Tag Archives: Eurozone

Sovereign debt crisis update: Yields hitting new highs in Greece, Ireland, Portugal, and Italy.

Interest rates are hitting their highest levels since the euro zone was created. Here are the five most “at-risk” countries, in order of chances of default.










In case you thought the sovereign debt crisis was over: “Portugal yields soar, underline euro worries”

The sovereign debt crisis is back! Actually, it never went away…

Portugal yields soar, underline euro worries
ECB comes off THE sidelines to buy Portuguese bonds

Proving that the euro zone’s sovereign-debt crisis is yet to be vanquished, yields on Portuguese government bonds continued to climb to levels viewed as unsustainable on Thursday, prompting the European Central Bank to intervene.

Yields on the 10-year bonds soared to a euro-era high of more than 7.6% at one point Thursday morning, according to strategists. The European Central Bank later intervened to buy Portuguese bonds, several analysts said, after staying out of the markets amid relative calm in recent weeks.

Read the rest of the article here…

A broke Japan bails out Europe

So now Japan is bailing out the at-risk Euro countries.

Japan on Tuesday threw its support behind Europe’s bailout efforts, saying it will take a major stake in a bond offering for Ireland later this month by one of the special funds set up in the wake of the euro-zone sovereign debt crisis.

The government plans to buy more than 20% of a bond offering by the European Financial Stability Facility, expected some time this month, Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda said at a press conference. The EUR440 billion fund was set up in June 2010 to help finance bailout efforts.

But where exactly is Japan getting the money from to buy these bonds? Japan’s been running big deficits for years and has debt of 201 percent of GDP, much larger than those European countries. But Japan pays almost nothing in interest rates on its own debt and is buying higher yielding bonds, profiting from the spread.

From a more macro viewpoint, Japan is monetizing the Euro debt just as the Fed is monetizing the US debt. But the difference is huge. These Euro countries are much closer to defaulting than the United States is and the spread between short-term Japanese rates and long-term Euro rates is much larger than the spread between short- and long-term rates in the US. Though Japan’s purchase is “only” 88 billion Euros compared to the Fed’s $600 billion in QE2 alone, Japan has a smaller economy and is taking a much larger risk.

The Yen and Nikkei index fell after the news. Japan should worry about its own fiscal and economic situation before trying (and likely failing) to help others.

Ready for round three of the sovereign debt crisis?

First came Greece. Next was Ireland. Next up may be Portugal.

Portugal under pressure to seek EU/IMF aid

Pressure is growing on Portugal from Germany, France and other euro zone countries to seek financial help from the EU and IMF to stop the bloc’s debt crisis from spreading, a senior euro zone source said on Sunday.

Some preliminary discussions on the possibility of Portugal asking for help if its financing costs on markets become too high have taken place since July, the source said.

No formal talks on aid have started yet, a number of euro zone sources said, but the pressure was rising in the Eurogroup, which brings together euro zone finance ministers.

“France and Germany have indicated in the context of the Eurogroup that Portugal should apply for help sooner rather than later,” the senior source said, adding Finland and the Netherlands had expressed similar views.

The article continues that Portugal and Germany are denying all the above, but then points out that this was the case before Ireland got its bailout. The article then returns to reality.

The growing pressure on Lisbon follows a sharp rise in Portuguese 10-year bond yields at the end of last week to euro lifetime highs above 7 percent, as investors worried about the prospect of up to 1.25 billion euros of bond supply it will offer at an auction on Wednesday.

The yield of five-year Portuguese bonds on the secondary market is 6.43 percent and 10-year paper trades at 7.26 percent. Economists say a key question for Portugal is how long it can sustain the high yield levels, and the auction will be an important gauge of that.

Portugal and the EU can fight reality for only so long. In all likelihood, the bond market will force Portugal to get help. And then it will force Spain and Italy to do so. Belgium may also need help if they can’t form a government. With the at-risk economies slowing due to austerity and countries like Germany and France giving free money to them, even those countries will be in economic trouble.

How long will Germany and France give away their money to others instead of saving it for themselves? How much longer will the Euro last?

Sovereign debt crisis worsening. Governments paralyzed. Solution too hard to swallow.

Despite all the governments’ efforts, or maybe because of them, the sovereign debt crisis is only getting worse. Marketwatch reports:

The euro zone’s sovereign-debt crisis intensified Tuesday, with yields on Spanish, Italian and other peripheral government bonds soaring in the wake of a weekend meeting of European Union finance ministers that failed to soothe fears of the potential for future defaults.

The yield on 10-year Spanish government bonds jumped to around 5.63%, strategists said, a day after surging to 5.43%.

The move sent the yield premium demanded by investors to hold 10-year Spanish debt over comparable German bunds to more than three full percentage points.

“Ireland’s bailout did nothing to ease the euro-zone debt crisis: it might have even made it worse,” said Steven Barrow, currency and fixed-income strategist at Standard Bank. “For now the market sees a pattern emerging and the next piece of the bailout puzzle seems to be Portugal, with Spain to follow after that.”

The yield on 10-year Italian bonds also rose for a second day to hit 4.77% from around 4.64% on Monday. Portuguese, Greek and Irish bond yields also rose. And outside the periphery, the Belgian 10-year bond yield continued to climb, hitting 3.97% versus around 3.86% on Monday.

