Ahead of the weekend’s pivotal Greek elections, the global investment committee at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney has issued a report called “What Can We Expect from Greece?” It outlines in some detail how things got so bad and what major challenges lie ahead for both Greece, the rest of Europe, and investors worldwide. It reminds investors that even though the US has a very limited amount of trade with Greece, its trade and financial links with the European Union are significant. And despite Greece’s small size, its economy is important to the EU because it highlights where the union’s structural problems lie. Possible solutions could also serve as a blueprint for dealing with other problem countries including Portugal, Spain and Ireland.
At a minimum, the report says, “From a global perspective, the currency union, which lacks fiscal integration and a strong governance structure, needs structural changes.”
The report outlines five possible outcomes, from the most extreme, including a breakup of the entire Euro Zone, with each country reverting to its pre-Euro currency. Another scenario is that not all 17 members of the Euro Zone may be there in a year or two. Even less severe possibilities include the Euro Zone staying intact and either continuing on the current path of internal devaluation of so-called “periphery countries” like Portgual and Ireland, or achieving tighter fiscal centralization. Another scenario involves a coordinated rebalancing of competitiveness among Euro Zone countries. That will mean stronger countries, like Germany, will follow expansionary policies and incur inflation. That will, in turn, narrow the “competitiveness gap.”
But the report’s authors say regardless of the outcome for Greece, “policymakers need to make changes to preserve the euro and restore economic health.”