Monday, January 19, 2009

Euro(pe) Burning

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard has an blood-chilling article.

The Euro is the cause for a lot of pain in Europe. To have a single currency makes some sense when you have a relatively homogeneous economy, with high mobility of capital (check) and labor (NO check). Even then, central bank fine-tuning of macroeconomic parameters has failed spectacularly historically, but it is at least defensible theoretically. Europe, however, despite the wishful thinking of its leaders, is not a country. Its populace speaks numerous languages, has vastly differing cultures, and is thus mostly immobile - how often do you see a Maltese living and working in the Netherlands? The US adopted its constitution in 1787, and a lasting central bank only in 1913. The first attempt - First Bank of the United States - was aborted in 1811, the second - in 1836. From 1862 till 1913, there were SEVERAL national banks. And even when the Federal Reserve in its modern form was created, it was far from non-controversial - Milton Friedman did blame it for the Great Depression, and Ben Bernanke did agree. Europe, however, has a central bank without even having a constitution. How about a single central bank for Guatemala and Papua-New Guinea?

While I am not terribly bullish on the US dollar, I cannot help but be very bearish on the Euro. A short ETF (such as DRR) may not be the best instrument for this, sadly, since it sells the Euro against a broad basket of other currencies, but should be good enough because of the leverage it provides, and because it is hard to think of a good long pair anyway. The Swiss frank comes to mind, but Switzerland is in the heart of Europe, and thus economically very much linked with the European economy, and also under increasing pressure to align its laws and policies with the Euro-diktat.

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