EU Forecast Released Today
SPAIN In 2012, Spain’s economic activity is expected to contract by 1.8pc, and by 0.3pc in 2013. Unemployment is foreseen to increase further to 25.1pc in 2013, also for the young.
FRANCE In 2012, France’s economic activity is expected to grow by 0.5pc, before regaining momentum in 2013 to reach 1.3pc. Unemployment is foreseen to increase further to 10.2pc.
GERMANY In 2012, Germany’s economic activity is expected to significantly slow down as compared to 2011. Real GDP is projected to increase by 0.7pc. Unemployment is foreseen to further drop to 5.5pc.
GREECE The recovery previously announced for next year will be further delayed with, at best, a stagnation of activity in 2013. It is only in 2014 that positive annual growth rates are expected to return.
IRELAND Ireland’s economy returned to modest, export-driven growth of 0.7pc in 2011. While employment contracted by 2.1pc in 2011 as a whole, it grew by a seasonally adjusted 0.6pc in the final quarter of 2011. Unemployment is expected to reach 14.3pc in 2012.
ITALY In 2012, Italy’s economic activity is expected to contract by 1.4pc, and gradually recover in 2013. The unemployment rate is foreseen to increase further to 9.5pc this year and 9.7pc in 2013.SPAIN: In 2012, Spain’s economic activity is expected to contract by 1.8pc, and by 0.3pc in 2013. Unemployment is foreseen to increase further to 25.1pc in 2013, also for the young.
Christine Lagarde attack on Greece backfires as she pays no tax
Christine Lagarde, the International Monetary Fund managing director who provoked an angry reaction from the Greek people after telling them to pay their taxes, does not pay tax on her own salary, it has emerged.
Lagarde was forced to publish an embarrassing climbdown on her Facebook page over the weekend after being bombarded by hundreds of Greek people who felt insulted by her suggestion that the country’s crisis was partly due to “all these people in Greece who are trying to escape tax”.
However, on Tuesday she had to admit that her $467,940 (£300,000) annual salary and $83,760 of additional allowances are entirely tax-free as the IMF is an international organisation.
An IMF spokesman said: “Salaries, like those in most international organizations, are paid on a lower, net of tax basis to ensure equal pay for equal work regardless of nationality.”
He added that Ms Lagarde, 56, does pay all other “taxes levied on her, including local and property taxes in the US and France”.
Ms Lagarde earns more than President Barack Obama and David Cameron, both of whom pay taxes.
De La Rue silent on deal to print Drachma
EU throws Spain two potential lifelines
* Rehn says EU to give Spain more time to reduce deficit
* EU Commission calls for euro zone banking union, direct aid
* Spain, Italy bond yields soar on Spanish bank crisis
* Greeks warned of economic catastrophe if they leave euro
* Poll puts Greek anti-bailout party back in lead
BRUSSELS/MADRID, May 30 (Reuters) – The European Commission threw Spain, the latest frontline in Europe’s debt war, two potential lifelines on Wednesday, offering more time to reduce its budget deficit and direct aid from a euro zone rescue fund to recapitalise distressed banks.
Spanish government borrowing costs lurched higher and the Madrid stock market hit a nine-year low with investors rattled by the parlous state of its banking sector fleeing to the relative haven of German bonds.
EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said Brussels was ready to give Spain an extra year until 2014 to bring its deficit down to the EU limit of 3 percent of gross domestic product if Madrid presents a solid two-year budget plan for 2013-14, something it has committed to do.
The concession, which Madrid has not publicly requested, was on condition that Spain effectively reins in overspending by its autonomous regions, makes further financial sector reforms and recapitalises its troubled banks.
While the Commission is responsible for proposing laws, it is member states that decide whether to adopt them.
EU paymaster Germany has so far firmly opposed any collective European banking resolution and guarantee system or any use of bailout funds without a country having to submit to a politically humiliating EU/IMF austerity programme.
