Economic Outlook: Slow sinks in

Investors,
generally, don’t like slow, but that’s where economies in Europe
are headed anyway.

The euro
went still lower Monday, reaching a four-year low against the dollar that
showed a $1 trillion rescue effort for what it was worth: a lot, but not
enough.

European
markets surged for one day last week after the European Union and the
International Monetary fund assembled $957 billion in loans for debt-burdened
countries, like Spain, Portugal and Britain
— and like Greece, except Greece was
granted a separate $143 billion loan package.

In Spain, Prime
Minister Jose Luis Rodríguez Zapatero proposed wage cuts for government
workers, which gave markets a boost, proving investors are focused for now on
debt and sustainable financial policies, as opposed to discretionary spending
and fast profits. Over the weekend, however, European Central Bank President
Jean-Claude Trichet said Europe was up against
“severe tensions” amid chaotic market behavior, The New York Times
reported Monday.

Stocks in
Asia fell with two broad concerns undermining
investor confidence. The first is that China will attempt to slow its
growth to ward off inflation. The second was defined by Callum Henderson, head
of foreign exchange strategy at Standard Chartered in Singapore.

“Even
if you take a rose-tinted view of the situation — even if you believe Greece will not default, and that various
austerity measures will be passed — even then, growth in the eurozone is going
to be severely hit,” Henderson
told the Times.

Eurostat
last week, providing official data for the European Union, said economic growth
in the EU 27 and in the eurozone grew 0.2 percent in the first quarter – more
sluggish than rose-tinted by anyone’s measure. Not to be overlooked, it was China that was
pegged to lead the global economy out of the most severe downturn since the
Great Depression. Now it seems China
is about to renege on that implied generosity.

In Shanghai, markets fell 5.07 percent Monday, leading Australia, which considers China a buyer,
to post a 3.12 percent drop in the S&P/ASX 200 index. The Japanese index,
the Nikkei 225, fell 2.17 percent and the Hang Seng in Hong
Kong dropped 2.14 percent and the Taiwanese TAIEX lost 2.23
percent.

In Europe, the depressed euro — at a four-year low against
the dollar — is a cause for celebration among European exporters and those in
the tourism business. The euro’s weakness has helped provide Mercedes Benz with
a sales boost of more than 20 percent in the United States January through
April. U.S.
tourists, meanwhile, can suddenly afford an upgraded berth on a Mediterranean
cruise.

But the
rumbling still creates a sense of unease. The Shanghai, composite index has fallen 22
percent since January 1. European markets are down 2 percent from the first of
the year. U.S.
markets are up about 2 percent, the Times said.

In
midmorning trading in Europe Monday, the FTSE 100 in Britain
gained 0.91 percent, while the DAX 30 in Germany rose 1.41 percent. The CAC
40 in France
rose 0.77 percent and the pan-European DJ Stoxx 50 rose 1.29 percent.

Investors
recently have proved they have already taken the hint, which was spelled out by
the IMF in a recent report. “High levels of public indebtedness could
weigh on economic growth for years,” the report said.

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