Posts Tagged ‘Jeroen Dijsselbloem’

Cyprus could be the straw that breaks the Euro’s back

March 26, 2013

The wunderkind of the EU have just established a two-currency Europe and have undermined the trust any depositor can have in a Eurozone bank. The Cyprus solution has effectively created a Cypriot Euro which is – in practice – worth a lot less than a normal Euro. And every depositor holding more than €100,000 will be taking a very large risk if he puts his money in a weak Eurozone bank or in a weak Eurozone country. The depositor will need to demand a risk premium to cover the risk that his money could be stolen by the bank or by the State.

A Cypriot Euro (Κ€) is now worth less than a “normal” Euro (€). What that value is is a little difficult to judge but it lies somewhere between 60% and 90% of a normal Euro. All K€ which are outside of the deposit guarantee are now only worth 80% of a normal €. Moreover currency restrictions apply which are not so different to exchange control regulations for movement outside the country but which apply – in addition – to movement of money within Cyprus. A K€ still has the same buying power as a normal Euro but, on the other hand, it will no longer be possible to get any “outside Euros” to move into Cyprus and risk confiscation!

Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch chairman of the Eurozone announced (rather idiotically) yesterday that the Cyprus solution was the template to be used in the future.  Cyprus itself does not have an economy large enought to be so significant. But effectively  he was confirming that “Savings accounts in Spain, Italy and other European countries will be raided if needed to preserve Europe’s single currency by propping up failing banks”. But the resulting, ostensibly “single currency” will , de facto, have to distinguish between the currency held in different countries and just calling it a “single” currency will not hide the reality.  Mr. Dijsselbloem later tried to back-pedal on his statement but the truth was out by then. No amount of denials will change the fact that the Cyprus solution now sets the precedent and every weak bank will now be required to try and protect its shareholders by attacking its depositors.

I think the damage has been done and it is already too late for the EU to try and soften the message. I heard today that financial advisers in India and China were already suggesting to clients with Euro holdings to make sure it was in a strong country. This eliminates Greece, Italy, Spain, Ireland and even Hollande’s France. This only leaves Germany. The Russians are probably already shifting their legitimate Euro funds to Germany or the Netherlands and their not-so-legitimate money to the Bahamas or Mauritius or the Seychelles. In the short term Germany is the main beneficiary. Not only are their exports being helped by a weak Euro (kept weak because of the weak countries persisting within the Euro) but their banks are likely to see Euro deposits from the weak countries moving their way. But in the long term a flight from the Euro will not help anyone in Europe. The ideological – and almost dogmatic – attachment to the single Euro is now damaging all of Europe and delaying the recovery. Every single one of the bailed-out countries would recover faster if only they had a currency which could have been devalued.

The Cyprus solution is also a more general attack on Europe’s middle class (admittedly the richer part of the middle class). The population of the EU is about 500 million. With an average of about 2.5 individuals per household this represents about 200 million households. Probably 15-20 million households have a net worth exceeding  €200,000 which implies financial assets (as opposed to property and other non-liquid assets) of about €100,000. So an attack on European deposits of greater than €100,000 could affect some 40 – 50 million individuals.

Cyprus could be the straw that breaks the Euro’s back.

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