The main weight on the EURUSD this morning is not only the virtual certainty of S&P cutting Europe's AAA club, after it called Europe's bluff and Europe revealed a 2-7 offsuit, but a report just released from Moody's which said that the rating agency looked at the European abyss, and did not like what it saw at all. As a result, Moody's has warned that it was review the ratings of all EU countries in Q1 as the summit has failed to produce "decisive policy measures" (we emphasize this for our friends at Bloomberg TV). It says: "As a result, the communiqué does not change our view that the crisis is in a critical, and volatile, stage, with sovereign and bank debt markets prone to acute dislocation which policymakers will find increasingly hard to contain. While our central scenario remains that the euro area will be preserved without further widespread defaults, shocks likely to materialise even under this 'positive' scenario carry negative credit and rating implications in the coming months. And the longer the incremental approach to policy persists, the greater the likelihood of more severe scenarios, including those involving multiple defaults by euro area countries and those additionally involving exits from the euro area." The result, as one can imagine, a surge in Italian and Spanish yields, and redness across the screen.
Pressure Remains On Euro Area Sovereigns In Absence of Decisive Initiatives
The communiqué issued by European policymakers after the recent euro area summit offers few new measures and therefore does not change our analysis of the rising threat to the cohesion of the euro area and the further shocks to which it and the wider EU remain prone. As we announced in November, unless credit market conditions stabilise in the near future, our ratings of all EU sovereigns will need to be revisited. The communiqué does not change that view, and we continue to expect to complete such a repositioning during the first quarter of 2012.
Last Friday, European policymakers issued a communiqué announcing additional measures aimed at addressing the formidable challenges facing the euro area. The communiqué discussed at a high level the direction of a variety of initiatives aimed at supporting closer fiscal coordination among euro area (and many EU) sovereigns in the years to come, and at the same time to address the more acute immediate challenges euro area sovereigns and banking systems face. The clear statements it contains affirming the commitment of euro area authorities to work towards a common economic policy provide a further indication of euro area politicians’ desire to move towards centralised fiscal coordination and mutualisation of resource and risk.
Few New Measures Beyond Previous Announcements
In substance, however, the communiqué offers few new measures, and does not change our view that risks to the cohesion of the euro area continue to rise. Measures to strengthen the governance of the EU’s Excessive Deficit Procedure were first announced in the first half of 2011. The intention to introduce measures to strengthen national budgetary frameworks and to improve coordination and cooperation, including a heightened role for the Commission, was announced in October, as was the aim of leveraging the European Financial Stability Facility.
The July package contained very clear statements regarding the uniqueness of private sector involvement (PSI) in Greece’s assistance programme. We placed little weight on those statements then. It is difficult to place greater weight on them now given, for example, the intention to complete the Greek PSI programme, to incorporate Collective Action Clauses in European Stability Mechanism documentation to facilitate orderly PSI in future, and the reference to the application of “IMF principles and practices” which often also involve burden-sharing with private sector creditors.
Highly Volatile Situation Remains – Hence Moody’s Position Unchanged
In short, the communiqué reflects the continuing tension between euro area leaders’ recognition of the need to increase support for fiscally weaker countries and the significant opposition within stronger countries to doing so. Amid the increasing pressure on euro area authorities to act quickly to restore credit market confidence, the constraints they face are also rising. The longer that remains the case, the greater the risk of adverse economic conditions that would add to the already sizeable challenges facing the authorities’ coordination and debt reduction efforts.
As a result, the communiqué does not change our view that the crisis is in a critical, and volatile, stage, with sovereign and bank debt markets prone to acute dislocation which policymakers will find increasingly hard to contain. While our central scenario remains that the euro area will be preserved without further widespread defaults, shocks likely to materialise even under this 'positive' scenario carry negative credit and rating implications in the coming months. And the longer the incremental approach to policy persists, the greater the likelihood of more severe scenarios, including those involving multiple defaults by euro area countries and those additionally involving exits from the euro area.
The credit implications of these and further measures likely to be announced in coming weeks require careful consideration against the backdrop of decelerating regional economic activity, fragile banking systems, partly dysfunctional credit markets, and the varying degree of success of country-specific measures aimed at structural change and fiscal consolidation. But in the absence of credit market conditions stabilising, the system remains prone to further shocks which would likely lead to selective rating changes. More broadly, in the absence of any decisive policy initiatives that stabilise credit market conditions effectively, our intention as announced in November is to revisit the level and dispersion of ratings during the first quarter of 2012.