Markets up as global economy chiefs head for talks
Stock markets rose Thursday ahead of an interest rate decision by the European Central Bank as German Chancellor Angela Merkel was to host talks with top officials over the eurozone debt crisis.
After Germany called on EU partners to recapitalise the banking sector, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said Thursday the EU executive was proposing "coordinated action" to the 27 EU nations to recapitalise banks and prevent the crisis spreading.
"We are now proposing to the member states to have a coordinated action to recapitalise banks and get rid of toxic assets they may have," Barroso said in a television interview.
European stocks climbed following gains in Asia, boosted by another strong performance on Wall Street and hopes European leaders will come together to plan a route out of the crisis.
Asia's stock markets surged Thursday, also buoyed by better-than-expected economic data out of Washington that eased concerns the United States is slipping into recession.
Merkel was to host talks on threats to the financial global system later Thursday.
European Central Bank chief Jean-Claude Trichet, as well as the heads of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the OECD and G20 representatives are gathering in the German capital.
Trichet will also chair the last meeting of his eight-year term with central bank chiefs from the 17 eurozone countries in Berlin, with analysts expecting him to signal rate cuts to stave off a recession.
ECB watchers, however, are divided over the timing of such a move and whether the guardian of the single currency will choose to act as early as Thursday or wait until later this year.
Merkel, in Brussels Wednesday for a European Commission meeting, said that helping the banks was "justified, if we have a joint approach", giving nervous financial markets an immediate boost after days of heavy losses on fears the banking sector needed help urgently.
She was speaking after France and Belgium agreed to bail out Dexia, the first European bank to be dragged down by the eurozone debt crisis -- and which also had to be rescued in 2008.
The debt crisis, beginning in Greece, has snared Ireland and Portugal and put Italy and Spain in the firing line too, threatening to sink the whole euro project as banks exposed to their debt find it impossible to raise funding.
The resulting "credit crunch" has sparked warnings there could be a replay of 2008 when US giant investment bank Lehman Brothers collapsed, nearly taking the global financial system with it but for massive government support.
Merkel said that it "is important for the markets that we achieve results ... time is pressing and we have to act quickly".
Germany, she said, was ready to show the way, putting fresh capital into its banks if necessary, while adding that there was no "magic wand" at Europe's disposal to resolve its problems.
IMF Europe director Antonio Borges on Wednesday said that "somewhere between 100-200 billion (euros) will be more than enough" to back up the banks, adding it was "not that much money ... by no means beyond reach".
Borges was in Brussels issuing the International Monetary Fund's latest report on European economic prospects.
Neither he nor his report minced words after two days of hectic talks in Luxembourg that kept Greece waiting to see if promised bailout funds, on hold for the past month, will come through and save it from default.
The IMF urged Europe to balance growth with austerity as it called for a "more than overdue" solution to the crisis, warning of recession next year if it fails to find the right recipe.
Canada's finance minister Jim Flaherty, in a New York speech, warned that the EU must urgently address its debt woes or the crisis could become "too big for Europe to solve" and trigger a global recession.
In Athens, civil servants staged a 24-hour walkout Wednesday in protest at a government plan to sideline 30,000 staff to reduce the deficit in return for the next tranche of debt rescue funding.
The EU again demanded more sacrifices from Greece at the Luxembourg meetings and also warned banks they may have to shoulder more losses as part of the resolution of the debt crisis -- a point also raised by Merkel.
Her deputy and Economy Minister Philipp Roesler was due to travel to Athens for talks over the Greek austerity programme.
The Netherlands is due Thursday to vote on expanding the European Financial Stability Facility, while hold-out Slovakia is still struggling with internal coalition politics over their approval.
© 2011 AFP