Mapping Stress From Eurozone

The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Three years into the eurozone's peripheral debt saga, a ton of political and financial capital has been spent, the euro hasn't suddenly shattered and a eurozone-born financial panic hasn't erupted. Given politicians' commitment to maintain the euro (at least for the foreseeable future) and the European Central Bank's actions in backstopping banks, disaster in Europe seems unlikely in the near future. Seemingly more likely is a continuation of weak eurozone economic growth or a recession. And that possibility has given rise to fears of potentially weak eurozone import demand detracting from global growth.

The concern is certainly understandable. After all, the eurozone in total represents about 20% global GDP -- so in total the bloc is clearly significant. But this aggregate view of the eurozone obscures an important point: The 17-nation conglomerate isn't a singular economic entity with identical conditions, laws, competitiveness, industries and cultures. You simply can't turn Greece into Germany by swapping drachmas and marks for a common currency. So should a eurozone recession occur (and we're mindful Greece is already in contraction and has been since 2007), the impact likely wouldn't be equally distributed across all nations. Therefore, eurozone import demand likely wouldn't be uniformly affected either.

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In total, eurozone nations accounted for about 13% of U.S. exports in 2011 through November (a figure that's fallen for years). But at a more granular level, four nations -- Germany, the Netherlands, France and Belgium -- account for 10% of U.S. exports, or roughly three-quarters of U.S. exports to the eurozone. The other 13 nations, where much of the economic weakness currently exists, total just over 3%.

U.S. Exports to the Eurozone by Nation

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, January 1987 to October 2011.

Next, let's review China's relationship with the eurozone. Denominated in euros, China's 2010 exports to the world totaled 1.172 trillion euros. Of that, about 210 billion euros went to the eurozone, or just shy of 18%. But here again, total figures don't account for national differences. As shown in the graph below, Germany and the Netherlands consume over half China's exports to the eurozone.

Eurozone Nations' Share of 2010 Total China Exports

Source: Eurostat

Japanese data show similar concentration. In 2010, the eurozone consumed roughly 8% of Japan's exports -- down from just above 12% a decade earlier. The chart below displays eurozone nations' consumption share of total Japanese exports.

Eurozone National Shares of Total Japanese Exports

Source: Japan Bureau of Statistics, 2001 to 2010

Again, Japan's top four eurozone export destinations are Germany, the Netherlands, France and Belgium. Italy is fifth. Spain's well below that. The other countries either scrape along 0% or don't even register in Japanese data.

From an import demand point of view, the most commonly significant eurozone nations are Germany, the Netherlands, France and Belgium. And while a pan-eurozone recession is possible, these nations rank far higher on the scale of global competitiveness than Greece or Portugal. That potentially mitigates the severity -- and global reach -- of a potential eurozone downturn, should one materialize.
This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.