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Global Economy: Europe Appears Poised Not for Economic Collapse but Steady Rebound - by Martin Currie

The global media may be obsessed with the seemingly imminent collapse of the European economy, but the investment professionals at Legg Mason affiliate Martin Currie instead see significant – and growing – opportunities for investors. To them the European "story" is a great deal more positive than the naysayers want us to believe.

"Even amidst the noise, this is the best outlook for Europe we have seen in 20 years," said Martin Currie investment director Michael Browne, who co-heads European long/short strategies. "We had the most astonishing level of economic reform and regulation changes. Plus money was created. It takes time to create opportunity, and that is most definitely occurring."

Martin Currie sees the European economy as less like the speedy hare of Aesop's fable than the steady tortoise. Mr. Browne cited quantitative as well as qualitative factors to justify their optimism.
"During the Industrial Revolution, which made Europe into a powerhouse, economic growth was 1.3 to 1.4 percent a year," he reported. "This year it's at 1.4 to 1.5. Next year the consensus projections are 1.9 to 2. Luxury brands are doing especially well. Economic growth overall is already positive and continuing to improve."

As a result of all the turmoil, living standards in Europe – on a relative basis – have recently experienced what Martin Currie considers "a big fall."

"Europe has faced a debt crisis stemming from certain countries overspending, of that there is no doubt, but when situations like this happen the size of the state often shrinks. That can be very positive for the private sector, which can move more freely to fill the voids governments leave."

"In a big swath of history, this led to major restructurings," Mr. Browne said. "It's tied together with historically low interest rates and falling oil prices. Yet at the same time corporate balance sheets have been cleaning up to some of the best debt levels we've seen since the early 1990s."

"The question is will it bite and take hold, or is this yet another false alarm? We think it's real." Continued pessimism on Europe's outlook results from media interests, in Martin Currie's view.

Read more: Europe Appears Poised Not for Economic Collapse but Steady Rebound - MarketWatch

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