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  • Economics    March 6 
Europe is sliding into debt deflation

In 2011 and 2012, many thought the Euro might break up due to the sovereign debt crisis. Unlike countries that have their own currency, countries in the Eurozone are dependent on the monetary policy of the European Central Bank (ECB). This disconnect makes Euro countries much more vulnerable than other countries to solvency crises. Since, then, however the new chief of the ECB, Mario Draghi, has engaged in a bond-buying program of Outright Monetary Transactions (OMTs) which has helped struggling periphery countries (Spain, Greece, Portugal, Italy, etc) stay solvent.

But while this has lowered interest rates in the struggling countries — and done enough to keep the Euro together — it has not been enough to get Europe out of the woods. Unemployment still remains cataclysmically high in Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and high throughout the Eurozone. And now with inflation rapidly falling, many are worried that Europe is falling into debt deflation. Of course, Europe as a whole is not in deflation yet.

But as Paul Krugman argues, the process is already under way:

I'd say that to have debt deflation — in which falling prices due to a weak economy increase the real burden of debt, which depresses the economy further, and so on — you don't need to have literal deflation. The process begins as soon as you have lower inflation than expected when interest rates were set. It's also noteworthy that inflation rates in the highly indebted countries are all well below the eurozone average, with actual deflation in Greece and near-deflation in the rest. So the debt deflation spiral is in fact well underway. [The New York Times]

Europe's approach throughout the crisis has been to do the very minimum necessary to keep the Euro system afloat. It remains to be seen if that is an approach compatible with an economic recovery anytime soon.

- - John Aziz
 
 
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