How close is Credit Crunch 2?

 
Spanish protesters Morgan Stanley believes the risk of a credit crunch in Southern Europe is growing

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You'll recall I recently wrote that Royal Bank of Scotland was likely to take a charge equivalent to 50% of its lending to the Greek government.

Well, in its results on Friday that will be confirmed.

RBS's impairment charge for Greek exposure will be around £840m, which represents 50% of its holding of Greek government bonds and a separate charge relating to an out-of-the-money interest rate swap (please don't ask, or we'll be here some time).

Now I can't explain why RBS is charging 50% of its gross exposure rather than the lower 50% of net.

But what is significant is that its provision for these Greek sovereign loans going bad is much bigger in percentage terms than the 21% charge recently taken by Societe Generale and BNP Paribas of France.

Why the difference between RBS and the French banks?

Well the French banks are assuming that the recent Greek rescue programme - which involves banks and other investors swapping their holdings of Greek government debt for paper implicitly worth 21% less - is going to happen.

They may be right. But as the EU Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso wrote to government heads on Thursday, the rescue package is some way from being implemented.

And with funding costs for the Italian and Spanish governments continuing to rise to dangerous levels, and equity markets falling sharply, goodness only knows how eurozone governments will respond (though presumably they will take evasive action).

Contagion

What is increasingly clear, as Morgan Stanley's banks' team have been pointing out, is that a crisis of confidence in the sovereign debt of Greece, Portugal, Ireland and - latterly - Italy and Spain is causing growing funding difficulties for banks.

Last month Morgan Stanley wrote that it thinks "the risk of a credit crunch in Southern Europe is growing".

Some warn that the risk is a reality - and there's contagion to banks in northern Europe, including our own. Few analysts believe that the European Central Banks' provision of emergency six month loans to eurozone banks is an adequate response

Which explains, in part, why shares Lloyds fell more than 10% today, and share in Barclays fell just under 8%.

Here's a phrase I haven't used for almost three years, but seems ripe for revival: we're in a for a hair-raising few days.

 
Robert Peston, economics editor Article written by Robert Peston Robert Peston Economics editor

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 229.

    ...unfortunately my suggestion would also support the banks as the first thing the people would do would be to stick the money in a bank account strengthening the banks balance sheets and they'd get carried away again....

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 228.

    @211 Who does UK govt owe the money to?

    There are charts around. From memory about 35% overseas; 40% pension funds and insurance policies i.e. us; some banks and private individuals and lately BoE through QE.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 227.

    222

    I agree

    If the trillions that has been poured down the plug hole of the financial system was handed to the public on the condition it was used to pay off loans, credit cards and reduce mortgages the world would be in a far better shape.

    Sadly the rich eilite who control it all cannot make money unless we underlings are in debt, where do you think all the interest goes?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 226.

    How I laugh at my old adversaries at Aberdeen University's School of Economics, almost all right wing economists. Looks like me and Keynes were right; markets are always on the brink of collapse. The theory of non-clearing markets is as apt now, as it was when the first sea shells were swapped for food millions of years ago. Why has the correction failed to take place for so long?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 225.

    198 Joe Public.

    Gov raises money by creating a Bond with say 5% interest over 5 years. Banks/Insurance companies/Pension funds buy them for themselves & clients taking a slice of the profits.

    Money being used to make money, and the taxpayer on the hook for the interest. To make it worse Banks took bailout money from the Gov and bought Gov Bonds with it.

    You couldn't make this stuff up.

 

Comments 5 of 229

 

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