NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- 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.
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.
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.
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.
Typically, the government has allowed growth to slow in years prior so it can accelerate during transition years without risking hyperinflation. This trend was evident last year as officials took measures to stymie high inflation rates. Now, it appears China's hitting the throttle. New yuan loans, imports, fixed asset investment, industrial production and retail sales have increased recently -- all while inflation has remained relatively benign. In recent weeks, we've seen the following fiscal and monetary stimulus from the Chinese government: official statements planning to fast-track infrastructure projects, reports of higher bank loan quotas, delaying implementation of Basel III capital requirements for banks, relaxing housing restrictions, new consumption subsidies for cars and appliances, and tax changes to stimulate spending (to name only a few). As the year wears on, we expect to see more of the same -- an overall accommodative government using its tools to boost growth. China's GDP growth may not accelerate from last year, but we expect the stepped-up stimulus should foster stronger growth than many expect.
Will High Unemployment Hinder U.S. Economic Growth?At 8.2% (as of May), unemployment continues weighing on many folks' minds. However, unemployment regularly lags economic growth -- often for years. This time's likely no different. Growth creates the need for new hiring, not the other way around, so still-elevated unemployment likely lacks material power to stymie ongoing economic growth. And as time wears on and U.S. economic growth continues (GDP is at all-time highs), the employment picture should continue improving.
What Does the U.S. Presidential Election Mean for Stocks?Regardless of the victor in November, history suggests a nice outcome for stocks this year. For starters, election years are typically pretty good for stocks. Even better, this year we either re-elect a Democrat or newly elect a Republican, making it a likely sweet spot for stocks: Since 1928, the S&P 500 has risen 14.5% in years a Democrat is re-elected and 18.8% when a Republican takes the reins. The only negative election year when either a new Republican or an incumbent Democrat won was when FDR was re-elected -- for his third term.