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Supereuro Jitters

DW staff (sms)
October 8, 2007

Euro-zone finance ministers gathered Monday, Oct. 8, hoping to iron out their differences on what to do about the euro, whose strength against the dollar is blamed by some leaders for their countries' economic woes.

A euro coin atop a dollar note
The euro has been on top of the dollar since early 2003Image: AP

Ministers from the 13-member European shared currency club aim to forge a common stance ahead of next week's Group of Seven (G7) meeting in Washington. But divisions over the desirability of the "supereuro" remain.

The European Union's common currency was trading at below $1.20 in late 2005 but has surged ever since. Last week it hit a record high of $1.4281. The euro slipped to under $1.41 in European trading Monday.

The most vocal critics of a strong European currency are France and Italy, which complain that it is damaging business by ramping up export costs.

European bearing brunt of weak dollar

The euro sign outside the European Central Bank in Frankfurt
The euro zone has had a difficult time reaching a common position on the weak dollarImage: AP

"There can be little doubt that the run of recent highs for the common currency have been hampering the euro zone's competitive position," James Hughes, a market analyst at CMC Markets, told the Associated Press.

But the United States, carrying a large trade deficit, no longer appears interested in pursuing a strong dollar, experts say. And while Luxembourg's Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, in remarks to the Financial Times, argued that Europe should not have to bear the brunt of "the consequences of the existing global imbalances," it's unlikely he'll convince his colleagues to intervene in currency markets.

"To date the Eurogroup has been a bit like your local amateur operatic society: a couple of good strong voices, but the chorus is all over the shop," Westpac Bank strategist Robert Rennie told Reuters.

Berlin unperturbed by current rates

Germany, the euro zone's biggest economy, reiterated its support for a strong euro.

"I prefer a strong euro, I always prefer strong developments," German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück said before Monday's meeting. "I love cash and a strong euro."

Portrait photo of German Economy Minister Michael Glos
Glos hasn't been up nights worrying about the euro being too strongImage: picture-alliance/dpa/webdpa

Economy Minister Michael Glos agreed, saying current exchange rate "hasn't been giving us any sleepless nights," though he added that Berlin may become concerned if the dollar's decline continued.

Manufacturing data out of Germany on Monday showed continued strong foreign demand, despite the euro's rise. German manufacturing orders rebounded by 1.2 percent in August on a monthly basis following a decline of 6.1 percent in July, economy ministry figures showed.

Orders from outside the euro zone were up by 3.5 percent, well ahead of the 1.0 percent increase in orders from Germany's euro-zone partners. Domestic orders climbed just 0.1 percent.

"The strong rise in non-euro-zone exports appears to underscore the view that the record high euro/dollar is not derailing German export industry," Alexander Koch of UniCredit told the AFP news agency.

EU to discuss US housing market

Euro-zone finance ministers will be joined by their colleagues from the entire 27-member European Union on Tuesday for talks expected to focus on greater transparency in financial markets after the global turmoil caused by this summer's sub-prime mortgage crisis in the US.

Ministers were also expected to discuss labor-market policies adopted in several member states, most notably in Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain and Ireland.