In Portugal, non-financial companies (NFCs) have debt that is 16 times their pre-interest profit. An interest rate of little over 6 per cent would wipe that profit out. In Spain the numbers are 12 times and 8 per cent, respectively. So its entire NFC sectors are junk – a designation that kicks in at a ratio of about 10 times. The somewhat less dire Spanish ratio is exactly where Japan was in 1995-96. Japan had no real GDP growth between 1996 and 2002 – an ominous precedent – and finally emerged into growth again after a massive bank-debt write-off in spring 2003.
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