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June 15, 2012 1:37 PM

Business

Greece and Spain: Fixes that Stick

The fixes that don't fix things are the scariest of breakdowns. It wasn't even a week ago that euro-zone finance ministers pledged 100 billion euros, or $125 billion, to bailout Spanish banks. The move calmed the market, for 13...

The fixes that don't fix things are the scariest of breakdowns.

It wasn't even a week ago that euro-zone finance ministers pledged 100 billion euros, or $125 billion, to bailout Spanish banks. The move calmed the market, for 13 minutes, and then the effort was derided as maybe half of what was needed to backstop the country's banks, which bet big time on real estate.

And so now Spain, still unfixed, is on the back burner. It's on to other worries. Will the Greek people vote for leaders this weekend who will ditch the euro? Will the much larger Italy be the next Spain?

British authorities are working on walling off their economy in case the Greek elections spook markets next week. The European central bank and the U.S. Federal Reserve are also prepared to step it and try to stabilize markets.

If things get hairy, the governmental powers need to -- almost above all else -- credibly send the message that they have things in hand. The scariest moments of the 2008 financial crisis came when the fixes stopped fixing things and investors simply refused to be calmed. Investors are a species that herds and, when spooked, stampedes. And those stampedes can be dangerous -- ask Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers et al.

We can only hope that if Greece does drop the euro, the powers that be are able to keep the herd calm. In the politically fractured Europe, that might be a lot to hope for.
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