Europe, with its tens of religions, hundreds of mutually exclusive cultures and millennia of hatred, was at the centre stage of the bloodshed that took place during the first two World Wars. Will history repeat itself if the Euro breaks? UBS hints at it
The Eurozone debt problem is turning into a big concern. Swiss global financial services company UBS AG in a report has made a very bold and shocking statement. It says, “If most observers agree that a Eurozone break-up significantly increases the risk of widespread economic and financial mayhem... Reasonable people don’t play Russian roulette. So why are some economists suggesting that Europe should?”
In September, UBS’ economics team of Larry Hatheway, Paul Donovan and Stephane Deo had outlined the costs of breaking up the Eurozone. It said that the combination of cascading cross-border defaults, collapsing banking systems, soaring risk premiums, and currency dislocations would result in losses approaching 20% of the gross domestic product (GDP) for creditor countries and 40% of GDP for departing debtors.
On revisiting this, Mr Hatheway said he feels the estimates were probably conservative—the true costs could well be higher. That is because once Europe (and the world economy) finds itself in a depression; policy probably could not arrest the decline. Broken financial systems and ruined economies are the stuff of prolonged deflation or worse. In addition, it is by now abundantly clear that even unconventional macro-policies cannot deliver results if the financial system is in tatters, he said.
The report reminds everyone that anything but a ‘fix’ to a system that was broken from the very beginning would be a catastrophe. The Eurozone was flawed from the start. Wrong countries joined and the Euro area lacks the appropriate policy framework to deal with its imbalances, lack of growth, and internal inflexibility. “Break-up runs the risk of becoming one wretched scenario. Sadly, however, it can’t be ruled out, just as it would have been improper to rule out the horrors of the first half of the 20th century before they happened,” Mr Hatheway said.
He said that the unfolding Eurozone crisis is not something to be taken lightly. The consequences of policy action are material, not just for the 330-odd million residents of the Euro area, but assuredly for the world economy and financial system, as well. The crowd across Eurozone is saying that Greece, which is into huge debt, should leave the zone. Since the euro was introduced, Greece has raked up external liabilities (cumulative current account deficits) of nearly $300 billion, just over 100% of its GDP.
Mr Hatheway said, “The biggest reason why the ‘it’s only Greece’ narrative is naive and dangerous is that it almost certainly would not be ‘only Greece’. Once one country leaves the Eurozone, residents in other ‘at-risk’ member countries would plausibly conclude that their country might be next to go. Logic dictates they would send their wealth abroad, resulting in a run on their domestic banks, precipitating a collapse of their financial sectors and economies.”
There have been some suggestions of breaking the Euro and allowing countries to come out with new currencies as contingency planning. “Contingency planning is prudent. But just what contingency are we planning for? In a break-up, new currencies will be introduced. But will they trade freely? Probably not. As we noted in our original piece on the costs of break-up, it is highly probable that capital controls would accompany exit. Spot, forward, futures, swaps, options and other currency derivative contracts might not even materialize, or perhaps only for limited current account transactions.”
“Companies preparing plans on how they might manage multi-currency cash flows in a post-Eurozone world might be advised instead to pay attention to the risk of not getting paid at all, never mind in which currency. Counterparty risk— bank-to-bank and company-to-company—would soar as defaults mount.”
“Bank risk management teams would be similarly advised not to ask how far new currencies might depreciate or how high risk premiums might rise, but whether the bank would survive a collapse of the payments system, a run on deposits, and widespread default on assets,” the chief economist of UBS said.
Break-up runs the risk of becoming one wretched scenario. Sadly, however, it can’t be ruled out, just as it would have been improper to rule out the horrors of the first half of the 20th century before they happened. “But it is very hard to see break-up as a solution. Let’s hope Europe’s politicians and policymakers agree and take action this week to fix what is broken before it all really breaks up,” Mr Hatheway concluded.
5,100 and 5,030 are the levels to watch for on the Nifty
The indices, which gained on European optimism, pared most of their gains in the post-noon session but ended in the green. Earlier, ending of the nine-day logjam in Parliament helped lift sentiments in the morning trade. For the past two trading sessions (including today) the Nifty has been trying to maintain the uptrend, however it is facing difficulties in keeping up the trend. From here the index should be able to cross and remain above 5,100 to reach the level of 5,170. If it goes below 5,030, it may be beginning of a fresh fall. The National Stock Exchange (NSE) saw a volume of 61.07 crore shares.
