Money in Motion

What the Sovereign Debt Selloff Really Means

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There's a big currency worry behind all the selling of Italian and Spanish bonds, this economist says.

It's hard to even figure out which assets are getting hit hardest these days, but certainly some European government bonds would be leading candidates. The thing is, investors selling Italian and Spanish bonds aren't just negative on those countries, says Stephen King, chief global economist at HSBC.

King argues that some of the selling represents investor views that the euro will not survive.

"If the euro breaks apart, bits of the euro will presumably strengthen, the Deutschemark bits of it, and bits of the euro will weaken, the Italian lira or peseta parts of it," he told CNBC. "The way you make that kind of play is through bond spreads. If you believe, for example, that the euro is going to fall apart, you would sell, say, Italian bonds vs. German bunds, and that's exactly what's been happening over the last few weeks."

Global Currency War?

The prospect of a breakup of the euro zone is still unlikely, most economists say. But talk of the euro's demise has been ramping up after euro zone leaders struggled to arrive at an aid package for Greece, and now as the European Central Bank is apparently getting busy in government bond markets.

King says Italy's fiscal management has actually been better than that in several other countries, and adds, "The bet on Italy isn't really a bet about Italy specifically. It's a bet about the euro."

You can watch the whole discussion in the video clip.

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