Tag Archive: Eurozone Crisis

Sep 27 2012

More Pain for Spain as Unemployment & Hunger Increase

Spain has announced its budget that imposes more austerity that emphasizes spending cuts over revenue:

Government ministries saw their budgets slashed by 8.9 percent for next year, as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s battle to reduce one of the euro zone’s biggest deficits was made harder by weak tax revenues in a prolonged recession. [..]

“This is a crisis budget aimed at emerging from the crisis … In this budget there is a larger adjustment of spending than revenue,” Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria told a news conference after a marathon six-hour cabinet meeting.

Spain, the euro zone’s fourth largest economy, is at the centre of the crisis. Investors fear that Madrid cannot control its finances and that Rajoy does not have the political will to take all the necessary but unpopular measures.

Madrid is talking to Brussels about the terms of a possible European aid package that would trigger a European Central Bank bond-buying program and ease Madrid’s unsustainable borrowing costs. [..]

The measures continue to heap pressure on the crisis-weary population and are likely to fuel further street protests, which have become increasingly violent as tensions rise and police are given the green light to use force to disperse crowds.

A quarter of all Spanish workers are unemployed and tens of thousands have been evicted from their homes after a burst housing bubble in 2008 and plummeting consumer and business sentiment tipped the country into a four-year economic slump.

Analysis of the budget from Trevor Greetham at The Guardian‘s Live Blog compares Spain to the US and the UK:

I’ve always opposed austerity as the solution to the global debt crisis and the strictures of the common currency make it particularly ill-suited to the euro periphery. Efforts to deflate Spain into competitiveness raise the prospect of many years of wage cuts and property price falls that will necessitate ever larger fiscal transfers from the stronger countries, either directly or via pan-euro institutions like the central bank.

Five years into the worst financial crisis in generations we are starting to see how effective various policies have been. Spain, the UK and the US offer three interesting test cases, each dealing with the after effects of a real estate bust in different ways:

· Spain = austerity with tight money (austerity, no devaluation, no quantitative easing, market interest rates too high)

· UK = austerity but with loose money (austerity, currency devaluation, quantitative easing)

· US = no austerity with loose money (no austerity, stable currency, quantitative easing)

Activity in both the UK and Spain remains well below its pre-crisis level – suggesting the benefits of the UK printing its own currency may not be as great as might be supposed. It appears to be the lack of austerity in the US that is the distinguishing aspect of a successful policy mix.

With overall unemployment at 25% and the rising cost of food through increases in value added taxes (VAT), the many of the Spanish poor and unemployed have resorted to scavenging for food shocking many of their fellow citizens:

MADRID – On a recent evening, a hip-looking young woman was sorting through a stack of crates outside a fruit and vegetable store here in the working-class neighborhood of Vallecas as it shut down for the night.

At first glance, she looked as if she might be a store employee. But no. The young woman was looking through the day’s trash for her next meal. Already, she had found a dozen aging potatoes she deemed edible and loaded them onto a luggage cart parked nearby. [..]

Such survival tactics are becoming increasingly commonplace here, with an unemployment rate over 50 percent among young people and more and more households having adults without jobs. So pervasive is the problem of scavenging that one Spanish city has resorted to installing locks on supermarket trash bins as a public health precaution.

A report this year by a Catholic charity, Caritas, said that it had fed nearly one million hungry Spaniards in 2010, more than twice as many as in 2007. That number rose again in 2011 by 65,000. [..]

The Caritas report also found that 22 percent of Spanish households were living in poverty and that about 600,000 had no income whatsoever. All these numbers are expected to continue to get worse in the coming months.

About a third of those seeking help, the Caritas report said, had never used a food pantry or a soup kitchen before the economic crisis hit. For many of them, the need to ask for help is deeply embarrassing. In some cases, families go to food pantries in neighboring towns so their friends and acquaintances will not see them.

Expect to see more demonstrations like these as hunger increases:

 

Sep 14 2012

European Central Bank Buys Bonds, US Fed Funds Jobs

European Central Bank president Mario Draghi won the approval of the German court to implement his [plan to buy up the bonds of ailing Eurozone members and the Netherlands rejected ant-euro candidates in Parliamentary elections www.nytimes.com/2012/09/14/world/europe/european-union-celebrates-german-and-dutch-decisions.html?_r=1&ref=europe]:

PARIS – There was a general sigh of relief in the European Union this week. The cause was not better performance in the troubled and highly indebted southern countries of the euro zone, but crucial decisions made in the rich northern nations with perfect credit ratings, where skepticism about the common currency is running high.

On Wednesday, the German Constitutional Court found a way to declare that the permanent bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism, is legal, clearing the way to use it in time to recapitalize troubled banks as well as governments. And the Dutch voted for mainstream parties in a parliamentary election, choosing not to be enticed by parties wanting to leave the euro.

Combined with the European Central Bank’s decision to restart its bond-buying program in return for more budget discipline, immediately lowering interest rates on Italian and Spanish bonds, European leaders could begin to feel that perhaps the worst is over in the euro crisis, at least for now.

The markets also “cheered” Federal Reserve president Ben Bernake’s open ended third round of quantitative easing (QE-3, not a criuse ship)

The Fed on Thursday said it would buy $40 billion of mortgage-backed securities every month until the labor market improves. The rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee, or FOMC, also said it plans to keep its federal funds rate near zero though at least mid-2015.

“While we will hear a lot of criticism on the FOMC’s aggressive moves, we shouldn’t forget that for markets, it usually doesn’t pay to fight the Fed,” wrote strategists at KBC Bank in Brussels.

The S&P 500 SPX on Thursday ended 23.43 points higher at 1,459.99, a 1.6% rise, and its highest finish since 2007. The Dow DJIA jumped 206.51 points to close at 13,539.86. The Nasdaq Composite Index COMP rose 41.52 points to 3,155.83.

From a technical standpoint, the Fed-inspired rally drove the S&P 500 above key resistance in the 1,440 to 1,445 range, said analysts at Credit Suisse. They now see room for the index to rise toward the 1,480 level or possibly 1,500 during the next one to six months.

Greece may get some wiggle room to find its way out of it financial crisis:

The Fed on Thursday said it would buy $40 billion of mortgage-backed securities every month until the labor market improves. The rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee, or FOMC, also said it plans to keep its federal funds rate near zero though at least mid-2015.

“While we will hear a lot of criticism on the FOMC’s aggressive moves, we shouldn’t forget that for markets, it usually doesn’t pay to fight the Fed,” wrote strategists at KBC Bank in Brussels.

The S&P 500 SPX on Thursday ended 23.43 points higher at 1,459.99, a 1.6% rise, and its highest finish since 2007. The Dow DJIA jumped 206.51 points to close at 13,539.86. The Nasdaq Composite Index COMP rose 41.52 points to 3,155.83.

From a technical standpoint, the Fed-inspired rally drove the S&P 500 above key resistance in the 1,440 to 1,445 range, said analysts at Credit Suisse. They now see room for the index to rise toward the 1,480 level or possibly 1,500 during the next one to six months.

These latest actions may have aided Spain’s economy, as well, but not to the extent that they won’t have to ask the ECB for help:

The turnaround has been so dramatic that it’s allowed Spain, one of the most badly affected countries, to suggest that it may not need aid after all.

“I don’t know if Spain needs to ask for it,” Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy told parliament on Wednesday, referring to external aid.

But according to Nicholas Spiro, managing director of Spiro Sovereign Strategy, even though the ECB bond plan is “working wonders,” it won’t prevent Spain from eventually seeking a bailout.