by Alasdair Macleod
July 18, 2012
There was yet another European Union summit at the end of June, which (like all the others) was little more than bluff. Read the official communiqué and you will discover that there were some fine words and intentions, but not a lot actually happened. However, there are some differences when compared with past meetings that need explaining:
- The European Council is being asked to consider permitting the European Central Bank to have a regulatory role alongside national central banks “as a matter of urgency by the end of 2012.” When this new super-regulator is eventually established, perhaps the ECB might be able to recapitalize banks directly. This was needed three years ago; the Eurozone will be lucky not to have a new banking crisis in the next few months, let alone by the year-end.
- A bail-out for Spain’s banks is agreed in principle, but it is to be funded by the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) until the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) is up and running. The EFSF has no money and relies on drawing down funds from all member states including Greece, Spain, Italy, Ireland, and Portugal, and the chances of the ESM being ratified by the individual Eurozone parliaments is very slim. We are told that Spain’s banks need about €100bn, but how much they really need is not known.
- The ESM will not rank as a prior creditor to the disadvantage of bond holders. This is a positive step, but makes it more difficult for national parliaments to authorize the ESM.
The big news in this is the implication the ECB will, in time, be able to stand behind the Eurozone banks because it will accept responsibility for them. This is probably why the markets rallied on the announcement, but it turned out to be another dead cat lacking the elastic potential energy necessary to bounce.