‘All’s Well’ – Trichet

At the European Parliament today, ECB President Trichet was asked whether Ireland could cope with both the sovereign and bank debt. RTE has reported as follows:

‘Following a suggestion from Fine Gael MEP Gay Mitchell at the European Parliament that it was impossible for Ireland to cope with both, Mr Trichet said Ireland had to regain credit worthiness.

‘My working assumption is that Ireland can do it, Ireland will do it,’ he said.

Speaking to the parliament’s economic and monetary affairs committee Mr Trichet said the rescue programme had been approved by the international community, not only the EU.

‘The decisions taken by Ireland over the past three years are there, and there has been a programme approved by the international community,’ he said.’

The dissenters from this view unfortunately include the sovereign bond market, which Ireland is scheduled to re-enter before the end of next year. At today’s close, the Irish ten-year bond offered 9.60 on the bid.  

At this price, M. Trichet must regard these bonds as remarkably good value, and a suitable home for the ECB staff pension fund. The October 2020 issue has a coupon of 5% and has been trading recently about 72. It would be at least 100 if M. Trichet’s view was shared by the market. No distressed Eurozone member can credibly re-enter the market without selling at least some bonds at ten years or longer, and at rates below Spain’s ten-year, recently yielding about 5.15.

What precisely does M. Trichet expect to happen over the next 18 months to bring secondary market Irish yields down by the enormous amount implied by his expression of confidence? He clearly must believe that the market has got it wrong about Ireland. Does he believe things are going equally well in Greece, where the ten-year bond yields about 12.20 on the bid?

The Eurozone is in serious trouble unless his private view is more realistic.

45 thoughts on “‘All’s Well’ – Trichet”

  1. For a currency supposedly in trouble, the euro is showing remarkable signs of strength. Ireland’s bond market difficulties are exactly what it says on the tin; Ireland’s bond market difficulties.

    If we wish to rescue ourselves from them, we have to face up to the reality of what is causing them. Joan Burton, for example, seems to have set out on a crusade to prove to every country in Europe that the level of Ireland’s child benefit is the highest – and not mean tested – in Europe. Is that designed to convince the rest of Europe about the merits of the Irish case?

    In the eyes of the rest of Europe, and not just those of Trichet, Ireland is a querulous peevish teenager claiming that life is sooo unfair and is threatening to leave home. It simply has not yet sunk home that the parents could view this prospect with equanimity.

  2. Colm

    Correct me if I’m wrong but I’m pretty sure this is not the first time Trichet has made comments to this effect in the very recent past. It seems that the message regarding the truly dire state of medium term sovereign funding is just not registering with him – or perhaps it is and he’s just not engaging as his pensionable days await him.

    Whatever his reason it is very worrying that comments such as these are now being made with such regularity. I’d safely suggest that he now believes the Irish problem is just that i.e. an Irish problem – and perhaps the wider impact of a virtually guaranteed default/restructure hasn’t quite resonated with him to the extent that all of us on this western enclave would have expected. If this is the case then his ongoing mantra of having to take the c500m Eurozone citizens into consideration when making rates decisions seems at variance with these comments.

    Surely it hasn’t escaped his attention when all manner of commentators, politicians, media etc are all coming to the same conclusion vis-à-vis funding and the market is making the same conclusion too that perhaps his contrarian ‘working assumption’ maybe, God forbid, wrong.

    I don’t want to do the man a disservice but perhaps an ABC in the real Irish economic problems by your good self wouldn’t go astray.

  3. There was no other way Trichet could answer that question in public. He is not only aware of the yields but for a lot of these peripheral bonds he is effectively the only bid.

    I think the short end is more revealing. While the 10yr has been reasonably steady, the 2yr has gone through the roof since early February – up 0.155 to 9.25 today.

    People have been dumping stock as the political rhetoric (I say rhetoric because none of them have actually obtained support for the consequences) of default has become commonplace.

