EU lends to itself to bail itself out – ECB remains sidelined

“While each component makes sense in its own narrow terms, the EU policy as a whole is madness for a currency union. Stephen Lewis from Monument Securities says Europe’s leaders have forgotten the lesson of the “Gold Bloc” in the second phase of the Great Depression, when a reactionary and over-proud Continent ground itself into slump by clinging to deflationary totemism long after the circumstances had rendered this policy suicidal. We all know how it ended.”

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

The meeting took 14 hours and produced numbers large enough and rhetoric credible enough to trigger today’s short covering that might continue at least through half of tomorrow.

But all the actual announced funding comes from the same nations that are having the funding issues. There is no external funding of consequence of national govt borrowing needs coming any source other than the euro governments, nor can there be, as the the funding needs are in euro. And the ECB, the only entity that can provide the euro zone with the needed net financial assets, remains limited to ‘liquidity’ provision which does not address the core funding issue.

Yes, the funding needs have been move evenly distributed among the national governments. But even the financially strongest member, Germany, is structurally in need of continually borrowing increasing quantities of euro to roll over existing debt and fund continuing deficits, with no foreseeable prospects of even stabilizing its debt to GDP ratio or debt to revenue ratio. Adding this new financing burden only makes matters worse, and do the austerity measures now under way in all the member nations.

The one bright spot is the ‘whatever it takes’ language that presumably includes the only move that can make it work financially- actual funding of national govt. debt by the ECB either directly or indirectly through guarantees. But there can be no assurance, of course, that it’s just another bluff to buy time, hoping for a large enough increase in net exports which would be evidence of the rest of the world deciding to reduce its euro net financial assets via the purchase of goods and services from the euro zone.

And with a meaningful increase in exports likely to happen in a meaningful way only with a much lower euro, the terms and conditions of today’s announcements introduce conflicting forces. The austerity measures work to strengthen the euro to the extent they succeed, and to weaken it to the extent they result in increased national govt debt and changes in portfolio preferences.

My best guess is that market forces will soon be testing this new package and its core weaknesses.