Sunday, November 25, 2007

Euro rally worries EU

ECB to take action; Merkel, Barroso express concern

Money is talk of the town and money, “The social lubricant” with a near free-fall of the US dollar, is sending ripples across the globe affecting all quarters of life. The steady fall of the American dollar against other global currencies and the meteoric rise of the nascent European currency, the Euro, is making financial pundits act and react.

Acknowledging the reemergence of tension in money markets, the European Central Bank (ECB) announced, “To counter the re-emerging risk of volatility, the ECB intends to reinforce in the upcoming main refinancing operation, as well as in the following ones for as long as it is needed and at least until after the end of the year, its policy of allocating more liquidity than the benchmark amount in main refinancing operations.” The benchmark amount is an estimate of the liquidity needed by banks to fulfil their minimum reserve requirements.

“In line with its communication of October 8th, the ECB will continue to closely monitor liquidity conditions, consistently with its aim to limit the volatility of very short term rates around the main refinancing operations minimum bid rate,” the bank in a move aimed at financial markets said.

Reiterating faith in the earlier ECB actions as “effective and flexible,” ECB president Jean- Claude Trichet said, “Looking ahead, and in line with its previous communications and actions, the ECB will continue to steer very short term interbank rates close (to) the minimum bid rate.”

Commenting on the strength of the Euro becoming a problem for some European exporters, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told N24 television on November 22 that the strong Euro and high oil prices pose a risk to the country’s economy — Europe’s largest. “We are pleased that Europe has a strong currency, but this obviously also creates problems for exports,” she said adding, “We are working on an international level to balance currency imbalances reasonably.”

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso echoed her sentiments last week. Speaking on the side lines of an EU-ASEAN Summit in Singapore, Barroso said, “It’s true that the very strong Euro is becoming a concern to some export sectors in some parts of the European economy.”

The European Commission this month cut its forecast for 2008 Eurozone economic growth to 2.2 percent from 2.5 percent.

In related fallout in the industry, Airbus CEO Thomas Enders said the Euro has now “crossed the pain threshold” and that the rate of the dollar’s fall “hardly leaves room for reasonable adapting.” “That is lifethreatening,” he was quoted by Der Spiegel magazine as telling the company worker’s council in Hamburg on November 22.

Although the company is expecting a record number of orders, it still must reckon with “tremendous losses,” he said. But the German economics ministry reacted the next day saying it is up to the aircraft maker Airbus and not the government to estimate the impact of the strong Euro on the company’s performance. “Only the company itself can assess how threatening such a development is for the company,” said an economics ministry spokeswoman. “Only the company can say to which degree the Euro has contributed to its development.”

Moreover, there is a flip side of the strong Euro as was pointed out by Merkel’s deputy economics minister. The rising Euro is damping the effect of rising oil prices, noted Bernd Pfaffenbach, who is also Merkel’s advisor on the Group of Eight industrial nations’ issues.

Recalling the worries during the birth of the European currency that Euro will even stay weaker than the Deutsche Mark, Pfaffenback welcome the news that China has announced plans to shift its currency reserves into Euro adding, “This shows a growth in faith in the European currency.”

Although burdened with strikes and transport chaos at home and silent directly on the rising Euro, French President Nicolas Sarkozy was about to address the currency issue during talks with Chinese leaders in Beijing.

According to media reports, a senior French official was cited as saying that Sarkozy will make proposals for an “equitable and fair” relationship among four major currencies - the US dollar, Euro, Japanese Yen and Chinese Yuan.

The common currency for the 13-nation Eurozone is hovering close to the USD 1.50 mark against the American dollar, breaking all records.

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