Final touches were put on a bailout package for Ireland on Sunday so that it could be announced before the open of Asian markets on Monday. But investors have not been reassured, fearing that contagion will spread debt troubles further in the European Union (EU), starting with Portugal.
Markets showed their distrust of the Irish bailout all over the world, beginning in Asia, where stocks got off to a difficult start. However, Asian markets improved on a strong open of European markets after taking a wait-and-see attitude. The euro wasn’t so fortunate, hitting a two-month low against the dollar in the day’s trading and closing there.
The early rise in European stocks didn’t last either, turning lower, and closing at their lowest level in eight weeks. Banks took the biggest hits, with BNP Paribas (BNPP.PA), BBVA (BBVA.MC), Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) and Societe Generale (SOGN.PA) all recording drops of between 3.0% and 4.7%.
The dollar started strong as investors sought safety, although later in the day it dropped back a bit. U.S. stock futures rose, too, in the wake of strong showings in the after-Thanksgiving Christmas shopping rush, then gave back some pre-market gains. When the U.S. markets opened, however, the Dow dropped 0.73%, the S&P fell 0.7%, and the Nasdaq lost 0.61% in early trading; all hovered at the low range in afternoon trading.
Gold rose to $1,363.19, although it did go as high as $1.363.45 in reaction to all the concerns about the euro zone. In addition, Reuters said that physical demand for the precious metal rose.
Doubts linger about the solvency of other countries in the euro zone. U.S. economist Nouriel Roubini was noted in a Reuters report to have told business daily Diario Economico that Portugal might be next: “Like it or not, Portugal is reaching the critical point. Perhaps it could be a good idea to ask for a bailout in a preventative fashion.”
Portuguese business confidence dropped for the second straight month in November; the very austerity measures meant to reassure investors that Portugal could handle its economic woes are contributing to a poor economic outlook for businesses in that country. Portugal is losing citizens to emigration in large numbers; Reuters reported that during 2007-2008, 100,000 people left their homeland. Those numbers may rise as discouraged Portuguese citizens seek brighter futures elsewhere.
Exemplifying the gloom felt in Lisbon over the economic situation, author and columnist Miguel Sousa Tavares wrote in the weekly Expresso, “It is sufficient to read the international economic press to understand that the next government is coming in a month or two and that it has a name and program ready—it is called the IMF.”