NEW YORK (
) -- With 2012 nearly half over, the following list, though not comprehensive, highlights a few questions that we believe many investors are pondering for 2012's back half.
Can European Leaders Save the Eurozone?
There's no silver bullet to cure all that ails the eurozone. Yet to us, one key fact has been clear as the situation has unfolded over the past three-plus years: The political parties may change, but leaders remain resolved to preserve the euro, at least for now.
They continue to muster the political will (albeit often at the last second) to compromise, create unprecedented support mechanisms and buy the monetary union more time.
Although this step-by-step approach can seem tedious, in our view, it's likely the appropriate course of action. What the eurozone's periphery needs most are reforms aimed at increasing competitiveness. That will take time, which the dithering continues to buy for those nations.
Is Spain (and/or Italy) the Next Greece?
Following Greece's less-chaotic-than-expected election, focus returned to Spain and Italy, the only PIIGS still accessing public debt markets. No doubt, both countries have myriad issues to work through -- including reining in spending to meet fiscal deficit targets and reforming their economies.
But, the countries have several distinct differences from Greece. Both still appear able to cover debt interest payments with tax revenues. What's more, Greece has shed roughly a quarter of its GDP during its five-year recession, which continues.
Although Spain and Italy may have seen contraction in recent quarters, the scale and duration are nowhere near Greece.
Likewise, although sovereign yields have risen in recent weeks, both countries have been able to issue debt via primary markets thus far. And they were able to take advantage of lower yields earlier this year (particularly Spain), meeting a large chunk of 2012 funding needs.
Furthermore, both have made more progress than Greece in implementing economic reforms and public-sector cuts, though both have a way to go.
Will the Chinese Economy Reaccelerate?
As we've detailed before, economic growth during Chinese leadership transition years (like 2012) has historically outpaced nonelection years as the communist government tries to boost growth to avoid social unrest during the changeover.