August 7, 2012

The Great European Divide

If the recent quarrel between Italy and Germany is a clear signal that  political divisions are growing in the dysfunctional Euro family, the graphs below from Goldman Sachs clearly illustrate how the economic divide is already there and widening by the day.
I have highlighted some parts of the report which sound an alarm bell for the month to come.

Goldman Sachs: Focus: Europe’s ‘red line’: Segmentation of the Euro interbank market is significant
Bottom line: A ‘red line’ has descended across Europe, running along the Pyrenees and the Alps. Banks south of this line have difficulty accessing Euro interbank markets, whereas banks north of that line remain better integrated and retain market access. As Mr. Draghi emphasised at last week’s ECB press conference, this segmentation is interfering with monetary policy transmission and thus affecting macroeconomic outcomes. Monitoring the intensity and geographical location of the ‘red line’ will remain crucial going forward, not least to assess the effectiveness of the policy measures announced by the ECB last week.
“… financial fragmentation hinders the effective working of monetary policy”. Mr. Draghi’s comments at last week’s ECB press conference have placed the segmentation of Euro financial markets at centre stage. In this daily, we explore the nature of that fragmentation, focusing on the Euro interbank markets.
From hot to cold: The periphery is being frozen out. Charts 1 and 2 show the row country’s bank claims on the column country’s banks, in 2008 Q1 and 2012 Q1 respectively. The numbers capture these claims expressed as a percentage of the column country’s (quarterly) GDP in 2008 Q1. Of course, representing the data in this form is not a neutral choice. But the basic insights revealed are not sensitive to our choice of scaling variable.
The charts are presented in the form of heat maps: ‘hot’ colours (red) reflect a high degree of financial interaction, whereas ‘cold’ colours (blue) point to financial isolation.

In 2008 Q1 before the failure of Lehman, integration of Euro interbank markets was high: i.e. Chart 1 is predominantly red. With the notable exception of Greece, banks in all Euro area countries have significant claims on all other Euro area countries. Ireland, Spain and Italy are all well-embedded into the Euro interbank markets.

In 2012 Q1 as the European sovereign crisis has intensified, integration has broken down: i.e. Chart 2 is predominantly blue. In particular, the three programme countries (Greece, Portugal and Ireland) have become isolated. Spain (and to a lesser extent Italy) are also drifting towards greater isolation, whereas among Germany, France and the Netherlands integration remains significant, albeit still diminishing.

A ‘red line’ has emerged in Euro interbank markets – and is shifting northwards. To draw on the credit rationing literature in economics, banks in the periphery have been “red-lined”, i.e. simply on account of their residency, they are being excluded from the Euro interbank markets.
This red line has long isolated the program countries. And it is now moving northwards: Italy and (especially) Spain are vulnerable. A ‘red line’ running along the Pyrenees and Alps cleaves the big-4 countries at the heart of the Euro area in two. Given the deep recessions being suffered in Spain and Italy, the implications for borrowers and the real economy – as well as for the ability of monetary policy to ease tight financing conditions – are self-evident.

Source: Goldman Sachs

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