Economic Outlook: Looking for 6 porciento

By ANTHONY HALL, United Press International  |  June 11, 2012 at 9:24 AM
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All eyes will be on Spanish bonds this week, with pundits and economists trying to measure the success of Spain agreeing to a $125 billion bank bailout.

The continent is back to looking for shock and awe and likely falling short. The tidy sum of $125 billion can rescue a bank or two, but it cannot rescue an ailing economy and the banks are resting on that floundering gross domestic product. So, even if $125 billion is enough for banks, it is not enough for investors and investor-support is what Spain needs right now.

Bonds are, essentially, an investment in the future. Even the United States does not have the cash in the bank to pay its debts today. (Does anybody?) So, leaders must convince investors that Spain has a future.

Some believe that requires shock and awe -- a loan big enough for investors to realize that if world leaders believe in Spain the man on the street should, too.

But a good plan is better than faith and right now pulling an economic plan out of your hat is a pretty tall order, especially in a region that has 17 diverse countries to placate and Germany sitting in the driver's seat.

Even in Washington, some leaders appear to be getting the point that President Barack Obama has been trying to make for some time: Strict austerity during a recession is like ordering chemotherapy for an inherently frail patient.

For Spain, the cost of borrowing dropped to 6.25 percent Friday, and this week investors will be looking to see if that drops below the symbolic 6 percent level.

That is a tough call considering what Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy had to say during the weekend.

"This year is going to be a bad one," he said. "Growth is going to be negative by 1.7 percent and also unemployment is going to increase."

Here's where shock and awe step in: Spain has already raised $62.7 billion of $108 billion needed to cover maturing debt this year. Banks aside, the government needs $45 billion, a number that is surprisingly not out of reach.

That is because the expected government deficit of 5.3 percent of the country's gross domestic product is far from the worst in Europe, where only Germany, Bulgaria, Estonia, Finland, Luxembourg and Sweden have managed to steer their deficits below the 3 percent of GDP level.

Ten-year bonds in Finland Monday were costing the government 1.73 percent. In Sweden they were costing 1.51 percent while in Germany they were yielding 1.41 percent, TradeWeb reported.

In international markets Monday, the Nikkei 225 index in Japan rose 1.96 percent and the Shanghai composite index in China added 1.07 percent. The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong added 2.44 percent and the Sensex in India fell 0.3 percent.

The S&P/ASX 200 in Australia shed 1.09 percent.

In midday trading in Europe, the FTSE 100 index in Britain gained 0.53 percent while the DAX 30 in Germany rose 1.64 percent. The CAC 40 in France added 1.08 percent and the Stoxx Europe 600 rose 1.05 percent.

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