Economists, banks and even punters in bookmakers are studying more seriously scenarios involving the collapse of the eurozone.
Maybe not its total evaporation, but certainly shrinkage with peripheral or weak countries falling off the currency’s map — and in all cases, according to the experts, with a heavy price to pay.
Analysts agree that no country would emerge unscathed, at least in the short term.
As for the long term? Well, few even dare to imagine the fallout.
In the view of London-based Capital Economics, even a limited redrawing of the eurozone’s borders, with the exit of the bailed-out trio of Greece, Ireland and Portugal over the next two years, would trigger a drop in eurozone GDP of 1 percent next year and 2.5 percent in 2013.
That would equate to the same sort of economic contraction endured between 2008 and 2009 following the financial crisis triggered by the collapse in the US home-loan market.
In a recent note to investors, UBS bank calculated that if a “weak” euro country like Greece gave up the currency, it would cost every man, woman and child there about 10,000 euros (US$13,400) each in the first year, and thousands more over the adjustment period.
Even a “strong” country like Germany would see a loss of between 6,000 and 8,000 euros per head in year one — between one-quarter and one-fifth of the country’s annual economic output.
A return to the drachma, the deutsche mark, the punt and the franc or any other national currency would mean devaluations for some, appreciation for others.
According to Jens Nordvig of Japan’s Nomura Securities, Germany’s currency would rise against the US dollar, but Greece would lose 60 percent of its money’s value.
Italy, Spain or Belgium would lose around one-third each.
While scope for exports would improve, debt restructuring on that basis would mean a dramatic rise in borrowing costs for those governments who write off the most.
National banking systems would collapse, experts say, because of a loss of confidence in the value of the currency that replaced the euro.
This isn’t rocket science — panicking over hard-earned savings, experience shows citizens pull out what they can and flee, while companies would struggle to raise investment capital. And if the economy stopped functioning normally, there would then be the threat of widespread social unrest.
Meanwhile, Germany would lose export business — because of a rising national currency and also the emergence of new, cheaper European competition.
It would be no different in the event Italy or some other big eurozone economy left.
Jacques Cailloux, a Paris-based economist with the Royal Bank of Scotland, said that were France to exit the eurozone, Germany would suffer because “its banking system would be staring at exposure to French banking debt worth some 200 billion euros.”
US banks would be looking at 10 times that amount, Cailloux added.
Looking further down the line, Capital Economics believes prospects for former eurozone economies “may be improved by the ability of [these] former member states to set their own policy and allow their currencies to fluctuate.”
Wages would not have to drop under a devaluation, while suddenly a bottle of ouzo would not cost as much for others to import, for example.
“It’s hard to put a price on it, but clearly it would mean a huge cost, if not quite apocalyptic,” Cailloux said of the price for even partial eurozone breakup.