December 21, 2010

Pimco Says 'Untenable' Policies Will Lead To Eurozone Break-up!

The Telegraph UK
written by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
Monday December 20, 2010

Pimco, the world's largest bond fund, has called on Greece, Ireland and Portugal to step outside the eurozone temporarily and restructure their debts unless the currency bloc agrees to a radical change of course.

Andrew Bosomworth, head of Pimco's portfolio management in Europe, said current policies are untenable in the absence of fiscal union and will lead to a break-up of the euro.

"Greece, Ireland and Portugal cannot get back on their feet without either their own currency or large transfer payments," he told German newspaper Die Welt.

He said these countries could rejoin EMU "after an appropriate debt restructuring", adding that devaluation would let them export their way back to health.

Mr Bosomworth said EU leaders were too quick to congratulate themselves on saving the euro last week with a deal for a permanent bail-out fund from 2013.

"The euro crisis is not over by a long shot. Market tensions will continue into 2011. The mechanism comes far too late," he said.

The bond fund argues that the EU strategy of forcing heavily indebted countries to undergo draconian fiscal austerity without offsetting stimulus is unworkable.

The austerity policies are stifling the growth needed to stabilise debt levels.

"Can countries inside a fixed exchange-rate system like the euro grow and tighten budget policy at the same time? I don't think so. It didn't work in Argentina," Mr Bosomworth said.

Pimco also gave warning that the bond vigilantes have lost faith in the policy and are trying to liquidate their holdings of peripheral EMU faster than the European Central Bank (ECB) can buy the debt, causing a relentless rise in yields, and a vicious circle.

Despite this, the ECB said on Monday that it had cut purchases of government debt last week, settling €603m (£509m), down from €2.68bn a week earlier. The withering comments from the world's top investor in EMU sovereign debt is a blow for Portugal and Spain. Both nations are hoping bond spreads will start to narrow before they face a funding crunch in the first quarter of next year.

Jacques Cailloux, chief Europe economist at RBS, agreed that last week's European summit had failed to grasp the nettle.

"None of the policy responses put in place in Europe since the start of the crisis provides a credible backstop to prevent further contagion," Mr Cailloux said.

"We remain most concerned about an escalation of the sovereign debt crisis hitting larger economies in the euro area. Markets continue to underestimate the potential disruption via financial transmission channels that such an event could trigger."

Meanwhile, Spain must cut harder and deeper to rein in its finances, the OECD has warned, calling for an overhaul of its labour laws and employment practices. Madrid is already in the midst of harsh austerity measures, but the influential Paris-based think-tank said more must be done. The Spanish economy should be able to shrink its budget deficit from 11pc of GDP last year to the 6pc target next year, the OECD believes.

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