    Two things are behind it. One, an objective view that the likely bank losses make repayment of debt less likely. Another that the country is becoming comfortable with the idea of default (hey, I would if all I had to go by was what appears in the mainstream press) and are quite likely to choose that option – or at least choose not to do things that might allow access to the market when the bailout has been used up. This and the funding dates Karl has pointed out are influencing the 2yr big time.

    As an aside that might interest international investors and German taxpayers, I would note a couple of press articles:

    http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2010/1204/1224284773957.html

    and

    http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2010/1204/1224284773957.html

    actually three, for a reference to “bank time”

    http://www.finfacts.ie/irishfinancenews/article_1021881.shtml

    Can anyone blame bond investors for hearing the word Ireland and just not wanting to know. They will be interested again in about 15 months because……?

    Maybe the EZ should just let Ireland default now like it seems to want to.

  4. @Colm

    You are right to draw attention to the spreads. The markets see a high probability that we will default, which is certainly in large measure due to objective difficulty of our debt stabilisation challenge. But as the ever-wise grump notes, it is also due to doubts about the political will to avoid default, even if we can anticipate that this will have a high net cost ex post.

    You are also right that the ECB and others need to be convinced it is counterproductive to back the government into a corner. But don’t you think that a big part of the challenge is to convince people here that a pre-emptive unlilateral default has a high probability of being a very costly action? I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but I think that would be a better use of valuable real estate in the domestic mass market media than pointing out to an European policymakers (that are unlikely to be reading in any case) the error of their ways.

  5. If I was a bond investors, I would be concerned about three key issues

    – First, the fact that nobody will know how indebted the Irish sovereign really is until a line under bank losses will have been drawn.

    – Second, the fact that Ireland has the highest budget deficit in the EU, and that it might not come down as smoothly as predicted.

    – Last but not least, an increasingly loud rethoric arguing that defauft is the only option, while on current forecasts (keep point one above in mind) public debt in % of GDP will remain below a country such as Italy which is experiencing no problems accessing the bond markets at acceptable yields.

    I would not invest in Irish sovereign bonds until at least point 1 is solved and there is clear evidence that the budget deficit is coming down sufficiently rapidly [u]in % of GDP[/u].

  6. In 1993, Belgium reached a debt to GDP ratio of 137%. Interest on that debt was making up 11% of GDP. Today, Belgium has a debt to GDP ratio of 97%, and interest expenses are about 4% of GDP.

    Frankly, on current forescasts (Debt to GDP between 100% and 110%), I regard the Irish whining about unsustainable debt levels as totally laughable.

  7. John, a pre-emptive unilateral default on sovereign debt is about the worst option I can think of. Grumpy’s point about short yields is important and I have tried to draw attention to it before. Whatever nasty event the markets expect, they expect it soon. The pattern of yields on Ireland and Greece is consistent with an expected re-scheduling (as distinct from re-structuring) which differentially penalises the short end.

    Protestations that there is no sovereign debt crisis are in line with not marking-to-market in the banking book for the stress tests, which Wolfgang Munchau ridicules in today’s FT.

    Barclays Capital have surveyed 1000 fund managers and 700 expect at least one Eurozone sovereign default, 500 expect two or more. The ECB must know that two or more means a serious banking crisis. One could be enough.

  8. Incognito:

    Debt/GDP at 125% is now quite possible, which means Debt/GNP at about 160%, not including NAMA debt. The market, to which we must return, does not agree with you, which is all that matters.

  9. @simpleton

    My saying there is a possibility that we could get out of this without default really seems to get under you skin. Sorry.

    As I’m sure you already know, for any starting debt-gdp ratio, there is a level of primary surplus that will stabilise the ratio. The formula is simply the difference between the nominal interest rate and the nominal growth rate times the starting debt-gdp ratio. Just to be concrete, if the gap is two percentage points and the debt-gdp ratio is 100 percent, the required stablising primary surplus is two percentage points of GDP. You can fill in your own numbers. The bottom line is that the real challenge is political (I am simplifying a bit here). The formula is also useful in identifying how a higher starting ratio (say due to higher bank losses) affects the required surplus. In my example, a 10 percentage point increase in the debt ratio would lead to a two-tenths of a one percentage point increase in the primary surplus as a share of GDP.

