Tags: Forbes | Europe | crisis | US

Steve Forbes: Europe's Economic Crisis 'Could Have Devastating Consequences for US'

By    |   Thursday, 12 February 2015 08:56 AM

Global financial markets are now highly focused on the turmoil surrounding Greece's debt burden.

But "two other recent pieces of news underscore why the EU is in a serious economic and political crisis that could have devastating consequences for the U.S. and the rest of the world," Steve Forbes, editor-in-chief of Forbes, writes in the magazine.

The first item is the European Central Bank (ECB)'s decision last month to launch a 1.1 trillion euro quantitative easing package.

"The ECB is repeating the mistakes of the Federal Reserve and the Bank of Japan," Forbes argues.

"Price controls always harm and distort markets. Suppressing interest rates has seriously distorted credit markets around the world."

The second item is less well-known. The ECB has decided to tighten capital requirements on European banks.

"The ECB's cluelessness is breathtaking," Forbes writes. "How does a bank increase its capital cushion? By selling new equity, cutting dividends — and making fewer loans. . . . Politically unconnected businesses, i.e., most of the private sector, are shafted."

In addition, the move gives Europe's politicians "an excuse" to avoid necessary economic restructuring, he explains.

The worst-case outcome of all this is a collapse of the EU and the euro. That "would be disastrous, putting the world on a chaotic course not seen since the 1930s," he maintains.

Meanwhile, many financial experts are worried about the raging global currency war. And Mohamed El-Erian, chief economic adviser at Allianz, says the war might last for a while.

"Not all currencies can depreciate against one another at the same time. But the current wave of efforts, despite being far from optimal, can persist for a while, so long as at least two conditions are met," he writes in an article for Project Syndicate.

"The first condition is America's continued willingness to tolerate a sharp appreciation of the dollar's exchange rate." The greenback has reached multi-year highs against many currencies in recent weeks.

Given the strong dollar's harm for U.S. companies and our trade balance, "this is not guaranteed," El-Erian notes. "Still, as long as the U.S. maintains its pace of overall growth and job creation — a feasible outcome — these developments are unlikely to trigger a political response for quite a while."

The second condition is "financial markets' willingness to assume and maintain risk postures that are not yet validated by the economy's fundamentals," he writes. "With central banks pushing for increasingly large financial risk-taking, this is no easy feat."

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Global financial markets are now highly focused on the turmoil surrounding Greece's debt burden.
Forbes, Europe, crisis, US
Thursday, 12 February 2015 08:56 AM
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