Economy Watch: Euro-Zone Debt Crisis Still Bubbling

Euro-zone debt does not take a vacation. Even in the summer, debt-inclined countries continue feeling the pinch of borrowing costs and joblessness.

August is the customary month for vacations in Europe, and not even the euro-zone crisis can change that. But while the panjandrums of the zone are off on holiday, the pot keeps boiling. The world is certain to hear more about the crisis, for good and probably more for ill, during the fall.

Italian public debt rose in June by 6.6 billion euros to total almost 2 trillion euros (roughly $2.5 trillion), according to the Bank of Italy on Monday. That’s about 123 percent of Italian GDP, which is the second-highest debt-to-GDP ratio in the EU; only Greece has a higher one. Meanwhile, the Italian economy contracted at an annualized 0.7 percent during the second quarter of 2012. Borrowing costs are still about 6 percent for Italy, but seem posed to go higher.

Under austere targets insisted upon by more solvent members of the euro zone, Mario Monti’s technocrat government had targeted a deficit of 1.7 percent of GDP for this year, compared with 3.9 percent in 2011. However, Economy Minister Vittorio Grilli said on Sunday that the target would be missed.

Meanwhile, in Greece, the country’s economy contracted at an annualized 6.2 percent during the second quarter. The official jobless rate for the Hellenic Republic is 23.1 percent, a total that (as most official totals) leaves out marginally employed people, and obscures the distribution of joblessness among the population. More than half of Greeks under 24 who are of working age have no work.

Does it all mean bailouts are to come for these nations (more, in the case of Greece)? Specifically will bailouts come from the ECB, which may or may not start to act like the central banks of actual nation-states (such as the Fed)? Hard to say, but the governing council of the ECB will meet in early September. After that time, there will be meetings of euro-zone finance ministers, and a European Council meeting thrown in as well. Much jawboning is guaranteed; results against the crisis are less guaranteed.

The European Union’s statistics office will report GDP for the entire euro-zone on Tuesday, but already analysts are predicting a contraction of an annualized 0.2 percent for the second quarter, compared with an unchanged GDP in first quarter. Yields on American debt, which had been creeping up lately, are expected to fall.

Wall Street was down most of the day on Monday, but ended mixed. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 38.52 points, or 0.29 percent, while the S&P 500 dropped 0.13 percent. The Nasdaq was up a diminutive 0.05 percent.