The Great Debate UK
Portuguese 10-year government bond yields have hovered stubbornly above 7 percent since the Irish bailout announcement, hitting a euro-lifetime high and giving ammunition to those who say Lisbon will be forced into a bailout.
And of those who hold that view, it’s clear that bank economists have been most vocal in expecting Ireland and Portugal to seek outside help.
Take last week’s poll in which economists said Portugal would follow Ireland in applying for EU funds. Bank-based economists who expected a Portuguese bailout outnumbered those who didn’t almost three-to-one. For non-bank economists – those working at research houses, brokers and wealth management firms – the margin was only two-to-one.
Ireland's bloated banking sector needs fewer, smaller lenders. A sovereign bailout should provide breathing space to perform a radical restructuring. But a fire sale of Irish banking assets is not the only way to cut the banks down to size.
The combined liabilities of Ireland's domestic lenders, both private and state owned, exceed 500 billion euros, or four times Irish GDP. The country's likely 90 billion euro bailout will deliver resources to recapitalize the banks and guarantee wholesale funding for several years. In that time, the sector could be redrawn.
Ireland's fall from grace has been rapid and far worse than that of its counterparts, even Greece. But life in the euro zone has still been one of profound growth, as it has for most of the other peripheral economies.
Take a look first at the progress of PIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain) GDP since 2007 when the global financial crisis took hold. In straight comparisons (ie, rebased to the same point) Ireland is far and away the biggest loser. Portugal is basically where it was.
from Felix Salmon:
Does the Ireland crisis bespeak a major weakness in the Basel capital-adequacy regime? Simon Nixon thinks so: the fact that investors won't lend to Bank of Ireland, he says, "highlights a major weakness of the Basel capital rules that European banks operate under."
This is an interesting idea: Ireland's problem is a banking problem, banking problems are Basel problems, and therefore it stands to reason that Ireland's problem might be a Basel problem. But if you look more closely at Nixon's reasoning, his thesis ends up falling apart.
– Laurence Copeland is a professor of finance at Cardiff University Business School. The opinions expressed are his own. –
Supporting Ireland to the tune of a few billion quid must look like a no-brainer to the British Government. We should not make the same mistake as the Germans, who managed to get the worst of both worlds over Greece – forced by the scale of their bank exposure to support Greece, but providing the money with ill will, causing bitterness rather than gratitude – and now repeating the error in the Irish case.
Rahm Emanuel, President Barack Obama's former chief of staff, popularized the motto that one shouldn't waste a good crisis. But there is a severe risk that this is precisely what the world has been doing by being excessively soft in bailing out banks and countries since Lehman Brothers went bust in 2008.
Bailouts, such as that being negotiated for Ireland, may be needed to prevent a descent into chaos. But the conditions must be tough. Otherwise, the world won't learn the lessons from the crisis and justice won't be seen to be done.
from Felix Salmon:
Color me underwhelmed by the Irish bailout. By all accounts it's going to be less than €100 billion -- probably in the €80 billion to €90 billion range -- and that sum has to cover the country's entire borrowing needs for the next three years. The NYT has a breakdown:
While a precise breakdown was not given, analysts and people involved in the talks said that about 15 billion euros was likely to go to backstop the banks. As much as 60 billion euros would go to Ireland’s annual budget deficit of 19 billion euros for the next three years.
Ireland’s banking crisis reached boiling point this week. The Irish authorities are still adamant the country doesn’t need a bailout and are trying to draw a distinction between a sovereign bailout (which Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen, Finance Minister Brian Lenihan et al claim they don’t need) and banking sector support (which they most definitely do).
The assault on the Irish bond market by bond investors has continued with a vengeance this week with 10-year bond yields hovering close to nine percent at 8.91 percent. Since August yields have been trending higher, but they accelerated sharply in mid-October, when they were at six percent. At this rate, yields could be in double figures by next week.
–Laurence Copeland is a professor of finance at Cardiff University Business School. The opinions expressed are his own.–
If the economics profession has sunk in public estimation in the last two or three years, it would hardly be surprising. Our failure to predict the crisis is something which cannot be simply brushed aside lightly, as some of my colleagues would love to do.