Due universi paralleli

Ieri, 16 ottobre 2016, il Corriere della Sera pubblicava in prima pagina un articolo di Francesco Giavazzi, giornalista ed economista e uomo che ha avuto reponsabilità di Governo in Italia, sul tema dell'Eurozona. Il tono dell'articolo era questo: c'è il rischio che in Eurozona ci sia un "eccesso di tranquillità". Motivando il tutto come segue:

Dopo il referendum italiano l’Europa entrerà in una lunga apnea. Un intervallo che durerà un paio d’anni, il tempo necessario per votare in Francia e Germania, nel 2017, e poi formare nuovi governi, con un negoziato che, a Berlino, potrebbe non essere facile. In questo periodo i temi politici al centro dell’attenzione saranno domestici, mentre su quelli europei regnerà una grande calma. Ma non perché l’Europa avrà risolto i suoi problemi: l’inevitabile cancellazione del debito greco verrà solo rimandata, il Portogallo, oggi il Paese più debole dell’Ue, rimarrà in bilico, di completare l’unione bancaria non si parlerà più, né di riscrivere le regole per i bilanci pubblici che lo stesso presidente Juncker giudica ormai superate. In questi due anni i contrasti fra i governi nazionali e la Ue verranno sopiti, le leggi Finanziarie approvate, anche se non proprio in linea con le regole di Bruxelles. Le banche non falliranno: se necessario si troverà un modo per salvarle  con denaro pubblico. 

Sempre durante il weekend, abbiamo letto le riflessioni sulla Eurozona di Hugh Hendry, notissimo gestore internazionale del Fondo Eclectica. Le sue parole descrivono una realtà opposta a quella descritta da Giavazzi, nel modo che segue (la citazione è lunga: vogliamo essere completi):

2017 is a big year for elections on the continent. In France both major parties have yet to decide on who will represent them in next year’s elections. But regardless of who the parties choose to run, both are likely to be pulled towards the distinctly anti-European nationalist agenda of Marine Le Pen who seems almost assured of reaching the second round run-off in the Presidential election next May. And that will be followed in the autumn by federal elections in Germany, where recent regional polls saw a disastrous outcome for the once unassailable Chancellor Merkel. Moreover, the anti-immigration mood seems to be fuelling the rise of the right wing Alternative for Germany party, which is seeking amongst other things a referendum on going back to the fabled Deutschmark. And that’s before we mention that Spain has yet to form a government despite two national elections; a third is deemed highly plausible for December. And that the passing of the Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive, making it illegal for any European bank to be rescued before 8% of their total liabilities have been bailed-in, ignores all of the lessons from the failure of Lehman Brothers and has effectively blocked urgent capital repair for systemically important institutions in Europe that find themselves dangerously undercapitalised. The system simply isn’t working…we could go on and on but you know most of this already. 

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But Europe isn’t just under threat from political upheaval. To best understand the mess the continent is in today consider that in September and the first weeks of October we have seen European banks outperform the stock market as the continent’s yield curve has modestly steepened. The absurdity of this demonstrates the problem of devising an appropriate monetary policy for the bloc. Put simply, keeping rates low enough to fix the economy under the current framework seems to consign the banks to the dust heap of meagre earnings in perpetuity. But any steepening of the curve sufficient to raise bank profitability would tighten policy in the real economy, kill off any nascent recovery and condemn the continent to further penury and the resulting surge in populism that a lack of economic hope engenders. However we view the present monetary policy as being undoubtedly the worst of both worlds – we have populist rebellions and bad banks. And with the end of the current term of QE looming it could be set to get even worse. The monetary hawks seem to be growing more confident within the ECB. How else can we explain the absurd notion of QE tapering and Draghi’s recent dispiriting performances at the monthly ECB press conferences? He should quit now. He can always say he tried. But in the end it would seem that the monetary zealots from the insular German or Austrian schools were too obstinate and the public at large could not be persuaded of the merits of QE. This shift in power at the head of the ECB brings into question the resolve of the central bank to act quickly to prevent future crises. With the banking system emasculated and governments’ bone-headedly pursuing fiscal rectitude, the ECB’s easy monetary policy has always been the only thing holding it all together. A policy error now could jeopardise the whole European project.

Sembra quasi che si parli di due realtà diverse, in due Universi lontanissimi. Il contrasto è singolare, ma lo portiamo alla attenzione di chi ci legge anche per una ragione pratica: i nostri portafogli vengono gestiti sulla base di valutazioni che sono vicine a quelle di Hendry, e lontane un milione di miglia (un Universo, appunto) da quelle di Giavazzi.