Europe Economy

Europe's blue-chips warn on euro strength


Some of the biggest names in European business have further complicated the dilemma currently facing Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank, with a stubbornly strong euro taking its toll on revenues in the region.

While the ECB traditionally aims to create an equilibrium in consumer prices and employment, major businesses are increasingly hoping Draghi will guide the euro lower. He could do so by suggesting the bank will embark on further monetary easing, although increasingly investors are looking for action rather than words.

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Draghi took center stage on Thursday once again, with a monetary policy speech in Amsterdam in which he said a rise in the euro could prompt the ECB to act.

Dutch electronics conglomerate Philips will be one such company hoping for a weaker currency bemoaning "significant currency impact" in its earnings release on Tuesday. Revenues at decorative paints producer AkzoNobel have also taken a hit with "adverse currency effects" as the euro rises against plunging emerging market currencies in Asia and Latin America.

German software company SAP said last week that operating profit would experience a negative currency impact of approximately 5 percentage points in 2014 if the strength of the euro remained at its current rate.

Chad Ehlers | Getty Images

Where many companies once looked at new global markets for a boost to revenues, this latest round of currency fluctuations has hurt, and is expected to hurt, coffers at Europe's biggest multinationals. Imports from the region become increasingly more expensive for emerging market consumers and therefore become less competitive.

The anguish felt comes at a time of currency devaluation around the world after the global financial crash of 2008. The U.S. and Japan have pumped liquidity into their economies which has caused their currencies to fall with this excess cash in the system. The U.S. Federal Reserve has dialed back on its asset purchases but the greenback has yet to see the appreciation that many were expecting. The scaling back of U.S. asset purchases prompted a tumble in emerging market assets.

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Europe seems to be toying with the idea of introducing its own quantitative easing (QE) program with Draghi regularly indicating he is ready to act with a range of policy tools. Gemma Godfrey, the head of investment strategy at Brooks Macdonald, believes waging a "currency war" will be hard to achieve for Draghi as something like QE would be "politically tricky."

"Influence on the currency markets will be indirect, and only rhetoric will be able to tackle the 'strong euro' issue directly," she told CNBC via email.

Marshall Gittler, head of global FX strategy at IronFX, said that Draghi's concerns regarding the euro are slightly different from those expressed by CEOs. Draghi is more worried about the impact that its changing value has on prices, he said, even if the euro is technically still within fair value compared to the dollar.

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Gittler added that he was incredulous as to why European companies were "whinging about" the euro strength. "The euro is pretty much at its long-term average doubt many people in business would like it to be lower, but they should go visit Switzerland for a few days," he said.

Meanwhile, Simon Derrick, chief currency strategist at BNY Mellon has drawn his own conclusions as to why the euro is seeing unusual stubbornness of late. Delving into what little data and statistics are available from China, he suggests that its central bank has been busy diversifying its foreign reserves holdings into the euro.