The value of the Euro vs. the U.S. Dollar has fallen by 15% since May of 2011.
After markets closed in the Americas for the end of the week, the rating agency Standard & Poors downgraded the ratings of nine European countries: Austria, Cyprus, France, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain. Austria and France find their selves down from the sterling AAA rating to AA+ – where the United States was cut to after the conclusion of the apocalyptic-for-no-good-reason debt ceiling ‘debate’. A few small European economies continue to maintain the highest possible rating: Finland, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. The last country of any economic significance to be left unscathed as far as economic ratings are concerned is Europe’s central powerhouse – Germany.
While the S&P downgrades may be tantamount to issuing a tornado warning after one’s house has been swept away, it is still a rather important sign post on a pathway to reality – that reality being it is becoming much more difficult for Europe to continue to operate the spread-the-debt shell game when the headwind continues to be just so strong. The downgrade of France is significant as along with Germany it was one of the two towers of support for massive bailout and rescue funds that are designed to help the smaller perimeter countries – Greece, Portugal, Spain, Ireland, etc., that ultimately may be the key to saving the Euro as a strong and functional currency in the decades to come.
That the toll is finally starting to be exacted on France confirms to Germany and to its people the truth that they have been assuming for quite some time now – it’s going to be on them to orchestrate the salvation of the Euro. Increasingly though, Euro-skepticism has taken off in popularity in Germany and there have been rumors of dropping the Euro and bring back the deutschmark. While that would be great for Germany in the long run, in theory, it would be disastrous for the continent in the near term. The threat to the remaining Euro using countries of hyperinflation would set in, and an orderly transition would be difficult to execute, to say the very least.
Assuming the leadership position of the continent, German Chancellor Angela Merkel used the rate cut as an opportunity to remind everyone there’s a long way to go to solving Europe’s debt problems:
“The decision confirms my conviction that we in Europe still have a long road ahead of us before the confidence of investors is restored,” she said at a televised news conference in the north German city of Kiel, where her conservative party’s leadership was meeting.
“But I think it can be seen that we have set off with determination along this road (to) a stable currency, solid finances and sustainable growth,” she added.
Merkel stressed the importance of a new treaty enshrining tougher fiscal rules, for which Germany has pushed hard.
Most European Union leaders agreed in early December to draw up the pact, and Merkel has said the pact could be signed as early as the end of this month, and at the beginning of March at the latest.
“We are now called upon … to implement quickly the fiscal pact and implement it decisively — without trying to water it down everywhere,” Merkel said.
The “watering down” is what is being pushed for by the countries it is designed to “help”, because that help will ultimately come at the cost of massive forced austerity in the smaller countries at the expense of continuing to receive the monies of the more powerful European economies. We may have probably long since passed the point where the choice for such countries will be either accept austerity, or gamble in the world of a post-Euro continent, and the innumerable amount of uncertainties that would entail.
Also worth mentioning: the country at the leading edge of the plunge into economic abyss, Greece, saw talks break down on Friday on how to advert an eventual catastrophic meltdown of that country, and perhaps the Eurozone itself.