Rehn said there were no grounds for giving Italy a similar extension to balance its budget, due in 2013, since unlike Spain its economy is forecast to start growing again next year.
In an economic policy document which laid out some of the dramatic policy proposals which analysts say are needed to tackle the debt crisis, the European Union’s executive arm said the vicious circle of weak banks and heavily indebted states lending to each other must be broken and called for a banking union in the euro zone.
Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said tighter euro zone integration could include a joint bank deposit guarantee scheme to prevent a bank run and euro area financial supervision, saying the mood had changed since member states unanimously rejected a joint deposit guarantee fund only months ago.
“In the same vein, to sever the link between banks and the sovereigns, direct recapitalisation by the ESM (European Stability Mechanism) might be envisaged,” the report said.
Permitting the ESM to lend directly to banks would require a change to a treaty in the midst of ratification by member states that might come too late for Spain’s needs. Spanish premier Mariano Rajoy backs the idea but Rehn appeared cool to it.
“Direct disbursements to banks are not foreseen as such in the treaty, and therefore this is not an available option … in terms of direct recapitalisation,” Rehn told reporters.
Spain’s banking woes – the result of a burst property bubble aggravated by recession – have combined with growing uncertainty about Greece’s survival in the euro zone to reignite Europe’s sovereign debt crisis. That drove the euro to a two-year low below $1.2450, while European shares also fell after Italy had to pay heavily to sell bonds.
Madrid said its bank rescue fund would issue bonds to inject funds into nationalised lender Bankia, but that looks expensive with 10-year borrowing costs at 6.65 percent near their euro era peak and close to levels at which Ireland and Greece were forced to seek international bail-outs.
Investors unnerved by Spain’s deepening financial crunch pushed Italy’s funding costs sharply higher at a bond sale, with 10-year yields topping 6 percent for the first time since January.
In a sign of heightened anxiety in Washington, top U.S. Treasury official Lael Brainard was despatched to hold talks in Greece, Germany, Spain and France “to discuss their plans for achieving economic stability and growth in Europe”, the Treasury Department said.
Barroso said Europe’s G8 partners, at a summit in the United States 10 days ago, had asked the euro zone to go further with financial and economic integration.
A sudden economic deterioration in Europe would pose a serious threat to the U.S. economy and hence to President Barack Obama’s re-election prospects in November.
Rajoy has insisted his government has no intention of seeking an EU/IMF bailout either for its banks or for the state.
But the abrupt resignation of Bank of Spain Governor Miguel Angel Fernandez Ordonez on Tuesday, a month before his term was due to end, added to doubts about the handling of the Bankia crisis and relations with European institutions.
Highlighting Spain’s difficulty in meeting fiscal targets while gripped by a deep recession, the outgoing central bank chief said tax revenue may fall short of government estimates and spending may be higher than expected.
He recommended bringing forward a rise in value-added tax set for 2013 if the deficit objective goes off track this year.
In its country report on Spain, the Commission said the latest banking reform presented this month did not go far enough and needed to be strengthened to include provisioning on mortgages and lending to small businesses.
It also warned that unless policies are changed, Spain’s debt will spiral to 100 pct of GDP by 2020. Madrid had one of the lowest debt ratios in the euro zone before the crisis at about 35 percent of GDP.
GREECE IN BACKGROUND
Less than three weeks before a crucial second general election that may determine whether Greece stays in the 17-nation currency area, Greeks were warned by their biggest bank that they face economic catastrophe if they leave the euro.
Living standards would plummet, incomes would be slashed by more than half, and inflation and unemployment would skyrocket, the National Bank of Greece said.
The outcome of the election was thrown into doubt on Wednesday when a poll suggested the anti-bailout SYRIZA party would win, contradicting six previous forecasts.
The worries about Spain and Greece have hit efforts by other trouble euro zone countries to emerge from their own debt woes.
