Our Two Cents – Week of 12/05/11

Major activities in the euro zone economic crisis, including proposed amendments from European leaders and austerity packages from Italy, topped our transaction of the biggest currency markets headlines.

France and Germany spearheaded negotiations about new fiscal plans for the 17-member euro zone, issuing proposed amendments to Europe’s governing treaties to provide better economic governance to nations. Meeting at Élysée Palace in France, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel prepared proposals they would deliver to the full European Union Dec. 8. Some proposed amendments include automatic penalties for countries that exceed European deficit limits as well as the creation of a monetary fund for Europe. Sarkozy said he hoped the treaty changes would be ready for ratification as early as March 2012.

On Dec. 4, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti unveiled for his country a 30-billion euro austerity package, which includes raising taxes and the pension age, in hopes of harnessing the euro zone crisis. He said the package was painful, but important, as he also renounced his own salary as prime minister and economy minister. Late last week, Sarkozy spoke to French voters about the economic slowdown and rising unemployment. His speech came on the heels of remarks from European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Olli Rehn about the euro zone entering a “crucial” 10-day period. During this time, nations must focus on building “convincing” financial protections and tightening economic governance, as Sarkozy and Merkel have outlined.

While Italy, France and Germany devised reforms, Greeks returned to simpler ways of life. Because of Greece’s debt, many inhabitants have defaulted to bartering. In the small fishing village of Volos, which is about 200 miles north of Athens, many residents have been buying and selling goods from each other and vowing to neighbors during harsh economic times. In the United Kingdom, the British pound sterling emerged as a safe haven for investing because demands for British government bonds rose. Investors also turned to the pound sterling because it was up 2.1 percent against the euro since early September.

Across the Atlantic, the United States saw some signs of hope for jobs. According to the U.S. Labor Department, unemployment dropped to 8.6 percent. In November, 120,000 jobs were added, up from 100,000 from October. The good news was that the American economy grew, even though conditions abroad waned. But what weren’t waning were the wallets of some Connecticut hedge fund managers who won a $254-million Powerball drawing. The three winners pocketed the state’s biggest lottery ever and have donated some of the money to people in need.



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