Last week's summit delivered a surprise. Germany's Angela Merkel conceded (to Spain and Italy) to allowing any country that meets the EU budgetary requirements to receive aid without additional austerity measures and without the strict oversight of the troika.
They intend to establish a single banking supervisor, you could call it a centralized banking authority - although there was no mention of a deposit insurance program or plan for handling failed banks (I suspect these will be some of the details to come). They plan to end the negative feedback loop between governments and banks (Spain's banks own a ton of Spain's debt) by allowing the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) to provide aid directly to the banks. The big tough-to-swallow concern for individual countries, with regard to the central banking authority, will be the inherent loss of sovereignty.
They also approved a 120 billion euro growth pact (stimulus plan) that would increase the lending capacity of the European Investment Bank (EIB), subsidize small businesses and issue project bonds (for energy, transportation and broadband). Critics cite the plan's relative small size (amounts to 1% of Euro Zone GDP).
Their immediate aim was to inspire confidence in Spain and Italy's creditors (allay default concerns and, consequently, bring down borrowing costs) and thus calm the financial markets. And that they did, if only for a day.
Of course the questions would be;
1. Is this the plan that finally puts a floor under the Euro Zone?
2. Can there be a floor without a Euro Bond?
My guesses would be;
1. Nope. But it is a step in the direction the world, ex-Germany, would have them head (notice I didn't say 'a step in the 'right' direction'). Could be a short to medium-term can-kicker.
2. Of course. There's always a floor. And they'd find it so much faster if they'd allow failed banks, and failed nations, to, well, fail - and markets to work. But if we're talking a policy-action-induced floor, I'd call that a net, you wouldn't think so. Merkel would (she implied) sign her own epitaph before signing onto a Euro Bond. Reality: if a Euro Bond is the ultimate can-kicker and she can pull it off and somehow delay the reading of her political career's eulogy, she'll do it. But it'll come under a different label.
As for you, the investor. What should you be thinking about? My sage (28 years as an advisor) advice would be to think about what you're going to barbecue for the kids on 4th of July. But knowing you'll be thinking about your portfolio too, here's something to chew on:
Assuming you're our client; here are a few of the (randomly selected) holdings in the mutual funds, and exchange traded funds (ETFs), that occupy the large cap US equity portion of your portfolio.
Bank of America
Johnson and Johnson
Procter and Gamble
Now ask yourself, when we're past the sure-to-be-weak Q2 economic numbers, Europe, the US election, the fiscal cliff, etc. - and on to bigger and better things - and a whole new set of worries - will these companies, with their scrubbed balance sheets and strong margins, be cranking out their products and services?
Remember, 85% of the world's people live in emerging markets. And make no mistake, that emerging 85% is thirsting for the infrastructure and lifestyles developed markets enjoy. I.e., there's a (long-term) world of opportunity for smart well-positioned companies.
In terms of your particular portfolio's allocation: If you're in or nearing retirement you'll have modest (defined by your temperament) equity exposure; with a bias toward companies like Kraft, Procter and Gamble, and Sysco. If you're further out (younger) and are more concerned with next Wednesday's tri tip than you are next Tuesday's Italian bond auction, you'll be heavily allocated to stocks; with a bias toward companies like Apple, Chesapeake Energy, and Cisco.