Spanish CDS Spreads Surpass Iceland

This was unthinkable only a year ago: Iceland‘s sovereign CDS spread being closer to the German benchmark than the Spanish. This means that the credit market believes that it’s safer to lend money to a bankrupt little community out in the North Sea rather than to the ninth largest economy in the world.

“The problem is that Greece, Ireland and Iceland all said the same thing shortly before they were forced to receive help.”

Gavan Nolan

This is an apple!

The Markit iTraxx SovX Western Europe hit 190 basis points for the first time, Friday. Spain and Portugal hit record wide of 325 and 515 bp’s respectively. Ireland’s bailout last weekend has caused the credit markets to hone in on the other likely candidates for financial distress; Portugal and Spain.

“Ireland and Iceland have been compared often in the last two years. The two island nations in the North Atlantic are emblematic of the excessive financial debt that precipitated the global recession,” credit analyst Gavan Nolan points out in Markit Credit Wrap.

A recent blog post by Paul Krugman highlights Iceland’s strong performance relative to Ireland since 2009, which he attributed to the Nordic country’s “heterodox” economic policies: capital controls, a large devaluation and considerable debt restructuring.

“The CDS market reflects this view – Iceland’s spreads are trading at half Ireland’s level. Even Spain is now wider than Iceland, a scenario that would have seemed far-fetched at the beginning of this year,” Nolan writes.

Adding: “The dire fiscal state of the eurozone’s peripheral economies is well-established. But the last week has seen the situation deteriorate, with sovereign spreads reaching unprecedented levels today.”


Both Portugal and Spain were forced to issue denials that they needed external support today.

Portuguese government spokesman says that reports of fellow EU members pressurizing Portugal into accepting a bailout are “totally false”, Financial Times report, The passing of the government’s austerity budget – a major point of contention with the opposition parties – did little to relieve the pressure on the sovereign’s spreads.

Meanwhile, Spain did also issuing robust denials of bailout rumours. The country’s prime minister Jose Zapatero says  there is “absolutely” no need for a rescue.

“The problem for both countries is that Greece, Ireland and Iceland all said the same thing shortly before they were forced to receive help. Investors are all too aware of the credibility issue, and this is reflected in sovereign spreads,” Gavan Nolan writes.

More details of a bailout that is definitely happening, that of Ireland, are expected over the weekend.

A report in the Irish Times today that revealed the timetable caused bank spreads to widen sharply.

The report indicated that the EU-IMF mission in Dublin is looking at ways of making senior debt holders share the burden of the bailout, i.e. taking haircuts.

“A fear of such a measure has been bubbling under in the markets for some time now, particularly after the Anglo-Irish Bank debt exchange “offer” was first announced. If does come to fruition then it will be a significant moment in the recent history of financial market,” Nolan notes.

“Senior bondholders will no longer be considered untouchable, and this will inevitably have an effect on bank borrowing costs. On the other hand, if there is no mention of such a measure then it could cause spreads to snap back,” he concludes.

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In other words – it’s gonna be another interesting Monday…

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