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Morning Market Roundup: Greek Elections, Merkel Stands Her Ground, U.S. Futures up, Factory Production Down

In this Friday, May 25, 2012 photo torn EU and Greek flags fly at the entrance of an abandoned factory in the industrial zone of Komotini about 800 kilometers (500 miles) northeast of Athens. In its heyday just over a decade ago, the industrial zone in this far-flung area of northern Greece was a hive of activity, with dozens of factories producing everything from textiles to ceramics and employing nearly 20,000 people. Now, the Komotini industrial zone is a picture of desolation, a stark illustration of the toll Greece's vicious financial crisis has taken on the country's industry. (AP Photo/Nikolas Giakoumidis)

Here’s what’s important in the business world this morning:

Germany: German Chancellor Angela Merkel vowed Friday to resist pressure for quick fixes to the European crisis when she meets world leaders at the Group of 20 summit next week, saying Europe must tackle its problems "at the roots" by lowering debt and increasing economic competitiveness.

Amid mounting criticism of her austerity-led approach and alarm at the prospect of the crisis spreading further, Merkel insisted that fueling growth by running up more government debt isn't the answer.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel gestures as she speaks at a conference of a group representing family-owned companies in Berlin, Friday, June 15, 2012. (AP Photo/dapd/ Steffi Loos)

"I will say there, and I say it here too: Germany will not be convinced by all the quick solutions like eurobonds, stability funds, European deposit insurance funds," Merkel said.

French President Francois Hollande has revived pressure lately for jointly issued government bonds, or eurobonds - a move that would likely lower the borrowing costs of struggling eurozone countries but increase those of financially solid countries such as Germany. Berlin has always fiercely resisted the idea in the short term, and shows no signs of relenting.

"You can only resolve a crisis of confidence if you tackle things at the roots," Merkel said Friday. "I argue for addressing the roots and not fighting symptoms."

Greece: Greece's June 17 vote is being seen as a referendum on the euro.

Greece secured in March a second multibillion-euro rescue package consisting of loans and debt restructuring. This bailout came with more tough austerity measures, such as cuts in public sector pay and pensions that the country is struggling to meet.

The spending cuts have left the economy mired in a deep recession. Angered by the cuts, Greeks turned away from the two traditional parties - conservative New Democracy and socialist PASOK - in elections last month. They voted instead for more radical parties that have vowed to pull the country out of its bailout and austerity agreements.

But if the country renounces its bailout terms, Greece's international partners could stop providing the rescue loans on which the country depends. That could lead it to default and force it out of the eurozone - a move that could greatly weaken the euro and send shockwaves across the global financial system.

Greece's financial crisis has taken a massive toll on the country's industrial industry. Deep spending cuts made in return for billions of euros in international rescue loans have plunged the country into a deep recession, now running into its fifth year. The latest figures make for grim reading: Gross domestic product shrank by 6.5 percent in the first quarter of 2012 compared to the same period last year.

Credit has essentially dried up for businesses as Greek banks struggle and wary lenders from abroad hesitate to trust businesses with bleak futures.

Industrial output across the country fell by 2.2 percent in April compared to the same month last year, on top of a 10.8 percent drop in April 2011 compared to April 2010, according to data from the country's statistics agency. In the first four months of this year, industrial production shrank by 6.3 percent compared to the same period last year - which itself saw a 7 percent drop compared to 2010.

The figures are particularly alarming given that the debt-ridden country would need industry to recover if it has any hope of returning to growth.

"In 2000 about 17,000 people worked in the [Komotini] industrial zone. Now, there are barely 1,000," said Giorgos Chatziathanasiou, treasurer at the labor union center. He is one of the lucky ones. The lumber company he works for, one of the largest in the area, is still operating.

"At that time we had 99 factories in the industrial zone, now there are only 15 left, and of those only five are operating at a normal rate," said Chatziathanasiou. "The rest work only when they have an order in."

Industrial output in northern Greece has fallen by nearly 40 percent over the past two years, according to Nikos Petzos, head of the Federation of Industries of Northern Greece.

U.S. Factory Production: U.S. factories produced less in May than April, as automakers cut back on output for the first time in six months. The report indicates that manufacturing, a key driver of the economic growth, is slowing.

The Federal Reserve said Friday that factory output declined 0.4 percent last month, after increasing 0.7 percent in April. Auto production fell 1.5 percent, the first drop since November. Auto sales rose sharply earlier this year but slowed in May.

Overall industrial production, which includes mines and utilities, dipped 0.1 percent, after a solid 1 percent rise in April. Both mines and utilities increased production.

Consumers are spending less and businesses are purchasing fewer large capital goods, such as machinery and computers. That's reducing demand for factory goods.

U.S. Futures: U.S. stock futures rose Friday after a volatile week with markets anticipating action by major central banks to head off a crisis in Europe.

Dow Jones industrial average futures rose 22 points to 12,628. Standard & Poor's 500 futures added 1.2 points to 1,327.40. Nasdaq composite futures rose 3.5 points to 2,538.50.

The European Central Bank president, speaking in Frankfurt, said that the bank would continue its "crucial role" of making sure markets have enough cash.

Mario Draghi also said there was no inflation risk in the eurozone, a statement which leaves open the chance of an interest rate cut if the bank sees the situation in the eurozone worsening.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

One last thing…
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