The next 24 hours could prove a major turning point in Europe’s crisis, one that substantially reduces the risk for all investors on world markets.
Ireland proved for the first time that banks could take down a sovereign government in the Euro Zone. It called in to question the veracity of its banking system and last summer’s stress tests.
More fundamentally, a debate also rages over what the end game will be for the Euro Zone, in particular how it can accommodate small, uncompetitive countries that are overwhelmed with debt.
Inevitably, many investors have simply been too nervous to take on additional peripheral government debt. With a lack of buyers, those deciding to get out have done so at almost any price, causing spreads to blow out.
But two ‘tough love’ dynamics aimed at creating a better Euro Zone in the future have also exacerbated the situation in the present.
One is the desire of the German government to create a new mechanism to enable defaults after 2013 that extract pain from the private sector. It’s killed the ‘no default’ mantra that accompanied the creation of Europe’s trillion-dollar safety net—and the fragile confidence it sought to create after Greece blew up.
The second dynamic is the hawkishness of the ECB: President Jean Claude Trichet’s desire to exit the emergency support it’s giving banks as soon as possible. Earlier in the week, one London trader told me markets would ‘totally freak out’ if Trichet didn’t use his monthly news conference on Thursday to soften his stance on clawing-back that ultra-cheap liquidity in the New Year.
But now something more dramatic may be about to happen. Could the fact that Trichet is warning markets not to underestimate the ECB’s determination to resolve the crisis indicate a major U-turn will be unveiled tomorrow?
If the ECB is to become more Fed-like, the obvious first step would be massive buying of Euro Zone government debt to provide liquidity amid the buyers' strike. Others talk of not only joint bonds being issued by the 16 nations of the Euro Zone but that the ECB might broker their sale to China.
None of this will solve Europe’s problems. But no one else in Europe can move at the speed of the ECB or importantly with such deep pockets. Tomorrow’s news conference at 8:30am ET could buy us all enough time until either growth or inflation to show up in Europe.
Watch for CNBC's live coverage of Trichet's new conference, on-air and online, Thursday, December 2 at 8:30am ET.