European leaders did not understand the essence of the present crisis. The turbulence was provoked by the failure of the established elite’s political direction. The establishment is rotten but its roots are deep; this is the reason why the turmoil provoked by the 2010 debt crisis didn’t make victims sooner. Most of the traditional parties (left or right in the government arch) were able to maintain leadership.
François Hollande‘s victory was one of those cases. Promising to revoke austerity, he has done the opposite since he took office. The public’s reaction has been dreadful. French Socialists are one of the most unpopular parties in office right now. In my opinion, they risk ending up like the PASOK: completely annihilated. The price to pay for not meeting promises is getting higher by the day.
If Syriza lives up to its promises with a focused strategy for the Greek economy, then I believe the rest of Europe will feel the effects of a “European Spring”. Spain might be next on that list with the “Podemos” movement on top of early polls. Obviously, markets will be scared at first, but if things are done right, investors will have more motives to celebrate than to cry. The current state of affairs and the situation as the whole continent is in stagnation and flirting with deflation is what investors should be worried about. Countries turning deep left or right in legislative elections do not pose that much of a threat, especially if they are successful in reinvigorating economic growth or at least sparking some inflation.
At the end of 2014, I wrote a market outlook for 2015. This outlook included views on the QE from the ECB. My views at the time were optimistic on the sense that a European QE could cause a positive surprise in the European markets. Now, I think that the current dynamic will be harder for the European markets and especially the EUR in the first half of the year but in the 2nd half things might improve significantly. I still believe that the lower prices affecting commodities will be positive for Europe, but this impact will be offset by the EUR at the lowest levels in years.
(Photo credit: Ian Sane)
Again, the big winner will be the US, more specifically the SPY and USD. The US had the best crisis management of any Western country. They refused to use austerity as their guideline. While European countries were counting pennies in their budget, the US were using printed money to save banks and auto constructors. Moral hazard? Not when they helped the banks just enough so that they could punish them later (example: Bank of America (BAC)).
Finally, Asian countries with debt in USD and emergent countries heavily dependent on commodities, especially oil, will struggle with increasing public debt and shrinking economies. This is the year of the US economy.
(Originally posted on talkmarkets.com)