The financial world initially rejoiced Friday when word came of a deal by most European countries _ including all 17 that use the euro _ to allow the European Commission to oversee national budgets and impose penalties if a country's debt grows too much.
Since then questions have emerged about the willingness of each individual country to ratify the agreement, the lack of a short-term solution to high debt in Greece, Italy and Spain, and what the future monetary policy of the European Central Bank will be.
The Associated Press spoke with four experts Sunday about the deal and what implications it will have for the markets. Here are their thoughts, edited for clarity.
Peter Tchir, founder of TF Market Advisors: It has to go and be ratified. They're talking about doing balanced budget amendments in each of the countries. It seems like this was done very last minute. I'm highly suspicious that there's really a full buy in. I think some of these balanced budget acts are going to take a while to implement. There was also more document space talking about being able to waive penalties than what the penalties would be.
How serious are those punishments going to be and will they ever be enforced? If you look at monetary punishments, where there's a fine, the country already believes it's necessary to run a deficit in the current year because their economy is stagnating, are they going to get afraid because of the fine or just lump that into part of the cost? Will they get kicked out of the euro? Clearly at this point the EU has shown anything but a willingness to kick somebody out. They became so scared of that, that they cobbled out bailout after bailout.
On Monday and Tuesday the stock market is going to be looking for the ECB to come in and say, "We can buy as much sovereign debt as we want now." I don't think we are going to get that statement and that's going to put downward pressure on the stock market. It's going to finally hit home in the U.S. that the ECB does not believe in quantitative easing in the same way that the U.S. does and they're not going to view this pact as a reason to change their view. That is going to disappoint the market.
Brian Gendreau, market strategist at Cetera Financial Group: There's a long-term solution in place but there's no solution to the current crisis. There's still the prospect of default on Greek bonds and there's still problems faced by Italy meeting the financing obligations moving forward. It is a welcome first step. I think there's widespread recognition that it's going to be a long process one way or another. There were compromises in the agreement.
There are a lot of questions that still remain. One of them is the role of the European Central Bank as a lender of last resort. The ECB has made it clear that they are willing to undertake the role of lender of last resort to banks but there's a question of to what extent will the ECB be lender of last resort to countries.
This is going to set a better tone for the market going forward. There is a lot of repressed demand for stocks. There are a lot of people who have moved into CDs and Treasurys. People are going to be looking for the green light to move out of those funds. When they do, they're going to move into stocks. Ultimately, the big beneficiary might be stock markets, including the U.S. stock market.
Paul Zemsky, chief investment officer for multi-asset strategies for ING Investment Management: Overall, it was a very positive step in the right direction but it wasn't this grand bargain that I was hoping for and others were hoping for earlier last week. But some very good things did happen. The member states did agree to some legislation that would be more binding in terms of the deficits and debt. It would be overseen by the European courts.
I see two problems. One is that overall growth is slowing throughout the region. Germany is the bright spot. Most economists, including ourselves, have (forecast) a mild recession for next year. With slowing growth, it's hard to get good budget numbers. Second, the agreement has been made but the laws haven't been passed and signed.
There's going to need to be pressure kept on these peripheral countries to go through with this. That means you are going to have to keep walking close to the edge in terms of the markets and the threat of the euro region breaking up if these guys don't come through. We're still not done with this dance with death. Until these laws are passed, there are going to be scares. There's going to continue to be volatility coming from this region.
Marc Chandler, global head of currency strategy at Brown Brothers Harriman: On the eve of the European summit, the ECB provided an incredible amount of liquidity to the market. I don't know if the market fully appreciates that yet. They were willing to loan money to banks for three years. We're not talking about a short-term, one-week loan. This is a three-year loan essentially. As much as they want, provided they have the collateral, which they also liberalized the definition of.
The take-away point is that the euro and eurozone survives without the ECB being a backstop for the sovereigns and without European bonds being issued. They live to fight another day. But it doesn't change things. They're still heading toward a recession. The ECB is still going to have to ease policy. They still have something on the magnitude of 1.8 trillion euros ($2.41 trillion) of bonds maturing, concentrated in the first half of next year.
Scott Mayerowitz can be reached at http://twitter.com/GlobeTrotScott.
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