The Irish vote in a referendum on a European budget discipline treaty on Thursday which is seen as a precondition for receiving further EU/IMF aid.
Opinion polls forecast a solid win for the “Yes” camp, but Ireland’s hopes of returning to bond markets late next year as a reward for textbook implementation of an austerity programme have been clouded by wider uncertainty in the euro zone.
Safe-haven German bond yields hit a record low as worries about Spanish banks intensified while Spain’s benchmark IBEX stock index, which is down 28 percent this year, fell 2 percent after hitting a new nine-year low earlier in the session.
Italy Auction Misses Target as Yields Climb on Contagion
Italy sold less than the maximum amount of debt and borrowing costs rose at an auction as concern deepened the debt crisis is spreading, driving the 10-year yield to 6 percent for the first time in two weeks.
Italy auctioned 5.73 billion euros ($7.1 billion) of five- and 10-year bonds, less than the 6.25 billion-euro maximum target for the sale. The Treasury priced the 10-year debt to yield 6.03 percent, the highest since Jan. 30 and up from 5.84 percent at the previous auction on April 27…
Spain’s problems add pressure on Europe’s leaders to accelerate crisis response
Spain’s economic problems are deepening, pushing the country closer to an international bailout that U.S. and European officials worry could destabilize the global economy.
The risk that the euro zone’s fourth-largest country may need a massive dose of outside help is forcing the region’s leaders to accelerate weighty decisions they had expected to consider over time. These include deciding whether the euro-zone countries should begin issuing bonds that they all jointly back, a step that would be aimed at reassuring investors skittish about lending money to troubled governments such as Spain’s…
Euro-Area Economic Confidence Falls to 2 1/2 Year Low: Economy
Economic confidence in the euro area declined more than economists forecast in May to the lowest in 2 1/2 years after inconclusive Greek elections raised the specter of a euro breakup and Spain struggled to shore up its banks.
An index of executive and consumer sentiment in the 17- nation euro area fell to 90.6 from a revised 92.9 in April, the European Commission in Brussels said today. That’s the lowest since October 2009 and below the 91.9 forecast by economists, according to the median of 28 estimates in a Bloomberg survey…
Euro-Area Loan Growth Slowed in April as Crisis Damped Demand
Growth in loans to households and companies in the 17-nation euro area slowed in April as the sovereign debt crisis curbed demand for credit.
Loans to the private sector grew 0.3 percent from a year earlier after gaining an annual 0.6 percent in March, the European Central Bank said today. The rate of growth in M3 money supply, which the Frankfurt-based ECB uses as a gauge of future inflation, slowed to 2.5 percent from 3.1 percent.
The ECB has flooded markets with more than 1 trillion euros ($1.3 trillion) in three-year loans at its benchmark rate, which is currently at a record low of 1 percent, to prevent a credit crunch.
“The ECB has made sure that there is enough supply in the credit markets,” said Michael Schubert, an economist at Commerzbank AG in Frankfurt. “But as the economy is still weak, demand for credit continues to be low and the ECB can’t change that.”
Euro-area gross domestic product was unchanged in the first quarter from the prior three months.
Banks tightened credit standards less in the first quarter than in the previous three months, while credit demand from non- financial corporations and households continued to fall, the ECB said in its quarterly bank lending survey published April 25. For the current quarter, euro-area banks forecast an improvement in demand for corporate loans and a deceleration of the decline in loans to households.
M3 grew 2.7 percent in the three months through April from the same period a year earlier, the ECB said. M3 is the broadest gauge of money supply and includes cash in circulation, some forms of savings and money-market holdings.
Most Aid to Athens Circles Back to Europe
PARIS — Its membership in the euro currency union hanging in the balance, Greece continues to receive billions of euros in emergency assistance from a so-called troika of lenders overseeing its bailout.
But almost none of the money is going to the Greek government to pay for vital public services. Instead, it is flowing directly back into the troika’s pockets.
