Spanish bailout: Kicking the can down the road again
As the dust settles from the bailout package announced on Sunday for Spanish banks, many analysts believe that the bailout will do little to stem the crisis in Spain and that eventually, the entire Spanish economy will have to receive a massive infusion in order to prevent its collapse.
Other European leaders admitted that the bailout decision had been taken to avert yet another moment of panic in Europe's long-running debt crisis.
"We have managed to avoid a major crisis but the problems are still there," Finland's prime minister Jyrki Katainen told Reuters.
Investors worried that the bailout was a temporary solution to Spain's problems as it falls back into recession and suffers 24% unemployment.
"Call it what you like, but this is a bailout, the first (and only for banks), but most likely not the last for Spain," said Oliver Burrows of Rabobank Credit Research, who pointed to the amount of government debt held by Spanish banks. "We suspect that inevitably the Spanish government will have to seek its own bailout."
The IMF said on Friday that Spain's former savings banks and some of its medium-sized commercial banks would jointly need at least €40bn.
The government has said it will wait for two independent auditors to produce valuations of Spain's total bank assets before deciding how much money to ask for.
They will make their first reports by 21 June and government sources have already suggested they will be close to the IMF figures.
Recently part-nationalised Bankia has asked for €19bn and officials have recognised that two other banks need a further €9bn.
But Spain's government has twice underestimated the sums needed to rescue its banks this year, with two rounds of provisioning totalling €80bn, and investors remain wary.
The Bankia fiasco is instructive. When the government took the bank over, the new director found a discrepancy in the corporation's profit-loss statement. Instead of a reported 309 million euro profit in 2011, the bank actually lost more than 4 billion euros. The amount of the government bailout has gone up twice since the takeover and no one is sure - and won't be until the audit is released on June 21 - whether Bankia needs even more cash to remain solvent.
Now the contagion appears to be spreading to Italy, as the Italian bond market is extremely nervous about Spain's effect on the EU member economies. Yields on Italian bonds jumped over the 6% mark - a situation that is not sustainable for very long. If the EU's third and fourth largest economies go under, it will certainly suck the rest of Europe with them and probably most of the world.
The Spanish bank bailout is simply kicking the can down the road, hoping that something - anything - turns up to save Europe from an economic catastrophe before the piper must be paid and european leaders are unable to kick the can any further.