    Given that we are running a large primary deficit, we clearly face a huge challenge, even if growth leads the deficit to decline through automatic stabiliser effects. However, the IMF plan is designed to bring about the required primary surplus. The four-year plan requires that we do another €9 billion of discretionary adjustment, on top of the €21 billion we have already done. Now there are “lots of slips between cup and lip”, but your view that the adjustment is effectively impossible seems way overdone to me. At the very least, I find it hard to understand why after doing €21 billion of adjustment so far, you find it impossible to believe that another €9 billion — or even twice that if necessary — is impossible.

  10. So, we are all agreed: pre-emptive unilateral default is the worst option. But what are our options if the debt dynamics are truly unsustaianble & Trichet et al refuse to ‘permit’ a negotiated restructuring?

  11. @John McH
    My issue is with the banking hole, not with our ability to run a primary surplus (though I am pretty sure the coalition would fall if we tried to implement anything like this). My issue is with the banking hole and its ultimate size. I’m sorry if comes across as irritation, but my disagreement with you lies with my guess about how bad the banks really are. And, therefore, how insolvent really is the sovereign.
    BTW, on the simple debt dynamics arithmetic, it seems to me that we are starting with a large primary deficit, debt/GDP already north of 100% and a nominal interest rate gap of circa 9%. Taking that simple arithmetic, I would guess that it needs a primary surplus to convince the market to take spreads down to sustainable levels AND me to be wrong about the banks.
    So that’s my question really: I think I know what has to happen for me to be wrong (and I sincerely hope I am). I just find it very hard, on simple arithmetic.

  12. @Colm

    Irish bond yields jumped from 5-6% to 9% in the space of a few weeks between September and November 2010. Since November, very little has changed in fact. Still a lot of uncertainty regarding bank losses and deficit reduction. I see no reason why bond yields should have come down.

    But one year down the line, I would hope that the bank losses have been pinned down, and that there is clear evidence that the budget deficit is coming down. I could then imagine that the bond markets might positively re-assess the Irish situation. That is always the reason why the support of the EU/ECB/IMF runs over a few years.

    And BTW, the financial crisis has made it clear that financial markets don’t always get it right, hasn’t it?

  13. @simpleton

    9 percent! We are really interested is what the interest-growth gap will be circa 2014, when we hope to stabilise the ratio. Without pretending it is forecast, two percent real growth and one percent inflation (combined with the esimated average interest rate of outstanding debt of around 5 percent–note we are not actually now borrowing in the markets) would give us a gap of 2 percentage points.

    I agree that bank losses adds a very unwelcome level of difficulty, but I think you exaggerate it (though if you believe the gap will be 9 percent then probably not).

  14. I confess to not being an expert in the matters under discussion but these exchanges leave me totally perplexed.

    Take the following (courtesy Eurointelligence today)!

    “Spreads ease, but euro shoots through the roof

    10-year sovereign spreads (against 10 year German bunds)

    Previous Day Close
    Yesterday’s Close
    This morning

    France
    0.347
    0.342
    0.342

    Italy
    1.653
    1.592
    1.592

    Spain
    2.078
    1.986
    1.986

    Portugal
    4.607
    4.323
    4.324

    Greece
    9.279
    9.103
    9.11

    Ireland
    6.499
    6.370
    6.371

    Belgium
    0.909
    0.889
    0.889

    Bund Yields
    3.185
    3.185
    3.169

    What is one to read into these figures? That Trichet has it wrong?

