By John Ward
Spain, which was never going to need a ‘bad bank’ is in talks to assemble one.
The “bad bank” scheme is the latest attempt by the centre-right government of Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy, to avoid a Troika-style rescue. This rescue is that last remaining thing that Spain was never going to have that hasn’t already been had. So the end is getting nearer.
Rajoy’s Popular Party – give him his due, it’s a great name – has deepened fiscal austerity, reformed Spain’s labour market, and ordered banks to set aside an extra €54bn of bad loan provisions and capital buffers this year. But the banks have now somewhat sheepishly come back to say that’s about a third of what they need. That’s worrying, because translating bankspeak into English, it probably means it’s about 5% of what they need.
Events today have already made thing worse for Spanish bond sales: Standard & Poor’s (S&P) Ratings Services just announced it is lowering the credit rating of 16 Spanish banks most importantly, those of Santander, and its vital subsidiaryBanco Espanol de Credito. They’ve been downgraded from A- to A-2 and A+ to A-1 respectively.
But when the markets are in a mood to think the best of a disaster, it’s amazing how much excrement you can chuck at them before they decide it tastes bad. Spain’s statistics bureau said last Friday that the country’s jobless rate rose to 24.4% in the first quarter, from 22.9% in the fourth quarter of last year; but because the recession forecast was pessimistic by 0.1%, European stocks rose.
It doesn’t take a lot to get European stocks rising these days. Thanks to all that QE and Zirp, large concerns and their bankers can buy their own shares if necessary. But 0.1% in one country about to topple over a cliff is the best bippy so far in terms of a crazy rationale for confidence. I hear there’s a donkey auction on Spetse tomorrow. Stand by for a bull market on the main Greek bourses of they sell two hind legs more than expected.