Daily Israel Report

Analysis: The Euro Isn't Dead Yet

Fiscal pundits say the Eurozone is dead and will be buried by years end, but banking officials haven't given up. Why?
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 11/30/2011, 9:17 PM

The prophets of fiscal doom have said the Euro is dead and may be buried by year's end, but banking officials are refusing to serve as pallbearers.

Central banks around the globe on Wednesday moved on concert hoping to reduce strains of financial markets and boost lending to consumers and business.

The central banks of the Eurozone, Canada, Britain, Japan, United States and Switzerland said in a joint statement they were lowering the cost of providing dollars to banks.

The US Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank and the central banks of Canada, Britain, Japan and Switzerland said in a joint statement they had agreed to lower the cost of existing dollar swap lines by 50 basis points from December 5, as well as take other measures.

Dollar funding strains have been growing as U.S. money market funds and other lenders cut back on their credit lines with the Euro zone banks because of fears over their exposure to the sovereign debt crisis.

Shifting increasingly prized dollars is a key to saving the teetering Eurozone as its own currency - the Euro - becomes increasingly hard to unload.

Market analysts say this is because Eurozone banks tend to have significant dollar-denominated assets. Where these assets exceed their dollar-denominated retail deposits, the banks must source the remaining dollars from elsewhere.

If US banks are not prepared to lend them dollars outright at an acceptable rate, another option is to borrow them from US banks in exchange for lending Euros. But the Euro-denominated assets of US banks tend to be much smaller.

Accordingly, when concerns about the health of the global banking system are increasing, as they are now, Eurozone banks often find their need for dollars outstrips US banks' need for Euros. And when investors' worries are centered on the Eurozone, this is likely to be even more the case.

Eurozone ministers on Wednesday also agreed to detailed plans to leverage the European Financial Stability Mechanism (EFSF) on Tuesday, but could not say by how much because of rapidly worsening market conditions, prompting them to look to the IMF.

Notwithstanding the overwhelmingly bad news about the Eurozone this year non-member countries continue to want to join. Estonia joined at the beginning of this year, for example, and there are a handful of other countries that are standing in line to join as well.

Some market watchers have guffawed at new countries seeking entry to the Eurozone. After all, Greece has already pulled out, Italy is over the fiscal edge, and Germany's Der Spiegel went so far as to publish a high-profile obituary for the Euro.

Banking officials say pundits predicting the Euro's demise and calling the Eurozone a failed social experiment that has ruined Europe have failed to take into account its great successes.

The Eurozone, they say, has succeeded in reducing the barriers to trade, eliminating tariffs, and countering protectionist policies. The Euro's current woes are merely the normal give and take of currency fluctuations amid a global downturn, they say.

In the intermediate term the Eurozone's forecast is positively anemic. And the Euro may find itself on a rollercoaster ride that feels like a skydiving lesson for people accustomed to having their bellies full who are being asked to tighten their belts.

But with the world moving to save it, the Euro won't die unless Europe kills it by following Greece out the door.