    It seems to me that one fact is escaping your collective attention. The main decision-makers know that they have not solved the Greek and Irish problems. They have simply quarantined them by removing the need for the two countries to go to the markets. What is going to change in this situation in the immediate future?

    The transition from the EFSF to the ESM cannot be handled in the manner envisaged by Germany without further market disruption. But this is already factored in. The key question for the immediate future is whether Portugal can avoid the same fate as Greece and Ireland. It seems to me that there is a good chance that the country can simply because its debt arithmetic is much less catastrophic than that of Ireland.

  15. Anybody know how the ECB accounts for the eurozone bonds it has bought in the secondary market (over €70bn by value to date)? Are they marked to market, treated at cost, or amortised to par over their life?

    If MTM, the losses to date are whopping.

  16. @ Incognito
    Or should I say Jean Claude Trichet…….! No point in denying it buddy. Unfortunately what worked for Credit Lyonnais in France won’t work for Anglo in Ireland. Now it might work for Anglo in Europe though.
    This boils down to who should pick up the tab for a failed European banking system. Ireland can’t, Europe must. The markets know this and will force a default just to prove the point.

  17. I repeat what I said earlier: it took the bond markets only a few weeks to change its mind about Ireland between September and November 2010.

    I do not regard it as irrealistic that they could change their mind again in the space of 1-1.5 years.

    I have plenty of capital market experience (rather on the equity side) and I am quite used to these swings of market sentiment.

  18. All is well. Perhaps M. Trichet would have happy to have his salary paid in Irish bonds, at par?

  19. @all

    Just watching the VB show …. 3 foosterers on the Banking Question … gettin pretty sik of foosterers at this stage … WTF needs them …

    John Crown, however, surgeon etc is SOUND on the Banking Question … not sure which panel in Senate he is running for … but I recommend he be supported – he is a realist, and is informed. ‘taken for suckers’ as he put it – quite!

    On Jean_Claude – methinks le pauvre lad cannot wait to head for pastures new …. and he is … er .. a little ‘tight’ with the truth at the mo … is Mario ready yet? May we expect another post-post-modernist-undeconstructable tome from dear Lorenzo?

  20. @Colm McCarthy

    ‘Barclays Capital have surveyed 1000 fund managers and 700 expect at least one Eurozone sovereign default, 500 expect two or more. The ECB must know that two or more means a serious banking crisis. One could be enough.’

    Keep on pluggin – J.-C. T is more than aware …. Is our Government?

  21. @Incognito
    this is getting intriguing. A Belgian who lives in Germany! A trader who is in equity! Now why would a Belgian living in Germany spend so much time on this board. You must have a dog in the fight too mon ami!

  22. The only dog that I have in the fight are shares in a mutual fund domiciled in Ireland. And no, I am not a trader.

  23. Mr Trichet expects the Irish Gov’t to honour the agreement it entered into with the ECB and IMF just three short months ago. Neither our previous gov’t or our present gov’t took the action that is necessary to restore credibility and that is balance the budget. Stop going to the ECB and IMF and begging for lower interest rates and more loans. Having been put on notice that it must act responsibly our present gov’t does not have the know how or the guts to get on with the job. The wake up shock will be brutal when it hits and it will hit in the form of no more sub 1% funds but market rates of 9% plus. Let the wailing begin, blame everybody but ourselves.

  24. I presume that if M. Trichet recognised the likelihood of an Irish default in public, it would trigger a need for the ECB to choose between revising its rules to allow it continue on its current path, and changing its strategy.

    Much simpler to pretend, and use the weasel words “working assumption” for cover.

  25. Also, remember that the whole charade is of the ECB’s orchestration. If they want to be taken seriously as partners in future, they can’t expose the other members of the troika by being first to break the fiction.

  26. The main change that has happened since the bailout agreement was signed is that mainstream media commentators, starting with a couple of articles in the FT/WSJ/NY Times in mid-December and then with a much wider footprint, have now started writing about default/restructuring etc, and bringing the topic to the fore. Most of the changes are in the mindset of the observers, however, rather than in the underlying facts:

    – The 10yr bond yield has been in the range 8% – 9.5% or so since early November.

