Rain clouds gather as Europe’s crisis deepens
AND so the drama continues. Last weekend it was Spain’s turn to get an eye-watering bailout for its beleaguered banks – yet few of us here in the City believe the €100bn rescue will bring the eurozone debt crisis any closer to a resolution.
Let’s try to be optimistic. Spain’s rescue package could, in the short term, help bring down the Spanish government’s borrowing’s costs, which have soared to unsustainable levels as fears over the country’s banks spook the markets. However, a bailout for its banks is no silver bullet.
Portugal – which pumped almost €7bn into three of its banks last week – received a bailout last year and has been praised for sticking to austerity without inciting public revolt. However, its plans to return to the capital markets next year could still be scuppered by the high borrowing costs that lie in store if the bond markets are anything to go by.
Ireland, a fellow bailout country, is in a similar position. We don’t have too much longer to wait until the election in Greece on June 17. The polls suggest it will be a close call between the pro and anti-austerity parties. Brace yourselves now.
Colleagues in China tell me the surprise rate cut there last week shows that policymakers want to reassure the world they are serious about halting the slowdown in growth seen over recent months. It’s a decent start, but more will need to be done to reassure investors that demand in the world’s second largest economy is not about to drop off a cliff. I’m told further rate cuts are likely, as are some stimulatory measures on the fiscal side too.
Here in the UK, the Bank of England decided against any stimulatory measures last week, leaving rates on hold at 0.5pc and quantitative easing unchanged at £325bn. Retailers are hoping that the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations boosted takings this month, and there are hopes that Euro 2012 and the Olympics will also provide a temporary boost to the economy. Apart from that economists tell me the outlook is still very weak and they expect the Bank will restart QE in the coming months.
In terms of commodities, oil prices are sitting at an 8-month low and there could be further to fall. A short-term fix for Spain’s banks is no long term solution – so demand for oil from Europe is unlikely to pick up any time soon.
China’s oil imports rose 10pc in May from April, almost hitting 6m barrels a day. But even this surge in demand can’t make up for a sluggish Europe and increasing oil supply.
Opec is meeting in Vienna this week and its output quota should stay unchanged at 30m barrels a day, although there are some splits in individual members. Saudi Arabia has hinted that output could be increased to ease prices and help the stuttering economy, but other members have made it clear that this is not on the cards.
Traders are continuing to slash their bullish Brent crude positions – with the net long position falling by 29pc last week, underscoring the negative outlook. Credit Suisse has even said that Brent could fall as low as $50 a barrel should a full credit crunch emerge.
Gold prices are still trading at around $1,600 as we await news on QE3. If Europe continues to drag the global recovery into the danger zone, there is likely to be further easing in the US, which would be positive for the gold price. Agricultural commodities continue to fall, with cotton falling 8pc last week as global demand expectations wane because of the troubled economy.
That’s all for now. I’m off to catch my breath before Cyprus gets bailed-out. Millions of euros are being stored under mattresses as we speak.
Until next time.
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