuring Latvian sovereign debt against default continued to climb from recent levels, in a sign that investors are increasingly uncomfortable with the outlook for the country. Regional peers Lithuania and Estonia, which also peg their currencies to the euro, saw their swaps spreads widen.

Still, the debt and currency markets shouldn’t be overly troubled by Latvian devaluation risk, as the threat has been building for some time, and the global financial markets are now much more robust than they were several months ago.

“If they did devalue, there would be a selloff [in eastern European assets], but the impact would not be as severe as it would have been six to nine months ago,” said Mr. Rendell at RBC. “If we had big currency moves, I think people would buy them back,” he added.

Devaluation is also unlikely to catch the Swedish banks off guard. To brace for the potential onslaught of defaulting customers, both Swedbank AB and Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken AB have set up Baltic units to deal with problem loans and seized collateral.

While officials may care to discount the impact of a full blown devaluation of the Latvian currency, the interconnectedness of the global markets has proven to be more of a risk propellant rather than a risk mitigant. How so? The use of derivatives across currency and credit markets has been shown to be as much speculative in nature as pure hedging. In fact, there certainly are market participants who will benefit by a Latvian devaluation.

Can that devaluation, if it does occur, be well contained?

I’ll be watching.


Related Sense on Cents Commentary

Let’s Cross the Pond and Revist the Weakest Link (May 23, 2009)

Europe Sneezes, Asia Gets A Cold

Posted by Larry Doyle on May 18th, 2009 5:00 AM |

The European Union reported a 2.5% decline in 1st quarter GDP the end of last week. Market pundits claim that this report and quarter will represent the trough for the recession in Europe. I personally do not see any meaningful evidence to support that assertion. Europe has been slow to address the massive capital shortfalls in its banking system. The EU has reluctantly adopted measures of quantitative easing and has been slow to drop its overnight lending rate.

What have been the ramifications of the EU’s tardiness on the monetary and fiscal stimulus fronts? RTT News reports, Euro Moves Lower Versus Rivals After GDP Report. 1st quarter output in Europe plummeted and economic growth revisions across individual countries showed greater declines.

I have always viewed eastern Europe as being The Weakest Link in our global economy. The EU’s enormous exposure to eastern Europe is a MAJOR drag on its financial institutions and, in turn, its economy. The 1st quarter GDP report is a clear indication of the impact that the Weakest Link Is Weakening, much as I had written a few months ago.

Can this European weakness be contained? Can stronger economies pull Europe out of the economic ditch? Weren’t these the same questions we posed in regard to the rising delinquencies and resultant foreclosures in sub-prime mortgages?

The immediate reaction to the European weakness in Asian markets is a swift selloff. Japanese equities are down almost 3% overnight (10pm EST) due primarily to the weakness in Europe. As Bloomberg highlights, Japanese Stocks Slump on Panasonic Loss Forecast, Europe GDP. Bloomberg asserts:

“Europe’s spending less on stimulus, so their ability to recover from the recession is weaker than the rest of the world.”

Additionally, Bloomberg provides further European color:

Gross domestic product in the 16-member euro region fell 2.5 percent from the fourth quarter, the biggest decline since the data were first compiled in 1995, the European Union’s statistics office in Luxembourg said on May 15. That exceeded the 2 percent contraction economists expected in a Bloomberg survey and followed a 1.6 percent drop in the prior three months.

“Concerns are building about the health of Europe,” said Ryuta Otsuka, a strategist at Toyo Securities Co. in Tokyo. “That’s having an effect on the currency market and creating a headwind for export companies.”

Why isn’t Europe more swift and aggressive in providing fiscal and monetary stimulus? Germany’s hyperinflation during the post World War I era has left an indelible scar upon that country. I found the insights into Germany’s period of hyperinflation provided in an excerpt of Paper Money by ‘Adam Smith’ (George J.W. Goodman) to be highly informative.

In pausing to review the depth and magnitude of these economic issues, it is readily apparent that our global economy is connected not only across borders but also across historical eras.


The Weakest Link is Weakening

Posted by Larry Doyle on March 2nd, 2009 6:00 AM |

The other day I highlighted the fact that 12 eastern European countries would solicit a bailout from the European Union over the weekend in Brussels. I defined this bloc of eastern European countries as currently the Weakest Link in the global economy. Well, if they were the weakest link then they just got weaker as they were rebuffed in their request for aid.

The dynamic at work in the weekend’s emergency meeting held in Brussels is a play on beggar-thy-neighbor policies implemented during times of economic stress.

There are actually a number of factors influencing the European Union’s refusal to provide bailout money to these eastern European nations. Included in these factors are the following: (more…)

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