October 26, 2011
European leaders made progress in resolving the euro zone financial crisis in meetings here that stretched into Thursday morning, but the broad solution they said they were seeking continued to elude them.
Earlier, they agreed on a plan to force the Continent’s banks to raise new capital to insulate them from potential sovereign debt defaults. But efforts to coax the banks to accept sizable losses on their holdings of Greek debt floundered early Thursday.
That failure threatened to scuttle efforts to knit together a comprehensive package to protect the euro, keeping jittery markets on edge and leaving Europe vulnerable to financial shocks from countries like Italy that have had trouble following through on promises to fix their economic problems. While the bank recapitalization plan was generally approved without difficulty — banks will be forced to raise about $150 billion to protect themselves against losses on loans to shaky countries like Greece and Portugal — the negotiations over Greek debt were difficult.
In the face of considerable pressure from Europe’s leaders, the banks were resisting requests that they voluntarily accept a loss of around 50 percent on their Greek loans, far more than the 21 percent agreed to previously.
The leader of an influential group representing private sector creditors released a statement late Wednesday saying that the negotiations were stalled over the size of the loss, or “haircut,” that investors would be asked to absorb on Greek debt, which economists agree is beyond the country’s ability to repay. The Europeans want to cut Greek debt to about 120 percent of gross domestic progress.
“There has been no agreement on any Greek deal or a specific ‘haircut,’ ” Charles Dallara, the lead negotiator for the Institute for International Finance, said in an e-mailed statement. “We remain open to a dialogue in search of a voluntary agreement. There is no agreement on any element of a deal.”
Germany has taken a tougher stance than France with the banks. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany is willing to think about imposing an involuntary write-down on the private sector, but President Nicolas Sarkozy of France remains worried about the consequences on the markets and the banking system.
In a meeting described as crucial for the fate of the euro zone, the leaders have been trying to restore market confidence in the euro and in the creditworthiness of the 17 countries that use it.
In what the leaders saw as an important first step, banks would be required under the recapitalization plan to raise $147 billion by the end of June — enough to increase their holdings of safe assets to 9 percent of their total capital. That percentage is regarded as crucial to assure investors of the banks’ financial health, given their large portfolios of sovereign debt.
German lawmakers voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to authorize Mrs. Merkel to negotiate an expansion in an emergency bailout fund to $1.4 trillion, more than double its current size of about $610 billion. The vote followed Mrs. Merkel’s plea that the lawmakers overcome their aversion to risk and put Germany, Europe’s strongest economy, firmly behind efforts to combat the crisis, which has unnerved financial markets far beyond the Continent.
“The world is looking at Germany, whether we are strong enough to accept responsibility for the biggest crisis since World War II,” Mrs. Merkel said in an address to Parliament in Berlin. “It would be irresponsible not to assume the risk.”
The $1.4 trillion figure is generally accepted as the likely target for negotiators here, but many questions remained about how the enlarged fund would be financed.
Europe does not face any hard deadline to forge a deal, as it did last month when it had to act to head off a Greek default, but its leaders would like to agree on a definitive plan to address the systemic aspects of the euro crisis rather than issue vague proclamations as so often in the past.
There is an informal deadline — the beginning of the Group of 20 summit meeting on Nov. 3 and 4 in Cannes, France. President Obama and other world leaders will arrive there expecting that Europe will no longer be a drag on the global economy.
The overall euro deal under discussion is complicated, weaving together the efforts to restructure Greek debt, increase the capital of Europe’s banks and expand the bailout fund so that it can ward off a financial panic in Italy — the euro zone’s third-largest economy — as well as in the relatively small economies of Greece and Portugal. Attention has focused on Italy because its moribund government seems incapable of responding to the crisis, which has undermined the markets’ faith in Europe’s capacity to solve its problems.
Mrs. Merkel and Mr. Sarkozy upbraided Italy’s prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, on Sunday for failing to following through on his promises of budget cuts and various economic changes. But Mr. Berlusconi, hobbled by an internal power struggle, managed to bring only a “letter of intent” to Brussels outlining plans to implement the kind of economic changes that his counterparts want.
The Europeans also want Mr. Berlusconi to live up to his promises to do more to reduce Italy’s huge accumulated debt — about $2.65 trillion, or 120 percent of gross domestic product, among the highest in the developed world — and to promote economic growth in a largely stagnant economy. While Italy’s annual deficit is modest, the cost of financing its debt could tear holes in its budget if left unchecked.
Given reasonable progress made by Ireland, Portugal and Spain to fix their fiscal problems, the vulnerability of Italy’s far larger economy is the main reason the Europeans are trying to enlarge, or leverage, their bailout fund, the European Financial Stability Facility, which is considered less than half as large as needed to cover Italy’s debts. At least $200 billion of the fund is committed to Greece, Ireland and Portugal, and European leaders have not yet agreed on at least two options they are considering for enlarging the fund.
One idea is to try to attract outside investors, possibly with the help of the International Monetary Fund, but it is unclear what guarantees outsiders would demand. Those investors are likely to include China, Russia and some sovereign wealth funds. To that end, Mr. Sarkozy is supposed to call China’s leader, Hu Jintao, on Thursday, before addressing French voters on television that night. On Friday, the man in charge of the bailout fund, Klaus Regling, will be in Beijing to court investors.
Seeking financing from China and Russia is a major turnaround for Europe’s leaders, who at the beginning of the crisis insisted that they could handle Greece and its assorted problems on their own. Many countries, including France, rejected the idea of even involving the International Monetary Fund.
In addition to bringing in new investors, European leaders are also considering a plan to use the fund to limit losses that bondholders might suffer in the future.
Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, who attended the full meeting of the 27 members of the European Union but left before the euro zone summit meeting, said that “we made some good progress tonight.”
Helle Thorning-Schmidt was born on December 14th, 1966 according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helle_Thorning-Schmidt
December 14th, 1966
12 + 14 +2+0+1+1 = 30 = her personal year (from December 14th, 2011 to December 13th, 2012) = Fashionable. Counting her blessings.
30 year + 1 (January) = 31 = her personal month (from January 14th, 2012 to February 13th, 2012) = Struggling. Challenges. Controversy.
comprehensive summary and list of predictions for 2012:
learn numerology from numerologist to the world, Ed Peterson: