For traders, investors and journalists it's easy to get sucked into the day-to-day minutiae.
From major economic indicators to every tick on a CDS, there's constant change. But every now and then something snaps you out of it and you get a chance to look at the larger picture.
Take Greece (please, says Germany). Everyone was parsing the public statements about Finland's collateral requests for an idea on how those negotiations are progressing. Then, boom, Greece's own independent parliamentary panel of financial experts issues a report saying that Greece will miss its 2011 budget targets.
Delays in implementing austerity measures (manageable) and the global economic slowdown (unmanageable) were cited. But here's the takeaway:
The report argued that even full implementation of the austerity measures in 2011 would "not fully offset the slippage in budget targets."
Do we soon come to the conclusion that there's nothing the EU can do except keep propping up Greece or boot it out of the euro. There's certainly a lot of support for the latter in member states right now and Germany is probably this close to pulling the move Bugs Bunny did on Florida. For Greece, it could then at least devalue.
But there are always the believers, like there are in management at every ailing sports organization. If we could just cut payroll, if we could just jettison these contracts, if we could just lure in a few more season-ticket buyers, if we could draft that one player or get help from the league. After three or more seasons of this, you're there with nobody on in your row and the team still sucks.
Back to the minutiae, stocks are down in Europe in early-afternoon trading, with Germany and France struggling after the latest numbers showed eurozone manufacturing contracting for the first time in two years.
The August manufacturing PMI fell to 49 in August from 50.4 in July and new orders declined in every country. The chart that's spooking the media does have a distinctly double-dip feel about it.
Meanwhile, the IMF and the ECB are in cage match over whether sovereign debt held by European banks is bad or terrible. If only some kind of financial institutions had the ability to tell us what they are holding.