Something is going on in Europe.
Take a look at this chart of the euro/dollar exchange rate, and how some event triggered a step down mid week of last week (from xe.com).
The event in question was a press conference by Mario Draghi (See the Wall Street Journal real time blog on this event at Mario Draghi Delivers Fresh ECB Plan — Recap).
The European Central Bank under Draghi is moving into exotic territory – trying negative interest rates on bank deposits and toying with variants of Quantitative Easing (QE) involving ABS – asset backed securities.
All because the basic numbers for major European economies, including notably Germany and France (as well as long-time problem countries such as Spain), are not good. Growth has stalled or is reversing, bank lending is falling, and deflation stalks the European markets.
Europe – which, of course, is sectored into the countries inside and outside the currency union, countries in the common market, and countries in none of the above – accounts for several hundred million persons and maybe 20-30 percent of global production.
So what happens there is significant.
Then there is the Ukraine crisis.
Zerohedge ran this graphic recently showing the dependence of European countries on gas from Russia.
The US-led program of imposing sanctions on Russia – key individuals, companies, banks perhaps – flies in the face of the physical dependence of Germany, for example, on Russian gas.
On the other hand, there is lots of history here on all sides, including, notably, the countries formerly in the USSR in eastern Europe, who no doubt fear the increasingly nationalistic or militant stance shown by Russia currently in, for example, re-acquiring Crimea.
As Chancellor Merkel has stressed, this is an area for diplomacy and negotiation – although there are other voices and forces ready to rush more weapons and even troops to the region of conflict.
Finally, as I have been stressing from time to time, there is an emerging demographic reality which many European nations have to confront.
Edward Hugh has several salient posts on possibly overlooked impacts of aging on the various macroeconomies involved.
There also is the vote on Scotland coming up in the United Kingdom (what we may, if the “yes” votes carry, need to start calling “the British Isles.”)
I’d like to keep current with the signals coming from Europe in a few blogs upcoming – to see, for example, whether swing events in the next six months to a year could originate there.