January 27th, 2012
04:00 PM GMT
Mexican President Felipe Calderon, head of the G20 group of countries, brandished the word with gusto at the World Economic Forum in Davos, declaring “we need to take out the bazooka immediately before the powder gets wet.”
Calderon compared the European situation to the economic crisis in Mexico in 1995. That crisis – referred to as “the first financial crisis of the twenty-first century” – exploded after a boom time and the influx of capital. The country was then bailed by the International Monetary Fund, and another country’s money – in this case the U.S. So far, so familiar.
Calderon pointed to the return of confidence that followed the international aid package, noting the same needed to occur in Europe. “The problem is not the money, the problem is the confidence,” he said.
And this is true. The capital markets - the investors who dictate the price of eurozone’s funding costs - have been losing confidence in the bloc’s ability to create a viable route out of the crisis. Hence, the rising costs of funding Italy; and the unrealistic funding costs of Greece, Ireland and Portugal (check our eurozone crisis map for details).
The world now knows the bazooka entails saving Greece, and building a firewall around Italy so the eurozone’s third largest economy doesn’t collapse the entire bloc. The target is clear. But where’s the weapon?
The bazooka had a flirt with the capital markets last year, when there was speculation Europe’s bail-out fund would be turbo-charged into a pot of EUR1 trillion. Markets rose on that idea, but then retreated when it was clear it had stalled.
Now, the fiscal compact is to be the savior of Europe. But still the funding costs of troubled eurozone countries remain unpleasantly high and the deal is far from signed off.
Pressure has been building on the European Central Bank to increase its sovereign debt buying program, but its president Mario Draghi gave no indication that was going to happen when he spoke at the forum. Instead, he pointed to the need for European countries to trust each other. The fiscal compact, he noted, was a “the first step, though timid, though hesitating, toward a fiscal union.”
But even if the ECB massively increased its buying program, would that be a bazooka?
Perhaps German Chancellor Angela Merkel said it best in her opening speech. Referring to the increasing funds being injected to the eurozone’s bail-out funds – and with clear frustration - she said: "People say it has to be double, then it has to be triple, then we will believe you."
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