Germany steps up demands for debt cutting campaign

17th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

The euro, stocks and oil endured another rough ride Monday as German demands that Europe confront its debt crisis with tougher rules rattled markets.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble said that to reassure investors and halt the euro's slide to a four year low against the dollar, deficit reduction has to be the "number one objective" in Europe.

He will this week demand demand tougher rules for countries that use the euro while France's finance minister said ahead of an EU ministerial meeting in Brussels that debt abusers should face sanctions.

After agreeing a 110 billion euro bailout for Greece and a 750 billion euro fund for other European Union nations that could struggle to repay loans, Europe's leaders did little to alleviate fears that the debt crisis is over.

Worries that a debt default by a country like Greece could hit the world financial system in the same way the collapse of Lehman Brothers did in 2008 have badly hit the euro and shares.

The euro dropped to 1.2235 dollars in Asian trade Monday -- its lowest since April 2006 -- compared with 1.2358 dollars in New York Friday. It later recovered to 1.2341 dollars in Europe.

Tokyo shares fell 2.17 percent as dealers worried about Japanese exporters and Europe's all fell after opening before making up most of their lost ground.

Oil fell below 70 dollars a barrel at one stage in Asia, before recovering to 71.6 dollars. But it has now lost 15 dollars since May 3.

Germany's Finance Minister Schaeuble was to lay out proposals on Friday to bolster the eurozone's Stability and Growth Pact, which lays down deficit and debt limits which that Greece and other countries have breached.

A ministry spokesman said the pact "has not been sufficient to prevent bad budgetary trends, not only in Greece but in other eurozone countries."

The spokesman said the minister would meet EU President Herman Van Rompuy on Friday for talks with other euro countries "to ensure that the eurozone as a whole is strengthened."

Press reports said Germany could demand a European version of its own constitutional "debt brake", which puts a legal limit on public deficits.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also sent a warning on Sunday that European governments have to do more to control debt and spending.

Last week's rescue package had "done nothing more than to buy time until we have brought order to these competitive differences and to the budget deficits of individual euro countries," she told a trades union conference.

The euro's troubles are "only possible because of huge differences in the economic strengths and debt levels of member states," Merkel said.

International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn also said Sunday that European nations had taken too long to respond to the Greek crisis.

France's Finance Minister Christine Lagarde said: "We need to check how best to impose sanctions" on fiscal miscreants. She told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that sanctions must be: "daunting" and could include withholding EU money or voting rights.

Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker said he was most concerned at the speed of the euro's fall.

"I am not worried as far as the current exchange rate is concerned, I'm worried as far as the rapidity of the fall is concerned," the head of the eurozone finance ministers said at the Brussels meeting.

Analysts also highlighted a return of doubts in recent days.

The euro "was previously one of the safe-haven currencies but given the source of many of the concerns is the euro area, with worries still evident about both the potential need for a bail-out at some point in the future and the state of the European banking system, the euro has become more closely linked with risk," said Paul Robinson at Barclays Capital in London.

"The primary concern centres around the view that last week's (EU) announcements are nothing more than a temporary fix and that debt restructuring will have to be part of any lasting solution," said Dermot O'Leary a Dublin-based economist with Goodbody Stockbrokers.

Hideaki Inoue at Mitsubishi UFJ Trust and Banking Corp. commented: "The entire economic outlook is becoming increasingly grim."

© 2010 AFP

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