    – The €35bn bank recap amount is the IMF’s baseline amount, and what they assumed in all their calculations for their own approval process. They acknowledged that the amount may be less, but adopted a cautious approach. Thus the fact that the recap amount may be more than €10bn isn’t a change, unless someone was taking an optimistic approach; however given the history of bank recap announcements since 2008, anything other than a cautious approach would seem delusional.

    – The debt is sustainable until 2013, as it is only then that there is a jump into the €10bn annual interest payments range, where it remains for a number of years, where the ‘unsustainable’ part kicks in, depending on viewpoint. There has thus been no sudden deterioration in this.

    – A primary balance is not planned until 2014. We now know for sure that there is no chance of a primary balance happening before this since Labour are now part of government. A FG-only government could conceivably have brought this forward; however again there is no change here.

    – I think Philip Lane was correct in saying that it will really be only towards the end of 2011 that some assessment can be made of whether the bailout is going to plan or not. Until then there’s really no evidence to indicate one way or the other, so again no change.

    – The banking issue wasn’t solved before the bailout and wasn’t solved after the bailout, so again no change. Until this is solved nothing is solved. Solving this means a line must be drawn and someone other than the Irish taxpayer must pay beyond this, however there is no movement at all here – Merkel et al. resisted any attempt to expand the EFSF/ESM to do this and directly or indirectly get EU-wide taxpayers to pay; the ECB won’t countenance any creditor being hit, or any QE/inflation. Until someone else is prepared to or is forced to pay, then there will be a stalemate.

    Some things have changed:

    – The 2yr yield has broken out of the 5% to 6% range to 9%.

    – Perhaps the deleveraging plan for the banks has turned out to be seen as unworkable, though again this is likely only a change to those who were optimistic. Who in their right mind would want to buy an Irish bank/assets unless at a really steep discount? There are thousands of investment opportunities out there, why get enmeshed in the political and financial mess here when there are real growth/profit opportunities elsewhere?

    – Labour are now part of government (and Dublin and greater Dublin area (Dublin and adjoining counties) now have a significant left-wing majority). This will slow down any real reform of the public service. However again it needs to be remembered that under the bailout plan total primary expenditures were to drop from €66.5bn in 2011 to all of €66bn in 2015 (albeit with a dip to €63bn in the interim). Total revenues were to rise from €56bn to €68.5bn in the same period. So really it was all about increasing revenues and not cutting expenditure and this is unlikely to change.

    So what will happen next? I imagine a tinkering around the edges with the EFSM/EFSF interest rate next week (e.g. with a quid pro quo on debt brake or state asset sales, as suggested by B.E.B) but nothing on the first-order question of someone else actually paying to resolve the banks. Probably some behind the scenes work on technical ways to have EU-taxpayers or ECB pay for some of the bank debt, but no political or leadership commitment to execute any of this. The can is about to be kicked for a few more months…

  27. @DOCM

    Portugal is similar to Greece – pure fiscal irresponsibility – and poor economic structures. I would say both are certainties for the big D, were I able to afford to become a betting man.

    Ireland is closer to Spain – Commonality is BANKS … and they are following our curve … both have reasonable economic structures if not hung by their banks – and a certain amount of pragmatic fiscal and ruthless upper-echelon collateral damage needed in both.

    Ireland is in fact already hung by its banks – but on artificial life support from the ECB and a few very expensive generic drugs from the Nicky/Angie axis with a few strong multi-vitamin pills at charitable rates from the IMF tossed into the mix. Editors of all majors have the obs already written and ready to print at a moment’s notice.

