The Centre for Economics and Business Research said in its annual list of predictions that a new eurozone crisis was its number one forecast for 2011, citing the hundreds of billions of euros of debt that members must replace this year.
“If the euro doesn’t break up, this could be the year when it weakens substantially towards parity with the dollar,” said Douglas Williams, chief executive of CEBR.
Spain and Italy alone must refinance more than €400bn (£343bn) of debt in the first half of the year, which could prove impossible given investor fears over the finances of southern European countries.
“The euro might break up at this point, though European politicians are normally able to respond to a crisis and I suspect that what will break up the euro will be the failure of most of the countries to take the tough medicine necessary to make their economies competitive over the longer term,” said Mr Douglas.
Mr Douglas added that he was not ruling out another round of government quantitative easing to support the credit markets and prevent a crisis.
Speculation over the future of the euro reached new heights last year as what been a purely theoretical question became very real during the repeated crises that hit the eurozone in 2010.
As public anger grew over bailouts to Greece and Ireland, several senior European politicians openly questioned the currency’s future.
Investors too have become increasingly sceptical, though few predict its imminent demise.
F&C said last month that while the European Union may not continue for much longer in its present form, it was highly unlikley that the euro could be killed off.
“We believe the events of this year will force the EU to introduce tighter controls and greater convergence of fiscal policies,” said Rebecca Seabrook, a bond fund manager at F&C.
Japan could also face its own crisis, according to the CEBR, with the possibility of a serious economic crisis in the world’s third largest economy rated its fourth most likely prediction.
Debt now equals 200pc of Japanese GDP, but up until now this has largely been financed domestically from the country’s vast savings base.
However, the continued growth in Japanese debt means more foriegn financing will be required, according to the CEBR, which could create the conditions for a crisis.
“It is likely that the government will have to embark on fiscal retrenchment. Meanwhile, growth in the Asian export markets will slow and the ageing population will force the government to raise the retirement age again, this time to 75,” said Mr McWilliams.