European recovery? Wait till 2013 (at least)

@CNNMoney December 30, 2011: 12:09 PM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Don't expect the economic problems dogging Europe to be solved any time soon. Economists sure don't.

In a survey of 20 top economists by CNNMoney, half said the European economy won't be back to a sustainable level of growth until 2013. Another seven say recovery won't come until 2014 or later. Only three believe Europe will be pulling out of its current downturn in the second half of 2012.

Europe is not officially in a recession, but most think it's unavoidable. Even Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank, conceded as much in early November.

The downturn in Europe poses risks to the U.S. economy. In the survey, 11 economists worried Europe's troubles could choke off credit needed by businesses and consumers.

Another four economists worried about U.S. exposure to European bank losses if some countries default on debt. Only a couple cited the loss of exports to Europe as the most serious problem for the U.S. economy.

When it comes to solutions, there is far less agreement among the economists.

Six of the economists advocate setting up the ECB as the lender of last resort to troubled governments -- a step Draghi says is outside of the ECB's current mandate.

"Making the ECB a lender of last resort is the most important near-term step," said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Analytics. "Other steps are necessary to address the crisis longer-run."

Other economists would prefer to take those other steps first. Five want additional steps to set a common fiscal policy across the eurozone beyond the measures agreed to by European leaders in early December. Details of that pact won't be hammered out until March.

Three of the economists advocate the more extreme step of working on way to break-up the eurozone without a meltdown in financial markets.

"They need an orderly, planned reorganization with fewer countries, and new governance with a central fiscal arm," said Allen Sinai of Decision Economics. To top of page

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