Potential for ECB Action Incites Strong Rally by Joe Preisser

Emphatic declarations of support for the Continent’s common currency, issued by The President of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi on Thursday, and echoed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francoise Hollande on Friday served to bolster investor sentiment and ignited a strong rally across global equities. The display of solidarity in defense of the euro project from the Union’s leadership seen this week came in response to the reemergence of fears of its possible dissolution as funding costs for the Spanish government soared to dangerous heights.

Trading for the week commenced as speculation that Spain would be the next member of the currency union to require emergency funding, swept through the marketplace, putting downward pressure on share prices around the world.  A decision by Madrid to offer financial support to the country’s struggling regional governments caused concern that the additional obligations would create an unsustainable situation for the heavily indebted nation. The yield on Spanish 10 year bonds rose above the record height of 7.5% on Tuesday, while Spain’s IBEX-35 stock index sank nearly 10% over the course of three trading sessions, reflecting the depth of trepidation with which the credit and equities markets view the difficulties currently facing the government.  According to Bloomberg News, “After taking on as much as 100 billion euros of bailout loans to aid banks, the risk…is that the additional burden of helping regions pushes bond yields to unaffordable levels.”

As the nations of the European Union continue to struggle to address the soaring borrowing costs faced by several of their member states, the trepidation this has created among investors around the globe revealed itself in several of the quarterly earnings releases issued this week.  The current situation on the Continent has deeply affected markets in the eurozone, reverberated across Asia, and is now being reflected in the profitability of corporations in the United States highlighting the global implications of the current crisis.  United Parcel Service, which delivers more packages than any company in the world, and Whirlpool Corp., the globe’s largest manufacturer of appliances both saw their shares fall after reporting earnings which failed to meet expectations (Bloomberg News). In its earnings release statement, Scott Davis, the Chief Executive Officer of UPS said, “Increasing uncertainty in the United States, continuing weakness in Asia exports and the debt crisis in Europe are impacting projections of economic expansion.”  

In an effort to hold down borrowing costs and to thwart contagion, the President of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, stated on Thursday that steps would be taken to halt the precipitous rise in the sovereign yields of several of the most heavily indebted members of the currency union.  Mr. Draghi was quoted by Bloomberg News as saying, “within our mandate, the ECB is ready to do whatever it takes to preserve the euro.  And believe me, it will be enough.”  The marketplace found solace in this statement, as the prevalent feeling among investors currently is that a direct sovereign bond buying by the ECB will be forthcoming, thus easing a measure of the acute effects of the crisis. With unlimited capacity on its balance sheet, the Central Bank is widely considered to be the only institution on the Continent capable of successfully intervening in the debt market to drive funding costs lower.  Bloomberg News quoted Bernd Berg, a foreign-exchange strategist at Credit Suisse, “Draghi’s comments that the ECB would do everything to preserve the euro currency gave some relief to markets and lifted asset prices after renewed euro-zone collapse fears.”

A joint statement issued by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francoise Hollande that their nations are, “bound by the deepest duty”(Bloomberg News), to maintain the currency union in its current iteration served to further ease investor concerns, as it reinforced the commitment of the Continent’s two largest economies to the euro project.  With a multitude of challenges facing the global economy it will be vitally important that the leaders of the European Union follow through in short order on the pledges made this week and work to drive sovereign yields back to sustainable levels, thus restoring a measure of stability to the marketplace.

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