Analysis: Searching for glimmers of euro zone hope in 2012

Thu Dec 22, 2011 9:56am EST
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By Luke Baker

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - After two years of turmoil that has shattered confidence in the economics and politics of European monetary union, it would be rash in the extreme to suggest an end is in sight.

But through the pall of gloom that has hung over Brussels for months, vague whispers can now be heard in the corridors about a corner possibly being turned if several tricky elements come together in the months ahead.

At this point they are purely speculative musings, laden with multiple ifs. And it remains far easier to list all the potential pitfalls and obstacles that lie ahead than it does to identify the possible bright spots.

But the combination of the European Central Bank's provision of three-year liquidity for banks averting a credit crunch, the fact yields on Italian and Spanish 10-year bonds have fallen, the first steps towards deeper euro zone fiscal integration and the pure fatigue in markets after such a long period of all-consuming crisis may point to some relief ahead.

Mark Mobius, the Franklin Templeton fund manager known as something of a contrarian, went as far this week as to put a date on an end to the mayhem. That was stepping out on a limb, but it suggests that those attempting to take the pulse of the crisis may be beginning to shift their prognosis.

"The European crisis isn't as deep and terrible as people think," Mobius, who oversees $50 billion in emerging market investments, told Brazil's Valor Economico newspaper, saying he expected Europe's crisis to be over by June 2012.

"Nations there are in a process of negotiations and that takes time," he said.

European policymakers are not as bold as that. They have learnt over the past two years just how dangerous it is to make overly positive policy pronouncements.   Continued...