By John Ward
“You know, things are really not that bad in the eurozone,” said Christine Lagarde last night in the US
The debt of the 17 euro nations climbed to 87.2% of GDP in 2011 from 85.3% previously, the highest level since the introduction of the currency.
EU stock markets closed sharply lower as new even weaker economic data emerged, and the debt crisis claimed another government (the Netherlands). Stoxx 50 -2.9%, Germany -3.4%, France -2.8%, Italy -3.7%, Spain -2.7%, U.K. -1.8%.
The euro fell -0.3% to $1.3180.
The European Investment Bank hedged itself against Greek exit from the eurozone, inserting drachma clauses into loans it is granting the country’s businesses. The bank says these clauses will now be included in all contracts with any country applying for a bailout.
The ECB can act in a “very forceful way” if needed, the bank’s Ewald Nowotny told CNBC. But speaking in New York, the ECB’s Jens Weidmann argued againstECB bond purchases which “obscure market interest rates, such rates being an important signal for governments … markets don’t always get it right, but their signal is still the most powerful data we have.”
This was a coded attempt at asking Mario Draghi to stop manipulating markets.
It wasn’t a good day for confidence indices. The Italian consumer confidence index plunged to 89 from 96.3. It’s the lowest figure since the measure began in 1996. French purchasing manufacturers indices fell to 46.8 – a 6-month low – led by a big decline in Services.
Dutch PM Mark Rutte and his cabinet have resigned after budget talks broke down over the weekend. Elections may not come until later in the year, but in the meantime the Far Right in Holland look set to make further gains given the EU’s growing unpopularity.
Spain’s central bank esimated that the economy contracted 0.4% in Q1 2012 from the previous quarter in a setting of “high financial tension.” The economy was 0.5% down from the year earlier.
Banco Santander is expected to offer up a chunk of its Mexican unit in an IPO within a year. The deal would give the bank billions to continue its aggressive acquisition policy as well as liquidity to deal with massive losses in its home base of Southern Europe.
Ireland’s 2011 underlying budget deficit for 2011 hit 9.4%. While well within theEU target of 10.6%, left out out of numbers were “one-off” capital injections into the nation’s banks, without which the deficit would’ve been over 13%. Despite slowing growth, the government remains confident about hitting its 8.6% target for 2012.
All quiet on the Western Front, then.