With the crisis once again nipping at their heels, European policymakers accomplished exactly what was expected of them. Absolutely nothing. From the FT:
European leaders put off any decisions on shoring up the region’s banks at a late-night summit on Wednesday despite rising concerns that instability in Greece was undermining confidence in the eurozone’s financial sector.
Instead, the heads of the EU’s main institutions were given the task of drawing up proposals for closer fiscal co-ordination in time for another summit next month, including plans that could include a path towards a Europe-wide deposit guarantee scheme and, in the longer term, commonly-backed eurozone bonds.
The trouble is that Europe doesn't have a month to wait for another summit. I am not confident they even have a week. But not to fear - the ECB is expected to step into the breech once again. At least that is the hope. But notice the irony. Germany doesn't want Eurobonds because of the moral hazard risk. They don't want to get stuck paying for Southern Europe's profligacy. At the same time, the ECB does want to act as lender of last resort for fear that will only encourage policymakers to put off hard decisions on fiscal union. Moral hazard to the right, moral hard to the left. The only path left is gridlock - and failure.
In the meantime, the Wall Street Journal reports on accelerating plans for a Greek exit.
European officials are stepping up contingency planning for a possible Greek exit from the euro zone, even as Europe's leaders struggled to overcome differences on how to resolve the currency bloc's crisis at a summit meeting here.
And, for good measure, St. Louis Federal Reserve President James Bullard let's us know that he sleeps easy at night. Via Reuters:
"I'm one that thinks that Greece could exit, and it could be handled in an appropriate way without causing too much damage, either in Europe or in the U.S.," St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank President James Bullard told Reuters.
I wish I could be so confident.