Saturday, May 21, 2011

Resetting European Bonds

When I saw this headline on the Washington Post's website

I thought the president was going over there to work out a debt restructuring, but that's not the kind of bonds they mean.

It would be kind of weird if a US president to be directly involved in a European sovereign debt crisis (though it has global repercussions so the US is not disinterested), but Europe sure seems in need of some kind of intervention.  It is easy to understand why politicians prefer to hope they can get through the next election before things blow up rather than confronting a debt crisis.  Unfortunately the two institutions best placed to push Europe's politicians into a restructuring of Greek (and maybe Irish) debt that everyone knows is necessary - the ECB and IMF - are not being helpful, according to Steven Pearlstein:
At the time of his arrest, Strauss-Kahn was headed to a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, reportedly to talk her out of a debt restructuring plan for Greece. The official IMF view, like that of the European Central Bank, is that allowing any euro-zone country to restructure its debt will trigger another global financial crisis as investors rush to indiscriminately dump all their European bonds, forcing European banks, which hold large piles of them, into insolvency. In this scary scenario, a debt default or restructuring in any euro-zone country would cause the collapse of the euro. 
Pearlstein goes on to explain why this logic is flawed.  Indeed, Kash Mansouri argues that the ECB is, in effect, pushing Greece out of the Euro (though he seems to interpret this as an unintended consequence...).

Its not really President Obama's job to tell Europe how to sort out their debt problems - indeed, he's got his hands full with a Congress that seems to want to set off a much bigger crisis by not raising the debt ceiling - but hopefully he can give them a friendly nudge in the right direction while he's over there.  And the US should be using its influence over the IMF to get them to play a more constructive role.


The Arthurian said...

Sir, this comment is off-topic and out of place to be sure. But I want to ask for your evaluation of my analysis of the federal debt problem.

I think you will not have seen a graph like mine, before.

The Arthurian said...

Thank you, Bill, for your thoughts on my "Limbo" graph. Takes me a while to 'digest' things, so I'm not coming back to you with any I sees or yeah buts. Just wanted to say thanks.

Hey, have a great weekend.