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Feldstein and Goldman Sachs Say Buy Euro's Now

Currencies / Euro Mar 16, 2010 - 01:43 AM GMT

By: Dian_L_Chu


Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleFormer European Commission President Romano Prodi this week said the worst of Greece’s financial crisis is over and other European nations won’t follow in its path.

The Sunday Telegraph also reported the European Union (EU) nations were preparing a “bailout package” for Greece that could exceed $34.4 billion as early as Monday the 15th, with Germany and France the main cash backers.

So far, Greece has not sought help from its EU partners. However, an April and May deadline to repay debt back has pushed Greece to seek financing of around 20 billion euro on the bond market.

Greece has promised to cut its deficit from 12.7% to 8.7% this year while its long-term plan is to reduce the shortfall to below 3% by 2012.

Traders Betting Big on Euro’s Decline

Meanwhile, futures traders placed the biggest bets on record that the euro will decline against the dollar even as European officials mulled guaranteed debt sales to help Greece, according to Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) data as of March 9. It was the fifth week in six that the amount climbed to a record.

EUR/USD Pair Dance

The sheer liquidity of the euro and dollar pair has an overwhelming influence on the single currency for the past year or so. The dollar was heading towards a debasing path on concern of the mounting national debt and budget deficit. The euro, by virtue of being the market’s favored alternative currency, typically moves with the dollar, but in the opposite direction.

However, the Greece sovereign debt crisis has switched the euro to the driver’s seat this year as investors fled the euro seeking safety in dollar-based assets.

Although Europe’s common currency fell against all of its 16 most active counterparts this year, the euro touched a one-month high versus the greenback as stocks gained as concern eased Greece would default.

Implicit Guarantee

For years, the Greek government has demonstrated rather thriftless spending behavior. This was exacerbated when Greece started to pay lower interest rates on government bonds by virtue of having entered the European Economic and Monetary Union.

Greece's interest rates were subsidized due to an implicit guarantee from the strong members of the euro zone, who were expected to support weaker members in times of trouble.

Buy Euro Now, Says Goldman

It is this implicit safety net that prompted euro optimism from Goldman Sachs (GS). As reported by Bloomberg, Goldman Sachs is advising investors to buy the euro against the dollar, betting it may rise to $1.45, as sentiment toward Greece improves.

Goldman Sachs believes backing from European leaders for Greece’s measures to narrow its budget deficit will provide impetus for more “growth surprises” from the euro region than from the U.S. in the near term.

Feldstein – Euro's Fall an `Overreaction' Over Greece

In a recent Bloomberg TV interview (see video below), Dr. Martin Feldstein, who warned in 1997 that European monetary union would spark greater political conflict, is also of the view that the euro’s 4.6% decline against the dollar this year has been an "overreaction" stemming from the financial crisis in Greece as there are other stronger member nations not at risk.

Perception & Sentiment Rules Short-term

In the short-term, Goldman Sachs and Dr. Feldstein may have a point as it could be relatively easy to distract investors from the euro’s deep-seated fundamental problems. As long as market sentiment is stable or improving, Greece will be able to raise cash through the credit markets buying time to work down its staggering deficit.

Nevertheless, perception and sentiment is always a moving target. Once uncertainty and fear prevail, “growth surprises” of the euro should quickly evaporate.

Structural Weakness Weighs Long Term

A potential correction of an over-sold euro can not disguise the elephant in the champagne room. Greece’s crisis has highlighted the political and structural weakness in the single currency union. As Dr. Feldstein puts it:
" monetary policy has fueled big deficits as countries’ fiscal records differ."
While Societe Generale SA strategist Albert Edwards noted:
"Any help given to Greece merely delays the inevitable breakup of the euro zone.... the need to tighten deficits is a particular issue for the U.S. and U.K….There will be more crises to follow Greece, both inside and outside of the euro-zone."
Expect Further Euro Weakness

Ultimately, other debt-troubled countries including Spain, Portugal and Italy will also need to be bailed out by the EU leading to more debt monetization in Europe further weakening the euro. More importantly, bailouts also implicitly encourage more reckless spending

Fitch Ratings Agency already expressed caution over the medium-term outlook for Greece, while there is also evidence of increased tensions within the Greek government on plans for budget cuts.

Dollar Worries More Than Euro

In the same Bloomberg TV interview, Dr. Feldstein further expressed deep pessimism about the dollar more so than the euro:

“If I want to be more nervous about the future of a currency over the next five years, it is more reason to worry [about] the dollar…given the size of the U.S. trade and account deficit.”

Indeed, one could easily draw parallel between the U.S. federal government and the EU. The U.S. government will most likely have to bail out certain states such as California and Illinois, which is not that different from the EU having to bail out weaker member countries.

And states such as California, Illinois, New Jersey and New York dwarf Greece and other European debtor nations in economic importance in terms of income, output and consumption.

On that note, it is not that far fetched that the United States, similar to the euro zone in size and equally deep in debt, could face its own sovereign debt crisis at some point of time.  

A Race to the Bottom With Euro Winning

Fortunately, in the medium term, the dollar's fortunes look decent against the euro and sterling as well, as the Fed is still seen as likely to hike rates sooner than its counterparts in Frankfurt and London.

The overall mood of risk aversion should continue to support the dollar, and there will still be expectations that the US will out-perform the euro zone over the coming months, which will tend to underpin the dollar.

This trend; however, will most likely put a damper on President Obama plans to double U.S. exports over the next five years, as the dollar now has the euro to contend with for the global export advantage.

“Reality doesn't bite, rather our perception of reality bites.” ~ Anthony J. D'Angelo

Dian L. Chu, M.B.A., C.P.M. and Chartered Economist, is a market analyst and financial writer regularly contributing to Seeking Alpha, Zero Hedge, and other major investment websites. Ms. Chu has been syndicated to Reuters, USA Today, NPR, and BusinessWeek. She blogs at Economic Forecasts & Opinions.

© 2010 Copyright Dian L. Chu - All Rights Reserved Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.

© 2005-2019 - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.

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