Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Euro-Economy's Trouble Ahead

Perhaps one of the biggest achilles heel of the Euro-economies at present is their close ties with the 'emerging-market' economies. Europe's faltering trade partners to the East purchase approximately one-third of Europe's exports. The currencies of the former are sliding and their banks are weakening. Middle Eastern nations are suffering from a dramatic plunge in oil prices [1] with Kuwait bailing out its largest banks. The IMF will lend the Ukraine $US16.5 billion with a large package also for Hungary a nation where the currency has fallen 16% since the end of August this year and "foreign- currency loans make up 62 percent of all household debt...up from 33 percent three years ago." "Plunging domestic currencies mean higher monthly payments for businesses and households repaying foreign-denominated loans, forcing them to scale back spending." [2] Other 'emerging-economies' are hit with precipative falls in commodity prices [3]to levels regarded by some in the industry as unsustainable in the longer term. [4]

The dozen mostly Eastern European nations which joined the broader European Union since 2004 account for 15.3% of the Euro area's foreign demand, up a third since the start of the decade, according the the ECB. The contributions of China and Russia have almost doubled. By contrast, the US and UK portions have each dropped about 4% to 11.9% and 14.5% respectively. European banks lent $US 3.5 trillion to emerging market economies and are already retrenching staff as they try to cover $US 221.8 billion in losses and write-downs. Those banks in Austria and Spain were particularly exposed. [US banks lent $500 billion and Japan $US 200 billion.] [5]

In the UK the economy shrank in the 2nd quarter this year, the nation's biggest bank needs to raise $Au$8 billion of capital (of which 3/5 is likely to be equity). House prices have dropped there by 7.3%over the last 12 months.

This does not strike me as an opportune time for our global media magnate, Rupert Murdoch, to be lecturing us all on how to reach the "golden age" of prosperity and freedom" by scaling back Government and embracing the free market. He did just that this week in his Australian Boyer lectures [6].

[1] Oil is $US25 per barrel lower than the 2008 June year average.

[2] `Panic' Strikes East Europe Borrowers as Banks Cut Franc Loans By Ben Holland, Laura Cochrane and Balazs Penz. Bloomberg. 31st October 2008

[3] Copper is down 40.1% in the last 12 months whilst zinc prices fell 55.7% and Nickel 60%.

[4] In Australia the Kagara executive chairman Kim Robinson stated in late October 2008: "Management does not believe that these low metal prices can be sustained in the longer term as the majority of mines worldwide are cash-flow negative and a continuation of current prices would result in wholesale mine closures." [From 'Cost focus as mine futures up in the air' by Michael Vaughan, Australian Financial Review. Page 50. 31st October 2008]

[5] 'Emerging markets become a problem'. Simon Kennedy, Australian Financial Review, page 17. 29th October 2008

[6] Rupert Murdoch's challenge to Australia in Boyer Lectures", Roger Coombs
November 02, 2008 12:00am. Herald Sun.,21985,24590176-662,00.html

No comments: