Mixed Signals from the Eurozone

BRUSSELS – What does the eurozone’s future hold? It depends where you look. Some economic indicators suggest that things are looking up for the common currency’s survival; for example, employment has returned to its pre-crisis peak, and per capita GDP growth exceeded that of the United States last year. At the same time, political risks seem to be increasing, despite the improvements in Europe’s economy.

The evidence of an increasing risk of a eurozone breakup comes from three different indicators. But closer examination of those indicators suggests that, while the longer-term risks remain substantial, the short-term risks are rather low.

One widely used indicator is based on Sentix surveys of market participants, which show a strong increase in the proportion who believe that the eurozone will break up soon (over the next 12 months). And this time it is not Greece that is driving the result, but France and Italy.

Of course, Greece is in difficulty again. But, according to the Sentix indicator, the perceived likelihood of “Grexit” remains, despite a recent surge, well below its previous peaks. By contrast, the perceived likelihood of “Frexit” and “Italexit” are at 8% and 14%, both much higher than even at the peak of the eurozone crisis earlier in the decade.