Credit contagion

Well, three of five isn’t bad as the Eurozone is on the verge of melting down again:

The EU authorities have begun to vent their fury against Ireland over its refusal to accept a financial rescue, fearing that the crisis will engulf Portugal and Spain unless confidence is restored immediately to eurozone bond markets…. A simultaneous bail-out for both Ireland and Portugal might run to €200bn, depleting much of the EU rescue line. The European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) can raise up to €440bn on the bond markets but only two thirds of this would be available. The IMF is expected to loan a further €3 for every €8 from the EU under the bail-out formula.

The great concern is that the crisis could spread to Spain, which has a far bigger economy that Greece, Portugal, and Ireland combined. Foreign banks have €850bn of exposure to Spanish debt.

In RGD, I correctly identified Ireland and Spain as the likely culprits for the modern version of 1931’s Creditanstalt collapse. But I have to admit, I did not see Greece or Portugal being a probable issue; Estonia doesn’t count because it is not part of the Eurozone until 2011, assuming that there is still is Eurozone in 2011. But Greece was faking its economic statistics – they released yet another and increasingly bad debt/GDP report yesterday and I only looked at Portugal’s real estate sector, so presumably their excessive debt was concentrated elsewhere.

“According to Austrian theory, the effects of the housing bust on the overall economy should be much greater in countries like Estonia, Spain, and Ireland than in Austria, Germany, and Poland, and to the extent that inexpensive debt was made available to that and other sectors of the economy, we would expect to see that signs of the resulting economic contraction are similarly greater as well. Therefore we should see unemployment rising faster, prices falling further, GDP contracting more, and government deficits growing larger in the three housing boom countries than in the three non-boom ones. Due to the Austrian doubts about the reliability of macroeconomic data, greater credence should be given to historical statistics that are less easily manipulated, such as government deficits and interest rates, rather than GDP, unemployment, and inflation.”

Ireland is right to refuse the EU-IMF bailout. Notice that the bailout is not, as it is improperly characterized, a bailout of Ireland per se. It is actually a bailout of the banks that invested in Irish government debt and it is intended to put the people of Ireland on the hook for it in much the same way that Americans were put on the hook for the cost of the TARP bailouts.

Although it isn’t mentioned in the article, I noticed that Australia’s bond spreads have risen even higher than Portugal’s in the two-year. Australia has had a serious housing bubble too, one that continued into 2010, so don’t be surprised if there is news of a Australian crisis in the near future.

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