€ on the Brink of Collapse

A quote from Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in The Daily Telegraph, 8 October 2008

The Baltic Dry Index measuring freight rates for shipping has fallen 70 per cent since May. The whole nexus of commodities except gold, now a super currency, is in freefall. Oil has fallen by 41 per cent from its peak, copper by 38 per cent, wheat by 50 per cent. Few with their finger on the pulse of global commerce now think the threat of inflation is remotely credible. Tesco's Sir Terry Leahy says food prices are now deflating at two per cent in his stores.

My view is that Washington has done what is needed to prevent the collapse of the US economy. It has taken over the entire credit system, after all, surpassing Roosevelt's New Deal.

The US has guaranteed the $3.5 trillion money market funds. It has nationalised the $5.3 trillion pillars of the mortgage market, Fannie and Freddie. The Fed is accepting any junk as collateral at its lending window. This week it went the whole hog after panic hit the $1.6 trillion market for commercial paper. It is now offering loans without any security at all. The US government has become a bank. Yes, this is US socialism. What is the alternative? […]

Who in the eurozone can do what Alistair Darling has just done in extremis to save Britain's banks, as this $10 trillion house of cards falls down? There is no EU treasury or debt union to back up the single currency. The ECB is not allowed to launch bail-outs by EU law. Each country must save its own skin, yet none has full control of the policy instruments.

Germany has vetoed French and Italian ideas for an EU lifeboat fund. The former knows exactly where that leads. It is a Trojan horse that will be used one day to co-opt German taxpayers into rescues for less Teutonic EMU kin. One can sympathise with Berlin. But sharing debts with Italy and Spain was implicit when they agreed to launch the euro. A shared currency entails obligations. We have reached the watershed moment when Germany has to decide whether to put its full sovereign weight behind the EMU project or reveal that it is not prepared to do so in a crisis.

This is a very dangerous set of circumstances for monetary union. Will we still have a 15-member euro by Christmas?