While economic data may be manipulated daily, and markets can be pumped in any of many different ways (such as the ongoing preparation by the ECB to accept any collateral for the upcoming LTRO which will bring the ECB's deposit facility usage to $1 trillion), there is one true indicator of economic prospects: immigration. Long a target for immigrants from all over the world, something has changed very drastically for Italy in recent days. Art Cashin explains why the one indicator that matters - Italy's desirability for immigrants from countries such as Afghanistan and Bangladesh, means everything has changed now.
A Change Of Direction - On Tuesday night, I had the pleasure of marinating ice cubes with a very bright friend who happens to be a successful hedge fund manager of Greek heritage. We were discussing the Euro-zone problems and how austerity programs are bumping up against cultural and local habits.
I wondered aloud how these austerity programs would hold up when they clashed with the litmus test of life in the streets. That’s when my friend related the following story.
He has relatives still living in Greece, several in Patras, the country’s third largest city and a key port on the west coast, facing Italy and much of the Mediterranean. Over the decades, immigrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and other poor nations would work their way to Patras. They would stay for days or weeks awaiting a chance to smuggle themselves on to a freighter headed for Italy. Once there, they could make their way north into Europe to find hope and opportunity and maybe a job.
Last week his relatives told him that things were changing. The immigrants still come to their way station of Patras (hope still blooms). But now, after a couple of weeks in Greece, they are trying to hop ships going the other way. They are going back home. Life was better, or at least no worse, where they came from and they had friends and family for support back there.
If that’s what’s going on in the initial days of austerity, what will the streets of Athens or Napoli or Marseilles look like when austerity really takes hold? This will not be settled in days or weeks or months - and its impact will be felt for decades.