The European bailout of 130 billion euros ($163.4 billion) that was supposed to buy time for Greece is mainly servicing only the interest on the country’s debt — while the Greek economy continues to struggle.
If that seems to make little sense economically, it has a certain logic in the politics of euro-finance. After all, the money dispensed by the troika — the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission — comes from European taxpayers, many of whom are increasingly wary of the political disarray that has afflicted Athens and clouded the future of the euro zone.
As they pay themselves, though, the troika members are also withholding other funds intended to keep the Greek government in operation.
Last week, the Athens office that tracks revenue said Greece could run out of money by July. If so, Greece could default on its debts — except those due to the central bank, the monetary fund and the European Union.
“Greece will not default on the troika because the troika is paying themselves,” said Thomas Mayer, a senior adviser at Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt.
In an elaborate payment system that began after the May 6 election that brought down the Greek government and is meant to ensure that the Greeks do not touch the cash, the big three creditors are now wiring bailout payments to an escrow account in Greece. There the money sits for two or three days — before much of it is sent back to the troika as interest payments on the Greek bonds that Europe accepted under terms of the bailout deal struck in February.
About three-quarters of Greece’s debt, or $229 billion, is now effectively owned by one of the three troika members, according to estimates by the investment bank UBS.
The central bank, in particular, is eager to be paid back, said Mr. Mayer, who has followed the cash.
To help calm volatile financial markets, it bought billions of euros in Greek bonds that come due monthly. “It’s why they want to get paid back every month now,” he said. “The E.C.B. bought at a high price and now insists on being paid in full.”
Some people close to the situation say the troika is also trying to put financial pressure on Greece to do what it can to collect tax revenue from an increasingly devastated economy.
The managing director of the I.M.F., Christine Lagarde, prompted a furor in Greece over the weekend when she chastised Greeks for not paying taxes, in an interview with The Guardian.
A Greek government adviser who spoke on the condition of anonymity, for fear of alienating the European lenders, said of the troika: “They made sure that the sum for domestic spending is kept small enough to force Greece to dramatically raise its own revenues.”
On its face, the situation seems absurd. The European authorities are effectively lending Greece money so Greece can repay the money it borrowed from them.
“You send the money, you call it a ‘loan’ — you get it back and call it an ‘interest rate,’ ” said Stephane Deo, global head of asset allocation in London for UBS. Mr. Deo said such arrangements were common in situations where governments were in danger of defaulting on their debts.
That is because governments do not go bankrupt in the same way that companies do; creditors cannot break them up and sell the assets to recover some of their money. So creditors have an incentive to ensure that distressed governments continue to repay their debts, even if it means lending them the money.
Since May 2010, Greece has been sent about $177 billion in European taxpayer money to keep the country afloat and ward off a bigger crisis that might threaten the entire currency union. Of that amount, a full two-thirds has gone to pay off bondholders and the troika.
Only a third has been earmarked to finance government operations, with only a tiny sliver spent on stimulus projects for the anemic economy.
This circular lending is all about risk management. After all, Greece this year negotiated a debt deal in which banks that held its bonds got only about half of their money back.
The troika wants to ensure the same does not happen to its members and the taxpayers. European officials have also pointed to Greece’s track record on finances, including manipulating its budget numbers to qualify to join the euro union in 2001, and government corruption since then….
ECB rejects Spain’s Bankia recap plan: FT
SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) — Spain will have to come up with another plan to recapitalize Bankia SA after the European Central Bank reportedly torpedoed a proposal to use government debt.
The ECB said Spain’s plan to use 19 billion euros ($24 billion) in sovereign bonds to recapitalize the bank was in danger of violating a ban forbidding the central bank to finance governments, the Financial Times reported in its online edition late Tuesday, citing European officials.
Spain nationalized Bankia ES:BKIA -4.48% , its third-largest bank, in early May. Under a proposal, Spain planned sink billions of euros in its bonds into the ailing bank with an eye to swapping them out for cash at the ECB’s three-month refinancing window. Such a plan would have allowed the country to sidestep having to raise the money in the bond markets.
