Former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers warned of the dangers in the eurozone in his latest op-ed for the FT, and it is hard to disagree. But part of what he said bothered me:
A worrisome indicator in much of Europe is the tendency of stock and bond prices to move together. In healthy countries, when sentiment improves stock prices rise and bond prices fall, as risk premiums decline and interest rates rise. In unhealthy economies, as in much of Europe today, bonds are seen as risk assets, so they move just like stocks in response to changes in sentiment. Read more
Politics is back on the agenda for investors. Spanish and Italian bond and stock markets took a tumble, reacting to a spreading slush fund scandal in Spain’s ruling Popular party and rising support for former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. James Mackintosh, investment editor, asks if a retreat from the eurozone’s periphery will herald a shift in market paradigm
Lee Buchheit is a man worth listening to. The Cleary Gottlieb lawyer wiped €100bn off Greece’s debts when he restructured the country’s bonds at the expense of the private sector, in just the latest in a long line of sovereign defaults he has overseen.
Now he’s airing his thoughts on the options for Spain and Italy, jointly with Mitu Gulati of Duke Law School – and rather bravely, he’s due to speak about it in Portugal next week.
His key message is that Spain is running on borrowed time, and should get on with a Uruguay-style debt reprofiling as soon as possible, extending maturity dates on bonds far into the future but continuing to pay interest. Read more
Does Spain really need to leave the euro? There is a pervasive argument that it does. That would restore its competitiveness, and allow the country to inflate away its debts.
But Xavier Vives, an economist at the IESE business school in Barcelona, suggests otherwise. Spain obviously has some serious problems, but an overvalued currency is not one of them. The charts he presents show that Spain’s share of global merchandise exports has barely declined during the eurozone era – quite a feat given that even Germany’s share has declined during the rise of China. Meanwhile Spain’s services exports have gained market share quite healthily. Devaluation would help but it is not desperately needed.
The draft structure for Spain’s rescue of its banking system suggests a big chunk of the cost will be borne by private investors, through losses on equity and subordinated debt.
Unfortunately, this will hurt the ailing economy even more, and ultimately only save money for Spain’s eurozone partners. The bad news for banks (and good news for taxpayers and efficient resource allocation) is that it also sets a new standard for future bailouts, over-riding the local political desire to save creditors. Worse news for banks could be to come, as the logical next step is for the eurozone bail-out fund to establish rules demanding losses for senior bondholders in future bank rescues.
Charts after the break showing Spain and what looks like the mispricing of bank CDS. Read more
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This blog is about asset allocation at the global level. It is an ongoing attempt to explain why investors and markets behave the way they do.
John Authers officially takes the "Long View", while James Mackintosh takes the "Short View" when it comes to investment decisions. In practice both of us end up taking both long- and short-term views, and occasionally disagreeing with each other; all comments and disagreements are very welcome.
James Mackintosh is the Financial Times' Investment Editor, writing and presenting the daily Short View column and video. In 16 years at the FT his posts have included comment editor, motor industry editor and hedge funds correspondent, as well as spells in the Parliamentary lobby and Paris. He was the first reporter hired for FT.com, joining two weeks before it launched.
James has a degree in philosophy and psychology from the University of Oxford, where he spent two further years in post-graduate study of philosophy. If he wasn't here, he'd be skiing.
John Authers is the Financial Times' Senior Investment Columnist, writing the Saturday Long View and a regular Monday column. In a 22-year career at the FT, his previous posts have included global head of the Lex column, investment editor, US markets editor, Mexico City bureau chief and US banking correspondent. His latest book is The Fearful Rise of Markets.
John has a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from the University of Oxford, and an MBA from Columbia University. Perhaps more interestingly, he captained the highest scoring team in the history of University Challenge while at Oxford, and also once sung in Pavarotti's backing choir.