Every six months the Bank of England publishes its Financial Stability Report. “It aims to identify the major downside risks to the UK financial system and thereby help financial firms, authorities and the wider public in managing and preparing for these risks.”
In the latest report, published on 17 December 2010, the Bank expresses concern about the UK’s exposure to problems overseas. The two most important problems are the continuing weaknesses of a number of banks and the difficulties of certain EU countries in repaying government bonds as they fall due and borrowing more capital at acceptable interest rates. As the report says:
Sovereign and banking system concerns have re-emerged in parts of Europe. The IMF and European authorities proposed a substantial package of support for Ireland. But market concerns spilled over to several other European countries. At the time of writing, contagion to the largest European banking systems has been limited. In this environment, it is important that resilience among UK banks has improved over the past year, including progress on refinancing debt and on raising capital buffers. But the United Kingdom is only partially insulated given the interconnectedness of European financial systems and the importance of their stability to global capital markets.
The Bank identifies a number of specific risks to the UK and global financial systems and examines various policy options for tackling them. The following articles consider the report.
Bank warns of eurozone risks to UK as EU leaders meet Independent, Sean O’Grady (17/12/10)
Deep potholes on the road to recovery Guardian, Nils Pratley (17/12/10)
It’s reassuring that regulators are still worried about financial stability The Telegraph, Tracy Corrigan (17/12/10)
Europe is still searching for stability and the UK must find it too Independent, Hamish McRae (17/12/10)
Shafts of light between the storm clouds The Economist blogs: ‘Blighty’ (17/12/10)
Financial Stability Report, December 2010: Overview Bank of England
Financial Stability Report, December 2010: Links to rest of report Bank of England
- What are the most important financial risks facing (a) the UK; (b) eurozone countries?
- What is the significance of the rise in banks’ tier-1 capital ratios since 2007?
- Which is likely to be more serious over the coming months: banking weaknesses or sovereign debt? Explain.
- What is being done to reduce the risks of sovereign default?
- Why might the weaker EU countries struggle to achieve economic growth over the next two or three years?
- How do interest rates on government debt, as expressed by bond yields, compare with historical levels? What conclusions can you draw from this?
- What is likely to happen to bond yields in the USA, the UK and Germany over the coming months?
- What has been the effect of the extra £200 billion that the Bank of England injected into the banking system through its policy of quantitative easing?
In the post of the 17th November, Greece 2: This time it’s Ireland, we looked at the problems of the Irish economy in servicing its debts and whether it would need a bailout. Well, despite protesting that such a bailout would not be necessary, in the end events overtook the Irish government. International loss of confidence forced the government to accept a bailout package. After a weekend of talks, a deal was reached on 28 November between the Irish government, the ECB, the IMF, the European Commission and individual governments.
The deal involves loans totalling €85 billion. Of this, €35 billion will go towards supporting the Irish banking system. The remaining €50 billion will go to supporting government spending. The loans will carry an average interest rate of 5.8%, which is more than the 5.2% on the bailout loans to Greece, but considerably below the rates that Ireland would have to pay on the open market. Being loans, rather than grants, they only delay the problems of dealing with Ireland’s large debt, which has been rising rapidly and is predicted to be around 80% of GDP for 2010 (see Annex Table 62 in OECD Economic Outlook Statistical Annex). They thus provide Ireland with liquidity while it implements policies to reduce its debt.
Ireland itself has contributed €17.5 billion to the loan fund; of the rest, €22.5 billion will come from the IMF, while the European Union and bilateral European lenders, including the UK, Sweden and Denmark, have pledged a total of €45.0 billion, including £3.25 billion from the UK.
One of the main purposes of the loans is to reduce the likelihood of speculation against other relatively highly indebted countries in the EU, such as Portugal, Spain and Italy. The hope is that, by granting Ireland loans, the message would be that similar support would be made available to other countries as necessary. ‘Contagion’ would thereby be halted.
Podcasts and webcasts
Ireland’s €85bn bailout is best deal available, says PM Guardian webcast (29/11/10)
Interview with Jim O’Neill BBC News (29/11/10)
Irish deal ‘better than market rate’BBC Today Programme, Ajai Chopra (29/11/10)
Ireland bailout ‘doesn’t stop pressure building’ BBC Today Programme, Tony Creszenzi and Brian Hayes (29/11/10)
EU/IMF Irish bailout – the details FT Alphaville, Neil Hume (28/11/10)
Ireland rescue is not a game changer Financial Times, Mohamed El-Erian (29/11/10)
IMF insists Ireland got a ‘good deal’ Irish Times (29/11/10)
Can the eurozone afford its banks? BBC News blogs: Peston’s Picks, Robert Peston (29/11/10)
Irish bailout leaves markets nervous for good reason CNN Business 360, Peter Morici (30/11/10)
Eurozone debt crisis deepens Times of Malta (30/11/10)
Will the Irish crisis spread to Italy? Vox, Paolo Manasse and Giulio Trigilia (29/11/10)
- Distinguish between liquidity and solvency solutions to sovereign debt problems.
- Is Ireland’s debt problem purely a sovereign one? Explain.
- What will determine whether the bailout for Ireland will halt contagion to other countries?
- Why might the implementation of an austerity package make the sovereign debt problem worse in the short to medium run?
- Will the Irish crisis spread to Italy?