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Eurozone under pressure

Currencies, Economic growth, Futures trading, Leverage
By Paul Hodges on 15-Jan-2009
Eurozone right.jpg

Early last year, the blog flagged up a warning from Gillian Tett in the Financial Times that Iceland could go bankrupt, as its banks were “too big to rescue”. Yet at the time, the United Nations had listed it as having “the highest standard of living of any country” in the world. Unfortunately, however, Iceland’s ‘wealth’ was all based on leverage, and in October the banks failed, causing the Icelandic currency to become virtually worthless.

Readers will also, of course, remember that last autumn’s financial crisis originally started with a few, seemingly isolated, banking problems over subprime. So they will understand why the blog is taking recent concerns over the future stability of the eurozone quite seriously. Nobody is suggesting that Germany, for example, is at risk. But two developments signal that the situation could become serious:

• Yesterday, S&P downgraded Greece’s credit rating, due to its high debt levels, and may downgrade Portugal, Spain and Ireland
• Bonds issued by Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Italy are now yielding record amounts versus the German benchmark

The core of the issue is whether any of these countries may be forced either to devalue against the euro, or to leave the eurozone entirely. The implications for the chemical industry would, of course, be enormous if this happened. After Iceland, however, it is clear that nothing can be ruled out, if the 5 governments do not quickly start to put their house in order.