Insights & Advice


Merkel versus the Markets

Global Investors are convinced that unless something changes and soon, the Euro and the nations that use it are toast. They are exerting as much selling pressure as possible on worldwide markets to force those changes.  So far all it has done is make us all poorer.

            Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel agrees change is necessary but not the kind the markets want.   Her nations insist that good old fashioned fiscal austerity will solve Europe’s problems over time.  Investors believe that while that is a laudable goal, it will not do anything to solve the immediate problems of the “too big to fail” nations such as Italy and Spain. 

Over the last two weeks the flow of positive comments from European leaders who keep promising a definitive solution has subsided. During that time it has become clear that Germany is unwilling to go along with the majority of EU member nations that want the European Central Bank to act as lender of last resort.  As a result, the price of European debt and equities has declined while interest rates have reached untenable levels in Italy and Spain. Even German sovereign debt is not immune. This week’s 10-year note auction was woefully undersubscribed with only 65% of the issue taken up by investors.

Over the last month I have written that the “She said, he said” strategy of talking the markets up while trying to come up with a solution to the Euro Zone problem would only work  for a short time. Without a substantive plan to bail out Italy and Spain, et al, investors would lose patience with Euro Speak. That is now happening and the best that Europe’s leaders could come up with is to promise not to criticize each other in public.

The bottom line is that Germany is the largest, wealthiest, most politically stable member of the EU.  It owes that success, in part, to the Euro. Its economy has benefited mightily from the currency. Today, without Germany, there would be no European Union and the Germans know it. 

As such, the Germans insist that there will be no U.S. Fed –style bailout of European nations with the accompanying risk of hyperinflation. It was never part of their vision. Some believe that they would rather see the EU dissolve first. It appears the markets are intent on forcing Chancellor Merkel into deciding which is most important– Germanys’ principles or the EU. 

In the meantime, the U.S. markets are deeply oversold. So it was no surprise that Friday’s holiday-shortened session experienced a bounce in the averages.   Investors, after days of Europe mania, focused instead on America and its Black Friday weekend consumer spending spree. The markets are hoping that consumers will forget their woes this weekend and spend, spend, spend.

I do believe there will be a boost to retail spending this year, but after the smoke and hype clears out, the revenue numbers will not be as high as some predict. If spending follows the trend of last year, expect a boost in sales for the holidays now, followed by a decline before picking up again just before Christmas.     

I am expecting a nice bounce in the markets into the end of the year. Granted, the averages have gone the other way since last week and have retraced two thirds of October’s gains so far this month. Let’s hope December lives up to its name as the best month in the year for stocks.

Posted in At the Market, The Retired Advisor