Today the markets will worry again about Spanish bond yields. It now costs the Spanish government 7.2% to borrow money for ten years, above the magic 7% level which many say represents the upper limit of affordability for a distressed Euro area sovereign to pay.
Spain reached this sorry state late last week. Just as the details of the Spanish bank bail out money were once again being worked over, Valencia announced it needed loans from the Spanish federal government to keep it going.
The EU spin so far has said that Spain the country is not bankrupt or overstretched. It is only the weak banks, say the authorities, that have led to financing problems. The much vaunted brilliance of the last Euro fix was to segregate financing the banks from financing the state. If the Euro rescue funds could go direct into the banks, without having to go via the state, markets would be relaxed about state borrowing. The markets rallied on this ragged proposition. The Germans were meanwhile trying to ensure there was some Spanish Central Bank/ state guarantee on the money the banks will borrow from the bail out funds, undermining part of the reassuarance.
Last week the whole argument over keeping the Spanish state safe from banking excess was overwhelmed by the news that Valencia needs help. Catalonia, Murcia and others may also in due course want similar assistance. The Spanish provinces have devolved responsibility for big spending areas like health and education as well as more traditional devolved matters in a European federal EU member. As a result the federal government’s austerity packages, demanded by the Euro bosses, of necessity demand substantial cuts in regional spending as well as in federal government spending. There is little love lost between the main regions and the centre. There is even less when the national government demands cuts. Some of the cuts are proving too painful or difficult. As a result the regions are now asking for some relaxation of the discipline, and at the same time saying they need help from central government to borrow the money they need.
The Spanish government has also had to announce worse forecasts for the length and depth of its recession. This means less tax revenue and more state spending. The country is in a vicious circle, with more cuts and higher taxes leading to lower output and more cuts, all driven by the Euro scheme. Spain cannot try money printing or credit easing, cannot decide to borrow more because the cycle is against it. It has to increase the cuts.
That is why Spanish yields are now dangerously high. The EU seniors will need to meet again before their summer holidays if they are to find another way to fend this off with spin and loans. There simply is not enough money to keep Spain going on current plans.