On Tuesday, the yield on the 10-year Spanish bond ES:10YR_ESP +2.70% climbed as high as 6.49%.
Bankia shares closed down more than 16% Tuesday, after a 13% rout on Monday following the announcement of the government’s proposed plan.
The rejection follows reports that Bank of Spain governor Miguel Angel Fernández Ordóñez will step down a month ahead of schedule to allow his successor a head start in dealing with the country’s fiscal crisis. He was originally scheduled to complete his six-year term on July 12.
Bankia also came under fire after the parent company recently disclosed a commitment to pay one of its former executives a pension of 14 million euros, or $18 million.
The ratings agency said Spain has a higher-than-average exposure to its banking sector with its top five banks owning assets equal to 204% of GDP compared with 125% in Germany.
“Spain will be expected to provide substantial financial support to its banks over the next couple of quarters because of declines in home values, austerity measures and increased unemployment although affording such support might be difficult,” Egan-Jones said in a statement.
Greek Exit From Euro Seen Exposing Deposit-Guaranty Flaws
The threat of Greece exiting the euro is exposing flaws in how banks and governments protect European depositors’ cash in the event of a run.
National deposit-insurance programs, strengthened by the European Union in 2009 to guarantee at least 100,000 euros ($125,000), leave savers at risk of losses if a country leaves the euro and its currency is redenominated. The funds in some nations also have been depleted after they were used to help bail out struggling lenders, leading policy makers to consider implementing an EU-wide protection plan.
“These schemes were not designed to deal with a complete meltdown of a banking system,” said Andrew Campbell, professor of international banking and finance law at the University of Leeds in the U.K. and an adviser to the International Association of Deposit Insurers. “If there’s a systemic failure, there needs to be some form of intervention.”
With European officials openly discussing a Greek exit from the euro for the first time, savers in Spain, Italy and Portugal may start to withdraw cash on concern that those countries will follow Greece and their funds will be devalued with a switch to a successor currency. None of those nations has the firepower to handle simultaneous runs on multiple bank..
Spain Credit-Default Swaps Surge to Record on Bank Bailout Woes
The cost of insuring against default on Spanish sovereign bonds rose to a record as the nation’s debt crisis deepened amid concern over bank bailouts.
Credit-default swaps linked to the nation’s debt climbed 23 basis points to 583 at 11:44 a.m. in London, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The Markit iTraxx SovX Western Europe Index of swaps on 15 governments rose seven basis points to 320.5. An increase signals worsening perceptions of credit quality…
India’s Economy Slows, With Global Implications
NEW DELHI — India’s coalition government just celebrated the third anniversary of its tenure with a self-congratulatory banquet that could not have been more poorly timed: India’s currency, the rupee, is falling; investment is down; inflation is rising; and deficits are eating away at government coffers.
While short-term growth has slowed but not ground to a halt, India’s problems have dampened hopes that it, along with China and other non-Western economies, might help revive the global economy, as happened after the 2008 financial crisis. Instead, India is now facing a political reckoning, as the country’s elected leaders must address difficult, politically unpopular decisions — or risk even deeper problems.
“When India was being run comparatively well in 2008, they seemed to cope with these external shocks, at least from a financial perspective,” said Glenn Levine, a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics in Sydney, Australia. “I think people are starting to question the long-term Indian story. That is the difference now.”
India’s difficulties come as the global economy is wobbling once again. Europe is grappling with a sovereign debt crisis that could shatter the continent’s economic and political union. The United States is still not producing enough new jobs. China’s growth has weakened, with a real estate downturn and stalling exports, while important emerging economies like Brazil are slowing down, adding to pessimism about the world economy at a critical time.
