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European worries rattling markets

Bob Moon May 21, 2010

European worries rattling markets

Bob Moon May 21, 2010


Kai Ryssdal: The Dow ended on the upside today, which is great. A sign that despite yesterday’s deep sell off, people still do think that there’s a reason to buy.

But if you really want to know what’s making all the waves in equities — stocks — you’ve got to look at debt — bonds, the credit markets.

Because we have learned the hard way, just a couple of years ago, that stocks can’t keep climbing when the debt market is stuck.

Our senior business correspondent Bob Moon reports.

BOB MOON: When the financial meltdown began two years ago, the world watched something called the London Interbank Offered Rate, or LIBOR. It’s seen as a measure of how much banks distrust lending to each other, and it’s used to set rates ranging from mortgages to credit cards. This week, it climbed to its highest level in 10 months.

DAVID WYSS: It’s not nearly as bad, understand, as it was in late 2008. But the markets are registering their nervousness.

David Wyss is chief economist at Standard & Poor’s. He says worries over Greek debt are still roiling the markets.

WYSS: If Greece defaults, are people going to be willing to lend to Portugal, to Spain, to Italy, eventually to the U.K. and the U.S. The worry is that when you get these kinds of runs on a government, like when you get a run on a bank, where do you stop it?

And even if U.S. companies can manage to get operating money from banks or bond sales, stocks could still suffer.

WYSS: Almost half the revenue of the S&P 500 comes from outside the United States. Even if the U.S. isn’t affected, U.S. corporate profits will be, because the business they do in Europe will be affected by a European recession.

Greece may be just one country that represents only one-half of 1 percent of the world economy, but at Envision Capital Management, investment adviser Marilyn Cohen isn’t surprised its bonds are having such an outsize affect.

MARILYN COHEN: Most of the big problems generally start from the bond market, and I would say that’s very much what we’re seeing with the European contagion.

Germany rushed to approve its share of Europe’s expensive rescue plan for Greece today. But global credit markets are still reflecting nettling doubts over whether the package will even work.

I’m Bob Moon for Marketplace.

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