Euphoria over EU summit deal fades

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Markets fell Friday as the initial euphoria over a eurozone debt crisis deal faded and investors questioned whether the plan would really be able to get to the root of region's problems.

After rocketing Thursday, stock markets were lower by Friday afternoon, with London's benchmark FTSE 100 index down 0.24 percent, the CAC 40 in Paris off 0.58 and Frankfurt's DAX 30 shedding 0.20 percent.

"Eurozone politicians were very successful in putting a positive spin on this week's summit but there are still significant potential pitfalls in the road ahead," said Jane Foley, senior currency analyst at Rabobank.

"A handful of French banks, and some German and Italian are still widely considered to be vulnerable. Clearly this position could be worsened if contagion makes a comeback -- and this is still a significant risk."

Goldman Sachs analysts were also sceptical.

"While the measures should appease markets in the shorter term, in our view it still falls short of the comprehensive package needed to resolve the underlying, structural issues facing the euro area economy," they wrote in a weekly note to investors.

Silvia Quandt Research analyst Bernhard Eschweiler complained that the summit deal was vague and that though "it would be unrealistic to expect much more ... it is similarly unrealistic to view this as the final breakthrough."

China, which Europe appears to be hoping will use some of its huge foreign reserves to invest in its revamped bailout fund, had similar reservations.

Expectations had been high ahead of a visit by the head of the bailout fund, Klaus Regling, to Beijing, with the Financial Times quoting a source saying China could inject more than $100 billion (70.5 billion euros).

But publicly, Beijing has been non-committal and Chinese state media said Europe must take responsibility for the crisis and not rely on "good Samaritans" to save the continent from its fiscal woes.

Regling said Europe was trying to come up with new mechanisms for investment in the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) in a bid to restore market confidence in the debt-laden region.

But China's vice finance minister said his country would wait for more details before committing to invest in the fund.

"We need to wait for the technicalities to be clear and also to carry out serious studies before we can decide on investment," Zhu Guangyao said.

The deal agreed in Brussels is designed to tackle the main elements of Europe's crisis by cutting Greek debt, bolstering the banks who may suffer losses as a result, backstopping other countries struggling with debt and improving the bloc's debt rescue fund, the EFSF.

One of the hardest parts of the deal to attain was forcing banks to take a 50 percent loss on their holdings of Greek debt to lessen Athens' financing burden and a push for banks to strengthen their capital base by a collective 100 billion euros.

The deal left some key questions unanswered about the long-term coherence of the eurozone -- particularly how budget discipline could be maintained in the future across the 17 countries of the disparate bloc.

It also remained to be seen whether bank writedowns of 50 percent on Greek debt would trigger a wave of insurance claims, spreading damage through the financial system.

In their note to investors, Goldman Sachs analysts Dirk Schumacher and Lasse Holboell Nielsen said it remained unclear how effective the measures to widen the scope of the EFSF "will ultimately prove to be and whether sufficient lending capacity can be raised to cover Italy also."

For Erik Nielsen, global chief economist at Italy's Unicredit, "the devil is in the details."

The analyst was particularly sceptical about having China and other top emerging economies come to Europe's rescue.

"It is not clear why Europe would go abroad to borrow euros (which, ultimately they could print themselves), and possibly against some implicit political indebtedness to countries they might face in future discussions, for example on trade or climate change issues," Nielsen argued.

"It is not clear that other countries would see a reason to participate in such a set-up without additional guarantees or political commitments -- if they liked the risk, then there are bonds out there to buy already now," he added.

© 2011 AFP

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