The euro has seen better days. The currency and its related exchange traded funds (ETFs) are slipping as debt piles up and assurances of self-restraint and fiscal prudence fail to stem investor sentiments of a possible turn in the eurzone’s economic fortunes.
Huge budget deficits and banking woes of weaker economies in the eurozone have become a snag on the E.U. economy, reports Marcus Walker for The Wall Street Journal. The euro is now at three-month lows and the future doesn’t look bright. News of potential Austrian banking problems, with questionable investments in Eastern Europe, and a nationalization of another Austrian bank at the request of the European Central Bank have agitated markets.
- iShares MSCI Austria Index (NYSEArca: EWO): up 60.5% year-to-date
Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain, also known as “PIIGS” to some, have incurred large budget deficits, and now, the countries have low growth prospects, which translates to a possible rapid rise in future debt. These countries’ wages and costs have been rising, but they are unable to devalue their currency. Diego Iscaro, economist at IHS Global Insight in London, observes that “Europe has a lot of treaties but no clear mechanism for how to deal with such cases.”
- New Ireland Fund (NYSE: IRL): up 55.3% year-to-date
- iShares MSCI Italy Index (NYSEArca: EWI): up 21.8% year-to-date
- iShares MSCI Spain Index (NYSEArca: EWP): up 34.6% year-to-date
Greek Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou expects to have to borrow $73.22 billion from bond markets next year, and anticipates the possibility of having to go to E.U. members or the International Monetary Fund for more loans.
Simon Tilford, chief economist at the Center for European Reform, says that “it’s hard to see how Italy, Spain and Portugal are going to generate enough growth” to reduce debt. Ireland has a younger population to fall back on, but the economy is suffering from a drop in exports to the United Kingdom.
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- CurrencyShares Euro Trust (NYSEArca: FXE): up 4.1% year-to-date