Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The euro area bond crisis in charts

Edward Harrison draws our attention to the euro area bond crisis: Spain, Italy, Belgium yields now under attack. I'd like to add to this thread by offering some illustrations of the polarizing of bond markets that's coincident with the euro area bond crisis. (Notice I do not say currency crisis because it's really the bond markets that are seething - the euro area, hence the currency, is thought to be relatively secure for now.)

(click to enlarge)

Spain, Italy, and Belgium are breaking away from the 'core', Germany, Austria, Netherlands, Finland, and France. But if you look really hard, France is showing a fair bit of stress too; it's underperforming the other core countries.

This is ironic. By attempting to stem broader contagion by ring-fencing Greece, Ireland, and Italy, euro area policy makers focused market attention on those countries too big to quickly ring-fence, i.e., Italy and Spain.

(click to enlarge)

Let me cite Warren Buffet's interview with CNBC again when he said the following about euro area policy: “When you have 17 countries that all have the same currency, and the yields on their bonds are dramatically different, the situation is not solved.”

I'll say it again (some of this pricing is a couple of weeks old):
If the US States are any comparison, let’s see what a ‘divergence’ in pricing and risk should mean for a single-currency union. A AAA 10-yr Maryland municipal bond trades at 2.68%, while the worst (in pricing) of the States, Illinois, which is rated at A1/A+, trades at 3.98%. That’s a 130 bps risk premium for a 4 notch rating differential. Forget the ‘worst’ in Europe, Greece, because it’s about to go into default. Or even the next or next or next worst in European bond pricing (in order, these would be Ireland, Portugal, Spain, and Italy). But Belgium, an Aa1/AA+ country is trading at 145 bps over the AAA Germany and just one notch lower in rating, Aa2/AA+.

Something’s wrong here; bond markets are still in crisis mode.

Rebecca Wilder

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