Eurozone growth goes from setback to setback with last week’s GDP number being just the latest in a long line of similar disappointments. Soft indicators have consistently overstated the strength of this year’s recovery, and the unpleasant truth is that as one country after another has swooned under the summer heat we are down to Spain as ‘last man standing’. Our leading indicators are pointing to anaemic growth ahead for much of the eurozone and Russia’s recent food sanctions on European agriculture will only add to the downturn.
The composite eurozone January flash PMI showed accelerating expansion led by Germany, but the PMI readings are still only showing moderate growth, considerably below the momentum achieved, for example, in the 2009/2010 green-shoots revival. What growth we do see will be low in comparison with earlier times and if real money growth continues to lose momentum, we might even see renewed weakness.
Greece is in default and Ireland and Portugal are in limbo with the market pricing in a Greek outcome in both economies. However, the situation has changed in Spain and Italy and on this measure alone, the ECB’s LTRO has been successful.
Many economists expect catastrophic consequences if any country exits the euro. However, during the past century sixty-nine countries have exited currency areas with little downward economic volatility. The mechanics of currency breakups are complicated but feasible, and historical examples provide a road map for exit.
The real problem in Europe is that EU peripheral countries face severe, unsustainable imbalances in real effective exchange rates and external debt levels that are higher than most previous emerging market crises. Orderly defaults and debt rescheduling coupled with devaluations are inevitable and even desirable. Exiting from the euro and devaluation would …