  28. @John McHale
    The bottom line is that the real challenge is political (I am simplifying a bit here). The formula is also useful in identifying how a higher starting ratio (say due to higher bank losses) affects the required surplus

    I agree from a theoretical point of view almost any level of debt can be sustainable given a large enough primary surplus.
    It is the practicality of that theory that is going to cause us problems

  29. John Bruton to chartered accountants this morning: “The Irish economics profession has a responsibility for, generally speaking, not calling attention to the obvious unsustainability of the borrowing , and of the level of construction activity, which could not possibly have been maintained….

    A suggestion has appeared in the Irish media that, when Anglo Irish Bank was on the brink of collapse, the ECB told the Irish authorities that it did not want any bank to be allowed to fail.

    I wonder if this could be true, and if it is true, if it influenced the then Government to give such a wide guarantee to the banks as it gave.

    In light of the powers of the ECB, which I have cited above, the Irish authorities could not easily have ignored such a view from the ECB.

    But with power comes responsibility, and if the ECB did say this to the Irish authorities, it can hardly argue now that the sole responsibility for what followed rests with the Irish taxpayer .”

    If it was true, it would be unlikely to be more than heresay by now.

  30. @Bryan G

    Great post. Should the (partly media driven) change in public beliefs about default not itself be viewed as a change in fundamentals. The new government is playing a dangerous game is this regard.

  31. “In light of the powers of the ECB, which I have cited above, the Irish authorities could not easily have ignored such a view from the ECB. ”

    Ah, but Irish authorities can easily ignore the view from the ECB when it comes to the much more important question of sovereign default?

    This “devil made me do it” argument is ridiculous. Ireland was (and is) sovereign. Its government was (or was not) given advice. The government chose to do what it did. It is the government, and Ireland, which bears responsibility.

  32. @ Michael Hennigan

    Breakdown of who holds sovereign debt in Ireland Portugal and Greece? You are kidding right? They wont even give us a proper breakdown of who the Bank bondholders are even though we are expected to pay them in full with interest when the debt wasnt even ours.

    Is there no investigative journalist out there prepared to do the homework on this issue?
    It is of national importance and yet none of them seem interested.

    But Michael when you see this level of incompetence and abrogation of duty it does make me wonder why you would be surprised that it would be possible to keep the role the ECB played at the level of hearsay

    “If it was true, it would be unlikely to be more than heresay by now.” (I am guessing you mean likely)

    I have become immune to the levels and extent of corruption in this country.

    It would not surprise me at all that something could be of great national interest and yet still there is no clear answers 2 1/2 years after the event.

  33. Trichet’s phraseology is interesting: “My working assumption is that Ireland can do it, Ireland will do it”.

    The statement appears to be about Ireland but it is not. It is a statement about a decision of Trichet’s own making, specifically a decision to make a working assumption, and as such cannot possibly be incorrect. He doesn’t elaborate as to whether this is a reasonable assumption or not, or whether he even believes it to be true. Thus he gets around an awkward question while in no way committing himself to anything.

  34. One of the key issues on the sovereign bond yield – which is heading for 9.7% as I write – is that there doesn’t seem to be a legal way to differentiate between the “real” sovereign bonds and the government guaranteed bank debt.

    While the domestic conversation in Ireland is all about how we wouldn’t default on genuine government debt but that we shouldn’t have to pay for all the bank debt, there isn’t currently any substantive legal distinction between government debt and government guaranteed bank debt- is there?

    Is it possible for a govt to default on one and not on the other, in practical legal theory? Surely if the markets felt that was possible then there would be less reason for the “genuine” sovereign bond yields to be so high. No-one in Ireland is proposing not to pay those debts.

  35. @Bryan G

    Some other things that have changed:
    1. IMF report saying programme may not work.
    2. Political change in Ireland.
    3. Rumours of increased bank losses which may exceed IMF base-line.
    and most importantly
    4. Reduced growth expectations.
    5. Political instability in the Middle East and increased oil prices.

  36. @ Eamonn Moran

    I’m usually doing 2 things at the one time; thus the ‘unlikely.’

