The Eurozone’s Autumn Hangover

NEW YORK – After a summer of Europeans forgetting their woes and tanning themselves at the beach, the time for a reality check has come. For the fundamental problems of the eurozone remain unresolved.

First, a trillion-dollar bailout package in May prevented an immediate default by Greece and a break-up of the eurozone. But now sovereign spreads in the peripheral eurozone countries have returned to the levels seen at the peak of the crisis in May.

Second, a fudged set of financial “stress tests” sought to persuade markets that European banks’ needed only €3.5 billion in fresh capital. But now Anglo-Irish alone may have a capital hole as high as €70 billion, raising serious concerns about the true health of other Irish, Spanish, Greek, and German banks.

Finally, a temporary acceleration of growth in the eurozone in the second quarter boosted financial markets and the euro, but it is now clear that the improvement was transitory. All of the eurozone’s peripheral countries’ GDP is still either contracting (Spain, Ireland, and Greece) or barely growing (Italy and Portugal).