The Indian market, which was closed on Tuesday on account of a local holiday, opened with marginal gains tracking the positive trend in the Asian space ahead of a key European Union summit later this week. Political pressures that resulted in the government rolling back its proposal to allow 51% FDI in multi-brand retail weighed on investors’ sentiments.
The Nifty opened 11 points up at 5,050 and the Sensex started the day at 16,830, a gain of 25 points over Monday’s close. The market touched the day’s low in initial trade with the Nifty going down to 5,032 and the Sensex falling to 16,782.
However, buying interest in retail, auto, banking, capital goods and consumer durables stocks led the indices higher in early trade. The market stayed range-bound amid choppy trade, but in the positive terrain, in subsequent trade.
Gains in the post-noon session, on the back of a green of the key European indices, enabled the indices hit their intraday highs around 2pm with the Nifty scaling 5,099 and the Sensex touching 17,004.
Profit booking at higher levels saw the indices lower paring most of their gains in the late session, albeit the market closed marginally higher. The Nifty settled 23 points up at 5,063 and the Sensex ended the day at 16,877, a rise of 72 points.
The advance-decline ratio on the NSE was 926:819.
In the broader market space, the BSE Mid-cap index and the BSE Small-cap index both rose 0.20% each.
The top sectoral gainers were BSE IT (up 1.43%); BSE Capital Goods (up 0.78%); BSE Realty (up 0.77%); BSE Fast Moving Consumer Goods (up 0.71%) and BSE Oil & Gas (up 0.49%). On the other hand, BSE Healthcare (down 1.53%); BSE Consumer Goods (down 0.69%); BSE Power (down 0.41%) and BSE PSU (down 0.35%) settled lower.
The key gainers on the Sensex were Wipro (up 3.31%); Infosys (up 1.95%); Jaiprakash Associates (up 1.89%); HDFC (up 1.82%) and ONGC (up 1.64%). The top losers were Bharti Airtel (up 3.33%); NTPC (down 3.21%); Sun Pharma (down 3.21%); Coal India (down 2.44%) and ICICI Bank (down 1.64%).
The Nifty gainers were led by Reliance Communications (up 4.01%); Wipro (up 3.29%); HCL Technologies (up 2.35%); Infosys (up 2.07%) and Reliance Infrastructure (up 2%). The top laggards were NTPC (down 3.92%); Bharti Airtel (down 3.56%); Coal India (down 2.97%); Sun Pharma (down 2.74%) and Sesa Goa (down 2.50%).
Markets in Asia closed higher on optimism that the threats of rating downgrades would push European leaders to find a solution to the debt crisis plaguing the continent. The export-oriented Asian economies are focused on easing of the problems in Europe, which would help in boosting their growth once again.
The Shanghai Composite rose 0.29%; the Hang Seng surged 1.58%; the Jakarta Composite climbed 1.08%; the KLSE Composite added 0.14%; the Nikkei 225 jumped 1.71%; the Straits Times gained 1.21%; the Seoul Composite advanced 0.87% and the Taiwan Weighted settled 1.10% higher.
Back home, institutional investors—both foreign and domestic—were net buyers of stocks on Monday. While foreign institutional investors pumped in Rs146.73 crore, domestic institutional investors invested Rs37.67 crore in the equities segment.
Moser Baer Clean Energy, the renewable energy vertical of Moser Baer India, today said that it is investing $1 billion (around Rs5,100 crore) for setting up solar projects with a cumulative capacity of 300MW in the country and abroad in the next nine months. These projects would be set up in Gujarat, Orissa, West Bengal and Rajasthan in India, as well as abroad in countries like Germany, Italy and the UK, the company said. Moser Baer India fell 0.54% to close at Rs18.25 on the NSE today.
iGate-Patni (Patni Computer Systems) has bagged a two-year contract from one of Dubai’s oldest family-owned conglomerates, Galadari Brothers Group, to implement an enterprise resource and planning (ERP) software across its businesses, according to a media report. The stock declined 0.65% to settle at Rs451.40 on the NSE.
The third largest private lender Axis Bank today said it is working towards taking its retail loan-book to 30% of the total assets over the next three to four years, as it sees the retail loan segment as a large market opportunity going forward. The stock gained 0.47% to close at Rs1,037 on the NSE.
A security vulnerability in Facebook Inc’s social-networking site exposed by some users sent the company scrambling for a fix after chief executive Mark Zuckerberg’s private photos were published online.