July 12, 2020

Euro Crisis Still Poses Threat, Germany’s Central Bank Asserts

“The risks to the German financial system are no lower in 2012 than they were in 2011,” the Bundesbank said in its annual report on financial stability in the largest European Union country.

The report came a day before highly anticipated official data on euro zone growth, which could confirm that the region is in recession. The report also provided another example of how the Bundesbank and the E.C.B. have diverged in their views of the state of the crisis and how best to fight it.

Even as countries like Spain suffer a severe credit crunch, money has poured into Germany because it is perceived as a haven from euro zone turmoil. That has pushed down borrowing costs for German businesses and consumers, producing some worrying consequences, including a sharp rise in real estate prices in urban areas, the Bundesbank warned.

Andreas Dombret, a member of the Bundesbank’s executive board, said it was too early to talk of a real estate bubble. But at a news conference, he added: “The experiences of other countries show that precisely such an environment of low interest rates and high liquidity can encourage exaggerations on the real estate markets.”

Real estate bubbles were a key cause of the financial crises in Spain and Ireland, not to mention the United States.

The downbeat Bundesbank report came a week after Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, argued that there were signs, albeit tentative ones, that tensions in the euro zone had eased.

Countries have begun to get their debts under control while their labor costs have fallen, making them more able to compete on world markets, Mr. Draghi said.

These and other improvements will lead to what he described at a news conference last week as a “slow, gradual but also solid” recovery.

The Bundesbank acknowledged those improvements, but warned that there could be a hangover from the measures the E.C.B. has taken to combat the crisis, which include a record-low benchmark interest rate of 0.75 percent.

“The side effects of short-term stabilization measures could leave a difficult legacy for financial stability in the medium to long term,” the bank said.

On Thursday, the E.U. statistics agency is scheduled to release official figures on third-quarter gross domestic product for the euro zone. The data is likely to show that the euro zone suffered a fourth quarter in a row of little or no growth.

Figures released Wednesday reinforced expectations that output might have declined again. Industrial production in the euro zone fell 2.5 percent in September from August, Eurostat, the E.U. statistics office, said. That was worse than expected and the weakest monthly performance since January 2009, according to Reuters.

German factories, which until recently had managed to avoid the worst of the crisis, were largely responsible for the decline.

In addition, Greece sank deeper into depression in the third quarter, as output fell 7.2 percent compared with a year earlier. In Portugal, gross domestic product fell 3.4 percent from a year earlier, the seventh quarterly decline in a row. Unemployment in Portugal rose to 15.8 percent from 15 percent in the second quarter.

The Bundesbank no longer sets monetary policy but remains a strong influence in the euro zone. It is the largest member of the so-called Eurosystem, the network of 17 national central banks overseen by the E.C.B. The Bundesbank handles some important tasks for the euro zone as a whole, like administering a system used to transfer large sums of money.

The Bundesbank, with its emphasis on preserving price stability, also served as the template when European leaders were designing the E.C.B. But as the E.C.B. has effectively become lender of last resort for governments, the Bundesbank has complained that it has exceeded its mandate.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/15/business/global/daily-euro-zone-watch.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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