Markets were a little unnerved yesterday by concern that Germany’s top court may take a long time to rule on complaints lodged against the euro zone’s permanent bailout fund, the ESM, which was supposed to come into effect this week. Finance Minister Schaeuble urged the constitutional court to reach a speedy decision. The judges are not expected to block it but Germany’s president says he won’t sign it into law without the court’s go-ahead. A minor delay will pose no problem. A lengthier one could jolt investors.
The head of the court raised the possibility of a review taking take two to three months. That could create a dangerous vacuum though he stressed that was just one option. Schaeuble is just out again saying he hopes for a verdict before the autumn.
Bundesbank head Weidmann said even rapid ratification may not stop the crisis escalating further. With only a maximum 500 billion euros (100 billion of which is earmarked for Spain’s banks) at its disposal, the ESM looks ill-equipped to tackle the bond market head on. When the European Central Bank intervened last year to lower Italian borrowing costs it was spending 13/14 billion euros a week. And even then, it bought only temporary leeway.
Prime Minister Mario Monti said yesterday that Italy could be interested in tapping the euro zone’s rescue fund for bond support. Finnish premier Katainen says the euro zone is in its most parlous situation since May 2010 when Greece was near collapse for the first time. So whether the ESM rapidly comes into being or not, if the crisis worsens, all roads lead to the reluctant ECB once again.
Madrid is due to spell out the extra debt-cutting measures it has come up with in return for the euro zone giving it an extra year to get its budget deficit below three percent of GDP.
The Spanish government has produced a package of up to 30 billion euros over several years through spending cuts and tax hikes. A source close to the Spanish government said 10 billion euros of cuts would come this year and that the measures would include a hike in VAT sales tax, reduced social security payments, reduced unemployment benefits and changes to pensions calculations.