How Long Will This Summit Rally Last?

06/29/2012 2:34 pm EST


Jim Jubak

Founder and Editor,

As with previous summits, Europe may have taken a good first step to address its problems, but the odds are strongly against them parlaying it into a sustained turnaround, writes MoneyShow’s Jim Jubak, also of Jubak’s Picks.

You’re excused if you don’t know exactly what European leaders decided at the end of today’s summit—they can’t seem to agree either—or what the actual effect might be. So far, the financial markets are positive but confused.

In the broadest outlines, European leaders agreed that:

  • the Eurozone’s bailout fund(s) can be used to inject capital directly into struggling banks without being funneled through national central banks, which would add to national budget deficits. The agreement clearly includes Spain. It might expand to Ireland. Italy? Unclear but it seems like not at the moment. This direct injection of capital, however, seems like it will only be possible after the creation of a Eurozone-wide bank supervisor. (See Item No. 2 below.)
  • a Eurozone-wide single bank supervisor will be created for all banks, taking the place of the current regime that has each country’s banks governed by the country’s national bank or national bank regulators. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that she expects a proposal on how to do this by the end of 2012.
  • Loans to Spain from the permanent bailout fund, the still to be ratified (although Germany was scheduled to vote on this today) European Stability Mechanism, will not have seniority to other, private bondholders. This is hugely important, since giving seniority in the case of a default to Eurozone institutions would have resulted in more private investors fleeing the market for Spanish debt.
  • Countries that use the bailout fund to buy their debt will not have to submit to a full Greek-style monitoring program. At least that’s what Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti thinks the summit agreed on. Other officials, at the European Commission, for example, are still talking about “very strict conditions.” Monti has said that the troika (European Commission, European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund) won’t be involved in deciding when a country gets a bailout or what the terms might be. Both Germany and France say it will.

And what didn’t the summit do? The Eurozone still doesn’t have a roadmap to fiscal integration, or to a banking union (including Eurozone-wide deposit insurance).

The growth pact is the same meager $120 billion, most of it already budgeted money, that looked so inadequate when it was first proposed.

The existing European Financial Stability Facility still has to raise its money in the financial markets (since it wasn’t given a banking license and thus can’t tap the European Central Bank), and the new permanent European Stability Mechanism, the replacement bailout fund, doesn’t yet exist.

Also, the mechanism is still limited to €500 billion in size. That amount was seen as too small to bail out Spain and Italy before the summit. It is still too small today.

This isn’t to say that the summit didn’t produce anything of significance. The move to inject Eurozone capital directly into Spanish banks is a major step toward treating the obligations of Eurozone banks as obligations of the Eurozone as a whole instead of individual national governments.

But nonetheless, this summit did very little but buy time. Past summits and agreements have done that as well, only to see the Eurozone’s leaders squander that time. The big problems remain, and the clock is still ticking on the depressed Spanish and Italian economies.

The headlines—in Germany’s Der Spiegel “How Italy and Spain Defeated Merkel at EU Summit” and in Italy “Super Marios,” in a reference to the defeat of Germany at the summit by Mario Monti and in the European soccer tournament after two goals by Italy’s Mario Balotelli—do give Mario Monti enough of a success, in my opinion, to fend off an immediate move by Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Liberty Party to bring down the government and force an early vote.

But after today’s rally, on relief that the summit produced anything at all, I think the markets are likely to discover that the problems that existed before the summit still exist after the summit. I’d take profits (if any) here from swing trades, or in positions that you don’t want to hold for the rest of the summer.

It’s just a question of how long the euphoria takes to wear off. That will depend in a good part on the news flow out of the Chinese and US economies in the next few weeks.

Full disclosure: I don’t own shares of any of the companies mentioned in this post in my personal portfolio. The mutual fund I manage, Jubak Global Equity Fund, may or may not now own positions in any stock mentioned in this post. The fund did own shares of Polypore International as of the end of September. For a full list of the stocks in the fund as of the end of September see the fund’s portfolio here.

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