2011: A year of debt crises, downgrades

PTI New York | Updated on November 13, 2017 Published on December 25, 2011

From debt turmoils to downgrades, and the default risks for corporates and sovereign entities alike, a mosaic of grey shades overshadowed the global economic landscape in 2011 and the big brothers struggled to maintain even their anaemic growth rates.

Against the backdrop of spiralling European debt contagion and leadership lacunae, the very existence of their common currency euro — a symbol of regional unity — was seen at stake.

At the same time, the Americans were seen facing their own set of woes, as the political brinkmanship over debt ceiling kept the US economy on tenterhooks.

A slew of rating downgrades, including that of the US as a sovereign entity, as well as slowing growth prospects in emerging economies such as China and India, worsened the investor sentiments worldwide.

Reflecting the overall sluggishness, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) says it expects the global economy to grow by around four per cent in 2011 and 2012, much lower than over five per cent expansion seen in 2010.

“Because of threats of (further) faulty policy responses in the euro area, the global economy will likely enter 2012 on a weak note. A mild recession may not be such a bad draw after all,” Bank of America Merrill Lynch said in a report.

Grappling with severe credit crunch, massive protests against austerity measures and political transition, Greece continued to remain in the headlines.

Greece has already gulped down hundreds of billions of dollars — including $110-billion euro bailout package — in assistance from various sources including the euro zone members and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Other euro zone members, including Portugal and Ireland, too were saved from the brink with bailout plans. Euro area is a grouping of 17 countries that share common currency euro.

The financial instability across the region also saw change of guard at least in three nations — Greece, Italy and Spain. More interestingly, technocrats and economists rather than politicians are taking centre stage as seen in the case of Greece’s Lucas Papademos and Italy’s Mario Monti.

The persisting euro zone crisis not only caused cracks in the European unity, but has also hurt the growth trajectory of emerging nations such as India and China.

In the US, Democrats and Republicans sparred on the issue of raising debt ceiling beyond $14.3 trillion, a scenario that sent out worrying signals to the market.

The ultimate blow came with S&P stripping the US of its coveted ‘AAA’ credit rating with a downgrade in its sovereign creditworthiness score of the world’s largest economy.

As debt ceiling drama and downgrade played out, the greenback took a severe beating for a few weeks and strengthened the calls for a global currency alternative for US dollar.

While the famed G-20 grouping fell short of coming up with radical solutions to bolster overall growth, the European leaders summit, earlier this month, pledged stringent financial discipline, even as disagreements saw the UK standing as the odd-man out in the 27-nation European Union.

All through the year, rating agencies including S&P, Moody’s and Fitch kept issuing warnings, negative outlooks and downgrades and, towards the year-end, placed 15 euro zone nations under watch for possible downgrades.

“Against a backdrop of unresolved structural fragilities, a barrage of shocks hit the international economy this year,” the IMF said in a report.

The devastating natural disaster in Japan in March and the continuing political unrest in many oil—producing nations added to the global economic uncertainty.

In the second half of 2011, the fabled growth stories of Chinese and Indian economies seemed to unravel under slumping overseas demand as well as intense inflationary pressures.

China and India — once tipped as growth engines for the global economy — are staring at slowdown.

As the IMF put it, “the global economy is in a dangerous new phase”.

Published on December 25, 2011
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