Today, markets in New York tumbled and it was all about fear crossing the Atlantic.
Sure there was skepticism about the Obama job plan’s chances in Congress, and nobody liked the news that Bank of America may lay off 40,000 workers. But the real fear today came from Europe.
First there was the unexpected departure of European Central Bank chief economist Jurgen Stark. While the official reason was “personal,” it was widely reported that Stark left this key post because of his opposition to the ECB’s program of buying Spanish and Italian debt. This led to worries of growing friction within the ECB over its plans to deal with the European debt crisis.
Then there was a report that Germany’s government is making contingency plans to support its banks in the event of a Greek default. And there were rumors that Greece could default on its massive debt as early as this weekend.
All this news led to some obvious signs of risk aversion: the euro dropped precipitously against the dollar; the cost of insuring European debt rose and European stock markets tanked, with financial stocks leading the way. Meanwhile yields on German government debt fell to record lows. Plus there were increased worries that banks on the continent are becoming less willing to lend money to each other.
All this happened as G-7 finance ministers arrived in France for two days of meetings aimed at trying to find a solution, any solution, to what appear to be Europe’s increasingly unsolvable economic problems.
Oh, and the new IMF Chief, Christine Lagarde, said that the world economy is entering a “dangerous new phase.”
We talked with economic consultant, and the man behind the blog The Street Light, Kash Mansori. He said that the German plan – denied by the German government – could be looked at two ways. First, it can be seen as a prudent step to ring fence any potential problems caused by the crisis. But Mansori said that one could ask, “what does Germany know that we don’t? Is Greece going to default this weekend?”
Mansori said that none of the news today was conclusive, but it was enough to raise big fears, leading investors to pull back on risk. Still when asked if he would be spending the weekend looking out for news from Greece, he said while he has other things he’d like to do this weekend, he would be watching the wires because default is a possibility. And if Greece does default, look out world economy.
Also on the show, the Marketplace Daily Pulse where we check the heart rate of the U.S. economy via a daily alternative indicator. Today the Pulse is faltering thanks to news today that Bank of America is poised to cut its workforce by as many as 40,000.
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