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Transaction Tax Might Work if Worldwide: Strategist

Thursday, 18 Aug 2011 | 3:37 AM ET

The debate over whether a tax should be imposed on financial transactions, part of proposals put forward by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, continued Thursday morning as markets around Europe sank again.

Josef Ackermann, chief executive of Deutsche Bank , told CNBC Wednesday that tentative proposals for a revival of the transaction tax, would make it more difficult for banks like his to be profitable in the euro zone and drive customers outside the region.

He added that Merkel and Sarkozy's other euro zone proposals are a "step in the right direction," and showed their commitment to defending the euro and addressing debt issues in the euro zone.

Sean Corrigan, Chief Investment Strategist, Diapason Commodities Management, told CNBC Thursday there were lots of arguments against any tax whatever, but conceded that "even a free marketer like me worries that financial trading now is so costless that it's become destabilizing."

"I don't know if tax is the best way to do it, perhaps it would be better just to address capital of the key players," he said.

"Ultimately, this would really have to be a worldwide tax, and do we really want to go down that road?"

The mention of a transaction tax has helped cause the market "uncertainty" since it was mooted on Tuesday, Thanos Vamvakidis, Head of European G10 FX Strategy, BofA Merrill Lynch , told CNBC.

"This is not the time to discuss such actions given that the financial sector is under pressure and we have a crisis that has been getting worse in the euro zone.

"Even though the debate seems to have shifted towards tax, the crisis is still there."

Part of the problem is that there appear to be fewer weapons in the arsenal of politicians trying to shore up struggling economies than there were during the credit crisis of 2007-08.

"In contrast to the crisis of 2007-08, there's no political room," said Vamvakidis. "Interest rates across the world are at low levels and there isn't room for fiscal stimulus, given that many countries are threatened with fiscal imbalances."

Italy and Spain, the region's third and fourth largest economies, have "come into the periphery" with struggling smaller economies such as Greece and Ireland, Domenico Crapanzano, head of European rates sales & trading group at Jefferies & Co , told CNBC.

Meanwhile France and Germany have taken matters into their hands after trouble elsewhere in the euro zone threatened to destabilize their own economies.

Last week, French banks suffered huge share price falls after rumors that it would become the next major economy to suffer a credit downgrade swept the market.

"It used to be 27 guys getting into the room, now it's only 2 guys getting into the room and telling the other 25 what's going to happen," Crapanzano said.

"Natural evolution is that if you're going to bail out these countries, it has to come with conditions."

There has been renewed debate about whether the single European currency can survive this phase of the financial crisis.

Crapanzano pointed out that the tax take in many European countries is declining as more people lose their jobs and income tax returns decline.

He added that there is still a "lot of nervousness" in the market and investors are "moving towards safe havens."

The Swiss government announced several economic measures to soften the Swiss franc, which has strengthened to record levels against the euro as investors look for safe havens, Wednesday.

Germany, the region's biggest economy, has been relatively resilient but posted disappointing GDP growth for the second quarter earlier this week.

"The German economy has clearly benefitted from the euro," said Vamvakidis.

"If it exits, in addition to hurting exports, it will also hurt the rest of Europe and then further damage German exports."

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