There were those who thought it would never happen, those who thought it would be a disaster and those who thought it would blow Europe asunder...
And, of course, there were those who hoped (or feared?) it would MAKE a European nation and pave the way to a UNITED STATES OF EUROPE.
What am I talking about?
Well, the introduction of a currency for Europe, the EURO.
Can you believe it? It's already been ten years since the single currency was launched into anxious financial markets amid fears of failure and forex massacre (notes and coins were only introduced two years later to replace respective national currencies). So, what's the verdict after the first decade? Thumbs up or thumbs down?
Well, for starters, we all know it DID happen. So it WAS possible. No questions about that.
And then ... the Euro did NOT get slaughtered in the markets. Not even on its first day. In fact, over the course of these first ten years, there have been far more collective laments about the strength of the Euro than about its weakness. Because for forex traders, day ONE of the Euro was very simple and very unsentimental: they simply replaced deutschmark with Euro and Bundesbank with European Central Bank and moved on. All they had to get used to was new exchange rates.
You see, the Euro and its brand new central bank, the ECB, might have been without a track record; but for the financial community they were simply the heirs of the German deutschmark and ITS central bank, the Bundesbank.
And, so far at least, the currency union has NOT fallen apart. And so far, all the prophets of doom have been proven wrong. So far.... But let's not be too optimistic here: multi-nation currency unions of the past have always fallen apart ... the latest in that line - the Scandinavian monetary union tying Norway, Sweden and Denmark together with one currency in 1875 - lasted for a respectable 39 years and only fell apart with the outbreak of WWI in 1914. So, it's early days for this young European currency.
It's that time of the year, when children -- those who still believe in him! -- tend to send off letters to the North Pole, to a certain Mr. Claus to inform him about their wishes for Christmas in the (often) vain hope that they might be fulfilled and that, come Christmas night, this "special something" arrives down the chimney.
Trichet should be fired. Bernanke should be fired. Lethargic politicians should be fired.
That's the collective wail of consternation we keep hearing from financial markets around the globe these days.
Ah, yes. How droll Isn't that a bit like a bunch of arsonists were complaining about the fire brigade being too lax and incompetent in fighting the fires they themselves have ignited?
But, more seriously. What CAN politicians, central banks really do?
Let's start with the central banks.
We tried both tactics, didn't we?
The Fed's emergency rate cuts, prompted and wanted by hysterical bankers AND the ECB's, with the stubborn "no cuts, if inflation doesn't come down" approach. Guess what. One worked as little as the other.
And then the markets were screaming for a concerted rate efforts. They got it (granted, FAR TOO LATE!). But did it work? Nope.
So what now?
What about politics and politicians?
The $700 billion U.S. bailout package was what was needed. NOTHING else would save the markets. Ok, there it is now. Saved the markets? Nope.
Bailout packages for Europe were needed. OK, the Europeans could sadly not come up with a COMMON PLAN, but hell's bells, why does anybody seriously expect a COMMON EU-WIDE bailout plan, when we have such different countries with different situations of their respective economies and banking industries to deal with?
I don't know about you, but I have had this Titanic feeling for quite a while now.
There was this big, fat, menacing iceberg straight ahead, a few alert crew members (NOT the senior officers, mind) spotted it early enough and sounded warnings. And a few journalists, too, sort of from the lower deck (your's truly included, if you recall).
Ok, I could write about WHAT exactly ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet said or didn´t say at today´s press briefing following the expected "rates on hold" from the Euro tower ...
OK, Frau Wadhwa has ALWAYS been a great fan of our very own Rick Santelli \(hey, even my Mum loves him and that HAS to count for something!\)... And throughout this crisis that has mushroomed into a very nasty nuclear cloud before us, I have always maintained -- and often said so on-air and off! -- that good old Rick is one of the few voices of common sense and reason in the markets and on our very own channel. Today's performance and outburst from the market pit once again proved that to me with a vengeance!!!!
Rick, it's official: You rock! Hang in there! I for one am totally with ya! Or in more dramatic terms:
Rick Santelli über alles, über alles auf dem Markt!
There, I hear our Rick debating with the changing troops of other CNBC colleagues that "this is no time for ideology, " that politicians need to "get their thumbs out" and sign up on these much needed fund injections into the ailing system and "work out the details later."
There, I hear some of those usually oh-so-cool and smart market players, bankers and Gordon Gecko-sound-a-likes with panic in their eyes and screeching, frantic voices hysterically calling for action NOW, because "we have no time." Because the market is losing another 500 today or tomorrow and more banks are going to go bust and the economy is failing fast -- and, and, and...
If it weren't so sad and so serious, I could have burst out laughing. No, not good old Teutonic Schadenfreude... No need for that. OUR bankers and politicians were eager enough to buy that "American" banking dream of banking without the hindrance of common sense, let alone PRUDENCE only too well.
CNBC.com's Kim Khan is temporarily hijacking Eurocentric to provide blogs on the business of brewing from Oktoberfest in Munich.
There are two types of seating at the Oktoberfest tents: reserved and unreserved. My attempt at entering the reserved seating was blocked by security, press pass notwithstanding.