Counterparties: Can Mariano be a closer?

By Ben Walsh
September 17, 2012

Welcome to the Counterparties email. The sign-up page is here, it’s just a matter of checking a box if you’re already registered on the Reuters website. Send suggestions, story tips and complaints to Counterparties.Reuters@gmail.com

Eleven days ago, Mario Draghi announced that the European Central Bank was ready to do what he’d been hinting at for months: buy unlimited amounts of sovereign debt to hold down borrowing costs in countries like Spain. Assuming, that is, that national leaders request aid and agree to the central bank’s conditions.

As a result, since Draghi’s announcement, the burden has been on Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to formally apply for the aid. But his immediate reaction, like that of Italian PM Mario Monti, was noncommittal. As of last week, Rajoy was still recalcitrant, saying he didn’t “know if Spain needs to ask for” help beyond the €100 billion bank bailout it received in July, which was less than a sterling success.

Economic reality appears to be limiting the amount of time Rajoy has for consideration. Spanish 10-year debt is now yielding right around 6%, which means it has now essentially risen right back to where it was just before the ECB made its announcement.

Spanish banks, meanwhile, are losing deposits at an alarming rate, with a record €26 billion withdrawn in July alone. That leaves the country’s already shaky financial institutions with worsening loan-to-deposit ratios and a clear deficit of public trust. Catalonia, Spain’s wealthiest region, isn’t happy with the amount of taxes it is shipping to Madrid and wants its “own project”, separate from the current path of the rest county.

That said, Spain does appear to be tiptoeing towards asking for aid. Reuters reports that Spain “will set clear deadlines for structural reforms by the end of the month,” which would precede an official request for assistance. Still, the final decision has to be taken by Rajoy.

As Paul Murphy at FT Alphaville put it, markets are telling Rajoy what his only option is: call Draghi. — Ben Walsh

On to today’s links:

The Fed
Why the Fed’s latest move is “shamanistic economics” - New Economic Perspectives
QE3 will help a little but, but we “need more than a little bit of help” - Jared Bernstein
Banks can’t process mortgage applications fast enough for consumers to see QE3 benefits - FT

Crisis Retro
GM would really prefer if the US sold its stake now (at a loss) - WSJ

Tax Arcana
Questioning the defining economic policy of the last decade: tax cuts - NYT

Where Are They Now?
He hired Bloomberg, predicted the crisis, and committed insider trading just to prove a point - NYT

Orwellian
The puppetry of quotation approval – David Carr
The flack-to-hack ratio has exploded - Economist

#OWS
Occupy Wall Street launches “carnival of resistance” in downtown NYC - Bloomberg
A map of the #OWS anniversary protests - BI

Regulations
FDIC providing test prep to community banks for exams - American Banker
Why we can’t simplify bank regulation - Felix

Wonks
Study says “uncertainty” raised unemployment by at least 1 percentage point - SF Fed

Remuneration
Pandit’s compensation plan magically excludes the massively failed Smith Barney deal – Bloomberg

Politicking
“No single development has altered the workings of American democracy… so much as political consulting” - New Yorker

Good Pork
Reminder: frivolous sounding studies yield scientific breakthroughs - WaPo

Oxpeckers
How BuzzFeed uses data to track how much you love cats - FastCo

Hackers
Everything is broken and nobody’s upset - Scott Hanselman

More From Felix Salmon
Post Felix
The Piketty pessimist
The most expensive lottery ticket in the world
The problems of HFT, Joe Stiglitz edition
Private equity math, Nuveen edition
Five explanations for Greece’s bond yield
Post Your Comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/