India is often viewed as a rising global powerhouse and, not too long ago, Indian officials were predicting growth rates of 9 percent or higher. The Obama administration, eager to tap into such a booming market and envisioning India as a regional counterweight to China, trumpeted the United States-India partnership. Some analysts even saw the global downturn as an opportunity for India, making it more attractive for foreign investors wary of putting money into declining advanced industrial countries.
Today, India’s economy is still expanding, with growth projected between 6 percent and 7 percent this year. And analysts say India’s long-term strengths remain significant. It has one of the world’s youngest populations, and polls consistently show they are overwhelmingly optimistic about their future. Meanwhile, India’s businesses are competing more aggressively on the global stage.
But the slowdown has punctured the once bubbly mood in the business and political classes and brought sharp criticism of the government. Indian business leaders, foreign investors and analysts say India’s strengths are being undermined by growing political dysfunction: the populist tendencies of Indian politicians, a lack of action by top leaders and allegations of corruption that have undermined the authority of policy makers.
India is desperate for investment in mining, roads, ports, urban housing and other areas, but Indian businesses and foreign investors are starting to shy away. Indian corporations, unable to obtain governmental licenses or permissions for projects, are investing overseas instead. Foreigners are also pulling back; their investment in Indian stocks and bonds totaled only $16 billion in the last fiscal year, compared with $30 billion the year before. The trend accelerated in recent months after the Finance Ministry, trying to stem a rising budget deficit, proposed a raft of new taxes on foreign institutions doing business in India.
“A quiet crisis of confidence is building up,” said Pratap Bhanu Mehta, president of the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi. “There is no certainty over the regulatory regime. There is no certainty over the tax regime.”…
Greasy Jewish Supremacist Fisher at BOE Gloats over EU Breakup
Reuters) – A break up of the euro zone cannot be ruled out, Bank of England policymaker Paul Fisher was quoted as saying on Wednesday, amid growing jitters about the stability of the single currency bloc.
In an interview with the Leicester Mercury, Fisher, who sits on the BoE’s Monetary Policy Committee and Financial Policy Committee for regulation of the wider financial system, was quoted as saying that the impact of a euro break up would depend on how it was handled by European authorities.
“No one is trying to anticipate a euro break-up, but you just can’t rule it out,” he said.
His comments come after Prime Minister David Cameron and finance minister George Osborne met with BoE Governor Mervyn King and bank regulator Adair Turner to discuss contingency plans for a possible break-up of the euro zone.
Worries about the stability of the currency zone have escalated due to worries about Spain’s banking system and uncertainty about Greek elections next month.
(Reporting by Fiona Shaikh; Editing by Toby Chopra)
Spain Takes Center Stage In Eurozone Crisis
PARIS — Faced with the growing fears about Spain, the European Commission signaled Wednesday that it was prepared to show flexibility on the country’s tough deficit targets, a recognition that the crisis that has convulsed Greece is showing signs of infecting other euro countries.
The European economic and monetary affairs commissioner, Olli Rehn, told a press conference in Brussels that if Spain “can effectively control the excessive spending,” the commission was “ready to consider” extending by one year the 2013 deadline Spain faces to bring its budget deficit down to 3 percent, in line with European rules, from the x percent expected for 2012.
Spain is headed for a budget deficit of 6.4 percent of gross domestic product this year, the commission said on May 11, and 6.3 percent next year.
Mr. Rehn spoke after the commission released recommendations calling on Europe to take more steps “towards full economic and monetary union, including a banking union; euro area financial supervision and euro-area wide deposit guarantees.”
The commission also called for the creation of euro bonds and cautioned François Hollande, the new French president, against overspending in trying to spur growth.
Europe’s economic stagnation and continuing financial turmoil in the euro zone have weighed on confidence, the commission said earlier in a report. The commission’s indicator of business sentiment in the 17-nation euro zone fell in May to 90.6 from April’s revised 92.9. The decline, it said, “was driven by falling confidence in all business sectors, especially in industry and retail trade.”…