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Will wise men save Italy?

By Sheyna Steiner ·
Thursday, April 4, 2013
Posted: 4 pm ET

The European Central Bank met today and agreed to keep interest rates set at 0.75 percent -- maintaining the status quo.

According to the pre-press conference statement, Mario Draghi and the rest of the ECB believe prices will be stable over the medium term. With no worries about deflation, the central bank can't do much more to move the eurozone out of recession -- besides prod countries on fiscal policy.

"Euro area countries should build on their efforts to reduce government budget deficits and continue to implement structural reforms, thereby mutually reinforcing fiscal sustainability and economic growth. Fiscal policy strategies need to be complemented by growth-enhancing structural reforms," Draghi said in his introductory statement.

Just like in the United States, the central bank can't do everything. But there is little political will in some countries to undertake the necessary reforms and little support from the electorate.

For instance …

Case in point, Italy, which has struggled to reconcile the results of its election on Feb. 25.

"The ECB is basically done. There is not much more they can do. It is all in the hands of the political side which has not done a great job of reforming the eurozone, particularly Italy. Italy has been a laggard in terms of being serious about reforming," says Werner Bonadurer, clinical professor of finance at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.

With a growing unemployment problem and increasingly tight credit for businesses and individuals, Europe's third largest economy has much work to do but no way to move forward with reforms until the political stalemate breaks.

"The price has not been high enough yet," Bonadurer says. "It has not been tough enough for Italians to really see that it's now up to them to be very serious about reforming government."

Nonetheless, investors seem optimistic that some resolution will be found eventually -- at least on the political front. Italian bond yields fell earlier this week on news that Italy's president had appointed 10 "wise men" to bend their manly minds to the vexing political problem, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday.

"Italy's 10-year yield fell 14 basis points, or 0.14 percentage point, to 4.62 percent at 4:49 p.m. London time. It climbed to 4.86 percent on March 28, the highest level since March 5," according to the Bloomberg story, "Italian bonds advance amid attempts to end political deadlock."

What do you think about the eurozone? Is it a failed experiment, or are these growing pains? I think it will muddle through the problems and come out stronger, eventually.

Follow me on Twitter: @SheynaSteiner.

Senior investing reporter Sheyna Steiner is a co-author of "Future Millionaires' Guidebook," an e-book written by Bankrate editors and reporters. It's available at all the major e-book retailers.

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1 Comment
April 05, 2013 at 5:13 pm

Eurozone = America in 10-20 years without real fiscal and monetary policies is Washington