How long before Europe realizes that bailing out the banks, announcing plans to cut their deficits to 3 percent in four years time, and getting bailouts from EU and IMF will not work? The sovereign debt crisis will continue until these European countries announce balanced budgets effective immediately (2011) or, at the worst case, next year (2012) and that they will never again bail out the banks. They also have to leave the Euro, which is partly responsible for the mess to start with.

Unfortunately, I doubt the European governments will implement these measures. And if they were to do so, the people would be in full revolution. The only easy way out I see is if the economy suddenly stages a huge recovery. Barring that, it looks like things will be getting worse, possibly much worse.

Ireland agreed to a bailout already, but it’s still sinking.

Last weekend, Ireland agreed to an 85 billion Euro bailout ($112.5 billion), details of which should be announced this weekend. But that hasn’t stopped the turmoil. Today, Irish bond yields hit euro-era high, banks sink:

Yields on Ireland’s bonds reached a new euro-era high Friday as investors dumped the nation’s debt securities, and Irish bank shares also kept falling in expectation the banks are heading toward greater state ownership.

Analysts said Ireland’s bonds and banks are getting battered because deep skepticism remains that an international bailout loan – whose details are expected to be unveiled Sunday – will be enough for Ireland to resolve its debts.

The Irish Times said an agreement on an euro85 billion ($112.5 billion) IMF-EU loan for Ireland could be announced Sunday, one week after Ireland formally applied for a financial rescue. It would be used as a credit line by Ireland’s government and banks, which both have been priced out of the bond markets.

Yields on Ireland’s 10-year bonds rose to 9.22 percent from 9.02 percent Friday, a new high since Ireland joined the euro in 1999.

Wasn’t the whole point of the bailout to end or at least alleviate this crisis? But now, the crisis is getting even worse as traders/investors lose confidence in Ireland’s ability to resolve its debts and the Eurozone’s ability to help.

Now, the Eurozone and IMF are proposing a bailout of Portugal. Will that bailout fare any better than this one? As I’ve written previously:

And all the bailouts in the world won’t end this madness until these countries get their fiscal and monetary houses in order.

So far, the bailouts have been a reward to countries that behaved poorly by spending more than they had and making bad investment. Conversely, the bailouts are punishing those who successfully avoided the urge to over-leverage and over-spend.

Bailouts will only work when they reward those who made mistakes in the past but are now behaving well. However, all these at-risk countries are proposing to reduce their budget deficits to three percent of GDP. I do not call that behaving well. I call that behaving less badly than before. Until these countries propose balanced budgets and plans to pay off their debts, they should receive no bailout money. But that is unlikely to happen because those “strong” countries that are providing the bailout money, such as Germany and France, have no plans of their own to balance the budget and pay off debt. Thus, we are in a situation where countries needing to bailed out are providing money to those who are in even more desperate need of a bailout.

The blind leading the blind… And the sovereign debt crisis continues.

EU falling apart as Ireland refuses its money and Austria refuses to help Greece.

Marketwatch reports:

Irish officials resisted intensifying calls for the nation to accept a bailout as euro-zone finance ministers prepared to meet Tuesday, insisting the government is capable of fulfilling its debt obligations until the middle of next year.

But that misses the point, economists said. The debate centers on worries about the state of the nation’s troubled banks rather than Dublin’s sovereign-debt obligations for the near term.

European officials are reportedly cranking up pressure on Ireland to accept a bailout in an effort to keep Dublin’s fiscal woes from driving up borrowing costs in Spain, Portugal and other so-called peripheral countries in the euro zone.

Meanwhile, the cost of insuring Irish debt against default rose after declining from record levels Friday and Monday. The spread on five-year Irish credit default swaps widened to 515 basis points Tuesday morning from 497 points on Monday, according to data provider Markit.

The Portuguese CDS spread widened 12 basis points to 425, while the Spanish CDS spread widened to 255 basis points from 250 and the Greek spread widened to 900 basis points from 853.

The EU is basically begging Ireland to take its money. Ireland says it doesn’t need it, at least not now. But the EU is not really trying to help Ireland here. It is trying to show the world that it stands behind the EU nations. The EU is trying to help Spain, Portugal, and Greece by lending to Ireland. But why should Ireland hurt its reputation for those countries?

This “selfishness” is spreading across Europe:

According to Dow Jones (via ForexLive) Austria has decided to withhold its contribution to the Greek bailout, citing failure to make progress on finances.

This is obviously a pretty big problem, since that will spur others to wonder why they’re still contributing to the bailout fund.

So, debtors are refusing to borrow from the EU and creditors are refusing to support the debtors. The European Union is not looking very unified right now.

Anybody who studied basic economics learned that cartels cannot survive forever. From wikipedia:

Game theory suggests that cartels are inherently unstable, as the behaviour of members of a cartel is an example of a prisoner’s dilemma. Each member of a cartel would be able to make more profit by breaking the agreement (producing a greater quantity or selling at a lower price than that agreed) than it could make by abiding by it. However, if all members break the agreement, all will be worse off.

The incentive to cheat explains why cartels are generally difficult to sustain in the long run. Empirical studies of 20th century cartels have determined that the mean duration of discovered cartels is from 5 to 8 years. However, one private cartel operated peacefully for 134 years before disbanding.[7] There is a danger that once a cartel is broken, the incentives to form the cartel return and the cartel may be re-formed.

We are now seeing the EU cartel fall apart. While it is unlikely the EU will disappear entirely, it appears to losing power as individual countries restore their economic sovereignty.