It seems strange to think the debt crisis in Europe has only been going on for just over two years. For those of us in the markets it feels like it’s been dragging on a lot longer.
Throughout the crisis it has been obvious to those of us outside of it that the polyglot boarding house that is the eurozone was never truly sustainable without the political and fiscal union that comes alongside monetary policy unification - a scenario that has come a few steps closer to becoming a reality following the recent agreement on bank recapitalisation.
The crisis has led to speculation about countries leaving the eurozone, and even provoked conjecture that there will be a dissolution of the single currency. Unsurprisingly, this has caused a weakening of the euro, which has reached near four-year lows against the pound in the past few weeks.
If we look at the figures there is obviously a serious problem: On 29 June 2011, £200,000 would buy you €223,287 worth of goods. By 29 June 2012, that same £200,000 would buy you €249,598 worth.
Before this devaluation, UK importers buying goods from Europe had been one of the most frustrated parties as, despite the fears over the eurozone, the euro had been relatively overvalued.
A recent poll of banks and brokers has expectations of what the value of the euro to the pound will be in six months’ time from as low as €1.11 to as high as €1.39. The truth is nobody really has any idea what will happen -the recent gains may also vanish.
Either way, volatility in the currency markets is likely to remain a challenge. There is a significant amount of risk surrounding the eurozone, which an increasing number of financial directors in food companies have been seeking to manage. Sophisticated currency hedging products - previously the preserve of a few ‘in the know’ corporates - are now available to the general business market and will allow importers and exporters to protect their bottom lines from adverse movements in the exchange rates.
Some careful forward planning is certainly a wise move when it comes to managing your international payments.