If there's anything more surprising than news of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes filing for divorce, it's the fact that European Union (EU) leaders actually agreed on something during their latest summit! Not only did they come up with one agreement, they even made three!
Market participants were overwhelmed to find out that EU leaders burned the midnight oil to come up with more than just a plan for a plan for a plan, as the conclusion of the EU Summit sparked rallies more amazing than the Amazing Spiderman at the end of the week. So before you start a brand-new week, month, and quarter of trading, let's have a quick recap of what the EU leaders agreed on:
1. Bailout funds to go directly to banks instead of governments?
EU leaders wanted to break the vicious cycle in which debt-ridden euro zone banks receive bailout funds from national governments whose debt levels increase in the process. This change was actually a suggestion from Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy who was concerned about the potential effect of Spain's pending bailout on their record-high bond yields.
Instead of holding governments accountable for additional financial obligations, EU leaders thought that easing the burden on the governments could allow them to secure more funding later on. Distributing the rescue funds directly to the financially troubled banks could help them meet their liquidity requirements without the added pressure on government bond yields.
Under this proposal, some EU leaders also thought it would be necessary to establish a centralized banking authority by the end of this year. However, the rest of the details have yet to be ironed out, as some nations might be unwilling to accept the partial loss of sovereignty that this might entail.
2. 120 billion EUR economic growth fund
EU leaders also discussed the notion that increased funding and more austerity measures won't be enough to solve their debt problems if they don't do anything to support economic growth. After all, bailouts can only do so much to keep debt levels in check for the meantime. Stronger economic growth could lessen the need for spending cuts and increase tax revenues, which could ensure that debt problems won't be back to haunt the region in the long run.
With that, EU leaders decided to allocate 120 billion EUR in existing reserves to a "growth pact" designed to spur economic growth, job creation, and investments. Part of these funds would boost the European Investment Bank's funds and increase its lending capacity. The rest of the funds would be doled out to infrastructure projects, small businesses subsidies, sustainable energy development, and transportation works.
3. Euro zone bond market bailout
Last but certainly not least, EU leaders tried to come up with a solution to stabilize European bond markets through the "flexible and efficient" use of bailout funds. Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti suggested using bailout funds to buy government debt while German Chancellor Angela Merkel added that governments accepting aid should still comply with strict fiscal requirements.
Bear in mind, however, that combining the emergency funds, namely the ESM and EFSF, could only cover less than a fourth of euro zone's total debt obligations. To put that in perspective, Italy and Spain's debt burdens amount to roughly 2 trillion EUR while the emergency funds' combined capacity is only 500 billion EUR.
At the end of the day, EU leaders still left much to be desired in terms of saving the euro zone from its worsening debt woes. After all, these changes won't kick in until all the details are finalized and their proposed central banking authority is in place.
Although several analysts argued that EU leaders merely came up with a quick band-aid fix instead of a lasting solution, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barrosso proudly announced that their decisions practically guaranteed the irreversibility of the euro. Do you agree with him? Let us know what you think by voting through our poll below!
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