    As for sovereign debt data, it can be amazing how little public information is available on issues of so much of importance.

    There is no fear that we would be in the vanguard despite the billions spent on e-government.

    As to Bruton’s charge, I think the key question is why there apparently wasn’t any consultation on the evening of Sept 29 with either Trichet or Juncker when the world’s biggest guarantee relative to GDP, was being hatched.

    It was like a unit of an MNC making a huge decision without the local guys covering their flanks if something was to go wrong.

    Maybe the real story is that the folks in Dublin didn’t want to hear inconvenient advice.

    Arthur Beesley in the IT today has a grim analysis on Ireland’s image:

    http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/world/2011/0322/1224292776529.html

    @ Hugh Sheehy

    If there is a perception that the banking system may collapse, then sovereign debt holders would likely get nervous as would the insurers of the debt and credit agencies.

  37. @ Brian G

    I agree entirely with your post and John McHale’s assessment of it.

    On the point regarding the change in short-term yields, the press release by Moody’s after the last meeting of the Euroarea may provide some explanation.

    http://imarketnews.com/?q=node/27769

    @ David O’Donnell

    I take your point with regard to Portugal. We will see!

    On the general situation in which the new government has now put itself, the outcome to a negotiation based on a lack of understanding of the strength or weakness of one’s negotiating position is never a good one. The best that can now be hoped for is some face-saving formula – which will probably be found by the services of the Council – while the other leaders deal with more pressing business.

    Two other points.

    The FT in its leader today is correct in its description of the behaviour of Germany and France as bullying. It was equally trenchant in its description of the approach adopted by the UK in relation to Iceland. But that is how states behave. The real question is what advantage are the two countries deriving from it. I would venture the following answers; it cements an agreement between Germany and France in circumstances in which they are divided on much else (Libya, nuclear energy etc.); it is electorally popular; most importantly, they know that it a demand that Ireland cannot concede. In short, it leaves Irish leaders holding the baby for the failure to agree. This is no cause of concern to them as they see no need for an early move on the Irish package and who can say that they are wrong.

    My second point is a rather obvious one and it is in the form of a question: which minister is stating the Irish position?

  38. @ Michael

    “Bruton’s use of a ’suggestion’ in the media, is an odd way to make a serious charge.

    The escalation of the attacks from the former EU ambassador hints at some personal pique.”
    Maybe but I for one wish he extended his personal pique by demanding Brian Lenihan make an express statement on the level/type of pressure, if any, they were under from Europe at the time of the guarantee.

  39. @Michael
    I appreciate that point but – for instance – US Treasuries had stable yields all through the great depression when banks were failing left right and centre. I know the 1930s is far from a good analog to the current situation but surely it’s also important that the US Treasury wasn’t tied to the banks.

    In Ireland we keep hearing that there’ll be some move not to pay the banking debt, but there’s consensus that we should pay all the sovereign debt. I come back to my two questions. (i) Does the market believe it and (ii) is it even possible?

    The reason I ask is that I can’t see it being likely that Ireland couldn’t pay off the levels of “pure” sovereign debt that we have even if there was a banking crisis or collapse, yet the yields suggest a very high probability of default on pure sovereign debt.

  40. Mr Trichet’s language is interesting – we seem to have dispensed with “manageable”, “sustainable” and “possible” even. It’s now “not impossible” that we can deal with the debt problem. Other things that are “not impossible” include cloning dinosaurs, invisibility cloaks, tractor beams and time travel and we’re just as likely to have achieved these before repaying the bank and fiscal debt under the current arrangements.

    With a Portugese crisis which looks increasingly as if the left-wing govt will fall this week rather than approve a new austerity package, shouldn’t the focus of the debate be moving on to how a debtor can negotiate with creditors who might accept they will not get 100% repayment but will still squeeze until the pips squeak to maximise their recovery. In other words, how does Ireland achieve a 50% writedown in debt rather than a 20% writedown.

Comments are closed.