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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Euro: Spain and the risks in the EU banking sector

There is a good chance that the Spanish financial system will fail.

by StFerdIII

Euro death alert update. The Euro has appreciated in recent months though not back to its highs of late last year. There is no good reason for this. The true debts of the EU are at over 800% of GDP. Annual deficits using real numbers are at US levels in at least 6 nation states. Of the 25 Euro members only 4 or 5 constitute a true currency region, those being the states along the Rhine delta and Germany. No natural fiscal, monetary or investment patterns are evident throughout the Euro zone geography. Debts, corruption, massive unionism and socialism, unrestricted spending [coalition governments], and a banking sector which is utterly exposed to EU government debt problems, not to mention eastern Europe's fragile fiscal state all point to weak some point it all comes crashing down. When and how are the only points of contention.

Spain which has so far avoided the implosions witnessed in Greece, Ireland and Portugal is next in line. Why Spain will be bailed out.....

...the ECB recent rate hike, coupled with the expectation it will hike further in the future, is going to raise the interest payments on mortgages in Spain. And while that sector is already troubled, it will be placed under further pressure which will deepen its capital crisis and leave it calling for aid.

Thus far, the only example of a banking crisis leading to a sovereign crisis we've seen in the eurozone is Ireland. There, the government chose to step in and bailout its banks. When the costs became unsustainable, it sought help from the European Union and IMF. EU leadership have refused Ireland's push to force haircuts on bondholders, many of which are European banks.

Spain is a somewhat different case. Its real estate sector has been slower to adjust, and its banking sector has seen government intervention through forced tie ups and limited cash injections, rather than a full on bailout.

It is possible Spain could seek aid from the EU-IMF European Financial Stability Fund before its government bails out its banking sector full stop. This may prevent the state from taking a bailout, and may preserve its lending rate at somewhat more agreeable terms than Greece, Ireland, or Portugal now have.”

Spain therefore as a state might not need a bailout. Indeed it is still selling its bond at rates many basis points below that of Portugal. But the issue will be its banking sector, which is locked into government both as a holder of debt, and as a source of immediate financial cash flow. The problem with Spain and much of Europe is that the banking sector is so intertwined into government debt and finances, that if it implodes, it will trigger a sovereign financial collapse. As interest rates rise and bank margins tumble, this is exactly what could happen. Keep in mind that Spanish and EU banks still have literally trillions of dollars to write off in bad investments, including those made in Eastern Europe.