Let's Make a Deal?

Global stock markets are weak. The dollar is strong. So where is that transatlantic shopping spree one would expect under these circumstances?

So far it hasn't happened.

While U.S. tourists are enjoying bargains across the Atlantic, U.S. companies aren't. It's been a dismal year for deals overall, with the dollar value of deals worldwide plunging 55%, from a record of nearly $2 trillion in the first half of 2000.

But transatlantic mergers have plunged even further, down 60% from a year ago, to just over $300 billion — despite the fact that the weak Euro means more bang for the buck.

In fact the most notable transatlantic combinations this year are ones in which the Europeans have been doing the buying. Top of the list Nestle's $10 billion purchase of Ralston Purina and Vivendi's $1.7 billion purchase of Houghton Mifflin.

Why the seemingly one-way deal making?

One factor has been European regulators. They aren't the easiest bunch to satisfy as the failed GE/Honeywell deal attests.

But economists say that's just part of the story.

Mostly, they say U.S. companies are still the most attractive and productive on the planet and like it or not, while the Europeans are buying well-known U.S. companies, they are subsidizing our troubling trade deficit. Which is one reason why the almighty dollar has stayed that way, while the U.S. trade deficit has soared to record highs.