Athens, Greece (
) -- The wildest week in recent market history ended with a minor improvement in the market killer formerly known as the euro.
On Friday, the euro ended above $1.27. Of course, that was no more than a minor recovery from a 14-month low in the euro versus the dollar reached on Thursday, and the euro's double-digit drop in 2010 versus the greenback was front and center during this week's implosion of the markets.
As trading ended on Friday, fear still reigned supreme in the markets, as another up-and-down day exhibited the type of market volatility suggesting anything goes -- and is capable of imploding -- next Monday when the U.S. markets reopen for another week of fun and games and extreme volatility.
Greece may have passed the austerity measures required for a European Union bailout package by week's end, and Germany's parliament finally provided its key approval for the Greek bailout on Friday after much political dilly-dallying.
Nonetheless, what the markets made clear in the last week of trading is that we may be past the point of viewing the debt woes in Greece in a vacuum. Whether European sovereign debt loads will lead Spain, Portugal and Italy to be next in line at the European Union bailout window is a question that can't be answered, and the fact that it can't be answered is the root of the fear in the markets. Either that, or it's been a very convenient excuse for investors to book some profits before the European situation settles.
It certainly wasn't looking simply like a profit-taking excuse, though. The damage done to the markets over the past week went well beyond just the euro slide, though all the damage was in one way or another collateral damage from Europe. The MSCI World Index and other international equity benchmarks watched all their 2010 gains wiped out.
Some economists and investors were saying that global equities had simply risen too much and too fast and that a market correction was overdue on the way to a more sustained global recovery -- and maybe that market correction isn't done yet. Regardless, some economists simply refuse to consider the idea that the European debt contagion can lead to a global economic double-dip recession.
Those big investors were all over the airwaves on Friday pushing the bullish mantra during times of market unrest that when there is fear in the markets it is time for the shrewd investors to buy. Now, it's one thing if they are talking about
at a penny a share or
Procter & Gamble
when it mysteriously dropped 25% during Thursday's still-unexplained "invisible hand" trading incident. At a larger level, Friday's trading session end on a negative note showed that investors are either all beset by allergy season stuffy noses, or simply don't believe the fear has reached fear-bubble proportions yet.
It's all tied to the outlook for Europe and the euro, and so we decided to reduce all the fear down to one question:
Do you think the euro will collapse in 2010?
Since we don't want to be the bearer of more bad market news, we can report that even amid the market panic, investors are still confident that a worst-case scenario will be avoided.
Approximately 61% of survey takers were confident that the euro would not collapse in 2010.
The market nabobs of nattering negativity who do think that the euro is headed for collapse represented 39% of voters in the euro poll.
Should investors take comfort in the fact that almost 4 out of 10 of poll respondents think the once-mighty euro will collapse this year, a hypothetical outcome that would no doubt wreak immeasurable havoc on already unstable markets?
Obviously not. The almost 40% of poll takers who believe that the euro will collapse may not be a majority, but it's a pretty significant minority indication of a major fear that could rear its ugly head in trading sessions yet to come. The significant brood of euro Chicken Littles isn't offering the market much in the way of comfort, but that's the point. Their position is about as much comfort as the markets are willing to accept as long as we can't answer the question about the fate of European nations from Spain to Italy and Portugal.
Investors are left with the derivative burden from the debt burden that these European nations continue to carry.
And considering that the European question will continue to be the big market unknown when trading opens next week, we may not be done asking investors,
Will the euro collapse in 2010?
It wouldn't be a surprise if by next Friday, the range of responses to the question is very different ... but different in which direction?
-- Reported by Eric Rosenbaum in New York.
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