S&P says euro zone may need another shock

Mon Dec 12, 2011 7:25am EST
 
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By Tova Cohen and Maayan Lubell

TEL AVIV (Reuters) - Ratings agency Standard & Poor's put more pressure on the euro zone on Monday, with its chief economist saying time was running out for the currency bloc to resolve its debt problems and that it might need another financial shock to get it moving.

Jean-Michel Six, chief economist of the agency that shocked financial markets last week by putting 15 euro zone countries on a watch for a potential downgrade, said last week's EU summit agreement was a significant step forward, but not enough.

S&P usually takes around three months to act after a warning, but has said that in this case it may do so more quickly.

"There is probably yet another shock required before everybody in the euro zone reads from the same page, for instance a major German bank experiencing some real difficulties on the markets, which is a genuine possibility in the near term," Six told a business conference in Tel Aviv.

"Then there would be a recognition that everybody is indeed on the same boat and that even German institutions can be affected by this contagion. I'm afraid this may still be required."

Twenty-six EU countries -- all, minus Britain -- agreed on Friday to go forward with further and deeper economic integration.

But the outcome has left financial markets uncertain whether and when more decisive action would be taken to stem the debt crisis, which began in Greece, spread to Portugal, Ireland, Italy and Spain and now threatens France and even economic powerhouse Germany.

Six said the summit had made progress "in terms of getting the governments mentally ready to commit in writing in some constitutional format to a medium-term fiscal strategy which would allow the ECB to become what it is not at the moment, at least officially, a lender of last resort."   Continued...