Economy Euro

Debt crisis: Which way now for the Eurozone?

10 March 2011
The Daily Telegraph London

"We are on the brink, and we don't know if the abyss is in front of us, or behind".

"We are on the brink, and we don't know if the abyss is in front of us, or behind".

Political paralysis in Brussels, monetary tightening by the ECB and soaring rates for Portuguese, Irish and Greek bonds : the omens for the crucial 11 March Eurozone summit on how to head off the deepening economic crisis are not good.

Portugal edged closer to the brink yesterday, having to pay almost 6pc to raise two-year debt. The yield on 10-year bonds briefly surged to 7.8pc after the Chinese rating agency Dagong downgraded the country's debt to BBB+.

"These levels of interest rates are not sustainable over time," said Carlos Costa Pina, secretary of the Portuguese Treasury, blaming the latest upset on the lack of a coherent EU debt strategy rather any failing by Portugal to deliver on austerity.

Mr Costa Pina rebuffed calls by leading economists in Portugal for an EU-IMF bail-out rather than drawing out the agony. "It is not justified. Portugal doesn't need external help, it needs urgent measures by the EU to restore market confidence."

David Owen from Jefferies Fixed Income said last week's shock move by the ECB to pre-announce rate rises had tightened credit and effectively doomed the country. "The ECB by its actions has made it inevitable that Portugal will need a bail-out. There are parallels with the actions of the Bundesbank during the ERM crisis in 1992," he said.

Mr Owen said the ECB is playing brinkmanship with EU leaders, pressuring them to come up with a grand solution to the debt crisis at summits this month. It is a dangerous game. "Spain is not yet safe. It has €2.5 trillion of combined household and company debt. That is an awful lot," he said. Read full article in the Daily Telegraph...