Sunday, June 10, 2012

Spain Bank Rescue — Bailout Déjà Vu


The 'Helicopter Economics Investing Guide' is meant to help educate people on how to make profitable investing choices in the current economic environment. We have coined this term to describe the current monetary and fiscal policies of the U.S. government, which involve unprecedented money printing. This is the official blog of the New York Investing meetup.

After weeks of Spanish officials denying that Spain needed a bailout, eurozone finance ministers agreed on Saturday to up to $125 billion rescue of Spanish banks. Spain is now the fourth member of the EU to seek assistance since Europe's debt crisis began in late 2009.

The precise amount of the bailout won't be determined until June 21st when two consultants finish their assessment of the capital needs of Spanish banks. The IMF is not involved in providing funds (at least not yet), but will help monitor Spanish banks. The rescue money will be funneled into Spain's "Fund for Orderly Bank Restructuring". Aid will supposedly be directed at the 30% of banks with the greatest exposure to property loans. Bankia, which was recently nationalized, would certainly be at the top of this list. After claiming to be profitable, it had to admit to massive losses.  If Bankia was lying about its numbers, what about other Spanish banks?

Apparently, there are few strings attached to this initial bailout. There are no plans to restructure the Spanish economy to make it functional, nor even to stop Spanish banks from lending to builders of empty houses that no one ever buys or lives in (there is already a huge glut of empty houses in the country left over from the building boom in the mid-2000s, but this hasn't stopped the building of more). With the unemployment rate approaching 25% and a large percentage of Spanish homeowners underwater in their mortgages, neither an easy, nor swift solution to Spain's banking mess is possible.

EU and world leaders praised the latest of their bailouts to the sky. The "everything is great and we've solved the problem" litany should sound familiar. After all, the same thing was heard before, during and after the first Greek bailout, the second Greek bailout, and the various schemes to write
down Greece's debt. Even prior to the first Greek bailout, EU officials stated in March 2010, "We recognize that the Greek authorities have taken ambitious and decisive action which should allow Greece to regain the full confidence of the markets. The consolidation measures taken by Greece are an important contribution to enhancing fiscal sustainability and market confidence". It was all downhill from there. Now, they are optimistic about Spain.

Spanish officials, the ones that claimed over and over again that there was no need for a bailout, are just as optimistic. The Spanish Economy Minister claimed that the requested funds would amply cover any need. He continued by insisting that "this has nothing to do with a rescue". It seems that reality perception needs a bailout in Spain as well.

As usual, the EU has done nothing to solve its escalating monetary crisis except to throw money at it. All the problems that led to the crisis are still there and will continue to drain money from the financial system so one bailout after another will be needed. Greece, Portugal and Ireland all got additional funds after their first bailouts. Spain will need another rescue as well. Italy will be next in line. Lessons from the Greek bailout indicate that at first the stock market is euphoric and then when reality sets in later on, there is a big selloff.

Disclosure: None

Daryl Montgomery
Author: "Inflation Investing - A Guide for the 2010s"
Organizer, New York Investing meetup

This posting is editorial opinion. There is no intention to endorse the purchase or sale of any security.


Media Mentions said...

The Spanish bailout proposal seems to be its own beast: the usual pros and cons, but you clearly understand that. Although just before I stumbled onto a pretty neat article that seems to summarize the whole situation quite well ( In any event, I’m curious to see where this whole thing goes. Fingers crossed for the EU.


The world wide economic problems seem to get bigger every day.