The fear that began in Athens, raced through Europe and finally shook the stock market in the United States is now affecting the broader global economy, from the ability of Asian corporations to raise money to the outlook for money-market funds where American savers park their cash.
What was once a local worry about the debt burden of one of Europe’s smallest economies has quickly gone global. Already, jittery investors have forced Brazil to scale back bond sales as interest rates soared and caused currencies in Asia like the Korean won to weaken. Ten companies around the world that had planned to issue stock delayed their offerings, the most in a single week since October 2008.
The increased global anxiety threatens to slow the recovery in the United States, where job growth has finally picked up after the deepest recession since the Great Depression.
“It’s not just a European problem, it’s the US, Japan and the UK right now,” said Ian Kelson, a bond fund manager in London with T. Rowe Price. “It’s across the board.”
The crisis is so perilous for Europe that the leaders of the 16 countries that use the euro worked into the early morning Saturday on a proposal to create a so-called stabilisation mechanism intended to reassure the markets. On Sunday, finance ministers from all 27 European Union states gathered in Brussels to discuss and possibly approve the proposal.
A decade ago, it took more than a year for the chain reaction that began with the devaluation of the Thai currency to spread beyond Asia to Russia, which defaulted on its debt, and eventually caused the near-collapse of a giant American hedge fund, Long-Term Capital Management. This crisis, by contrast, seemed to ricochet from country to country in seconds, as traders simultaneously abandoned everything from Portuguese bonds to American blue chips.