Europe’s biggest can of worms is overflowing again.
Fears that Europe’s banks are vulnerable to losses on risky government bond investments are sending shivers through the European bond markets, especially Ireland and Greece. Investors are dumping risky bonds tied to weaker European economies and crowding into the safe havens of German and British government bonds.
Ireland, which is grappling with an increasingly expensive bail-out of troubled lender Anglo Irish Bank, is the single worst performer Tuesday.
The premium that Ireland has to pay over Germany to borrow from investors in the bond market has hit its highest level since the euro was created in 1999 (Specifically, 3.75 percentage points compared with 3.47 percentage points on Monday.) Prices of Irish bonds have fallen, sending the yield on the benchmark 10-year Irish bond above 6%. (Bond prices and yields move inversely.)
Greece isn’t faring much better. The yield on its 10-year note is nearly 12%, while its own “risk premium” over Germany has also blown higher. Portugal’s spreads are also weaker. Credit-default swaps for Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Greece have all jumped in price, suggesting investors are more worried about these countries defaulting on their debts
Struggling with the euro zone’s biggest budget deficit relative to its gross domestic product at more than 14% last year, Irish authorities are also grappling with the ballooning cost of bailing out the banks, especially state-owned Anglo Irish—a bill that has already hit €33 billion ($42.55 billion), or roughly 20% of Ireland’s GDP.
ON THE radio on Monday, Brian Lenihan spoke of “not showing his hand” to the European Commission. He suggested that we in Ireland had to “hold our nerve”. These phrases are not normally used in economic policy — rather, they come straight from the world of poker.
This language is appropriate as it probably best sums up the Government’s policy throughout the banking crisis — it has all been a big bluff.
Yesterday, the financial markets reacted to the gambler’s words by selling Irish bonds, thus driving the yield (at one stage) up from 5.78pc to 6.15pc.
Yields came down to 6.01pc, following rumours that the European Central Bank was buying Irish bonds. We are fast becoming a vassal state of the ECB, the only institution prepared to buy Irish bonds.
The ECB is doing this for one reason — to protect the bondholders of Anglo from the default which has to come. In this little game, we issue expensive IOUs at 6pc that the ECB buys with money it prints for nothing to keep open zombie banks that don’t lend. The ECB is doing this not to protect you, but to protect rogue creditors who have no right to expect that they will be paid.
Ireland has effectively nationalised its financial system for two years: it will guarantee deposits and debts for the country’s six biggest banks until 2010. This means it is assuming potential liabilities of around EUR550bn, compared with existing government debt of EUR40bn and overall GDP of EUR160bn. The move has increased pressure on the UK authorities to boost the size of the deposit guarantee.
The move was designed to shore up rapidly dwindling confidence in the banking sector. Irish financial sector shares plummeted early this week amid fears that it is particularly dependent on the frozen interbank market; loan to deposit ratios are 150% in Ireland compared with 130% in the rest of the EU, Sebastian Orsi of Merrion pointed out in the FT. Banks have been “bleeding money” as the Irish property and construction markets have tanked, noted Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in The Daily Telegraph. Ireland has become the first eurozone member to slide into recession now that the property bubble has burst and consumption has slumped.
By effectively betting its economy, Ireland has “certainly upped the stakes in the confidence game that is banking”, as Alphaville said in the FT. The hope is that the guarantee will improve Irish banks’ access to funds on world markets. But Ireland may be in for a bumpy ride. Note that the banks’ assets are highly concentrated in “fast-fading” UK and Irish property, said Lex in the FT. At Anglo-Irish Bank, the exposure to these two sectors is 80% and at Bank of Ireland and Allied Irish it is 71% and 60% respectively. And if markets keep withholding wholesale funds from “property plays”, then the government “may have to reconsider that guarantee”.
“A picture is worth a thousand words”
I have posted the various sources above in support my own opinion that the government are totally on the wrong economic path and what’s even worse they are hell bent on sticking with this disastrous policy all logic seems to have disappeared and we are becoming slaves to the mantra we must spin ourselves out of this mess no matter what
Brian Lenihans language is increasingly that of a gambler (read DavidMcWilliams latest posting on this Link above)
David is one of the country’s finest economists and it would appear this government are choosing to ignore his sound advice just like they did on the eve of the first bank blanket guarantees
This is the time when the government should be getting the best minds in the country to come up with a real solutions to the financial crises that is after all their own making
Whether you agree with me or not, that facts are the well informed lenders (Bond Traders) of the world certainly do so, and what’s more they are getting very nervous at the lack of this governments realistic economic road map
The constant dirp drip feed of ever more disastrous figures emanating from Anglo and NAMA should frighten all of us
The Governments belligerence and a misplaced sense of loyalty to their pals a la Galway tent has to be abandoned pronto, and these gamblers must face the music themselves
The Irish nation cannot afford the commitments made by incompetent government minsters that are overwhelmed by the sheer complexity that is the Derivatives market
It is just plain stupid to expect civil servants who have no training in this field to advice party indoctrinated con men to understand these financial nuclear bombs
There are only a hand full of people in the world that understand these complex financial instruments ,even after 10 years of market participation myself I still don’t know anybody in the field that has successfully traded their way into profit
These financial instruments were created by the largest financial corporations in the world (AIG, JP Morgan, Citi etc and they were designed as far as I can make out to protect themselves as they were the market makers as well as the insurer and we all know that insurance companies are notorious in looking after themselves
the bottom line here is the markets have now copped on to the spin the Irish Government have been spewing out on the world’s airways and they Ireland Ink has a set repayment capability and that is now breached and any further surprises coming from Anglo Irish and Allied or Bank of Ireland is going to push this little country over the Default Bridge
And with the current Captain on the Irish Titanic ignoring the warnings of Icebergs dead ahead what does he do?
Call for more Ice for his pals cocktail,s