How much of an ECB guarantee would be needed?

Here is one recent report (insightful throughout, FT link):

But the scale of the problem is bigger than in 2008. Mr King notes there is $3,000bn of government bonds trading with spreads of more than 150bp to German Bunds. There were only $2,000bn CDOs outstanding at the peak.

The population of Germany is about 81 million, if you wish round that up to about 100 million, if you include some of the smaller Triple A countries.  In other words, that is a guarantee of $30,000 per German, or $120,000 for a household of four.  Note in passing that an ECB guarantee either requires recapitalization of the central bank or a higher rate of inflation, unless you think the whole thing is a self-sustaining free lunch and all the liquidity problems would vanish (unlikely, at this point).  In any case a guarantee has to at least put resources on the table.

As of 2007, the median net wealth in Germany was about 15,000 euros per person, or well under the proposed guarantee, the exact figure depending on how you make the exchange rates over 2007-2011 commensurable.  The mean net German wealth was 88,000 euros at that time, so maybe you could think of the guarantee as mostly backed by the wealthy.

Or maybe you could think that the numbers just don’t add up.  Germany itself has a public debt to gdp ratio of about eighty percent, demographics are unfavorable, and taxes are already high.

Keep in mind I was sampling the stock of extant debt from the weaker countries and not even considering whether the future flow of debt would require a guarantee.  I readily grant that I am mixing stocks and flows incorrectly, but I was trying to be generous to the possibility of a guarantee.

Addendum: Via Henry, here are yet further reasons why Germany will not bail out the periphery.


Comments for this post are closed