"On Thursday, the European Central Bank raised its main refinance rate by a quarter point to 1.25 per cent. This was a well-flagged move, but more are likely to follow. I expect the ECB’s main policy interest rate to rise to 2 per cent by the end of this year and to 3 per cent in 2013. This trajectory, while consistent with the ECB’s inflation target, will have negative consequences for Spain in particular. Apart from the direct impact on economic growth, higher interest rates will hit the Spanish real estate market. Almost all Spanish mortgages are based on the one-year Euribor money market rate, which is now close to 2 per cent, and rising.(...)
"Falling house prices and rising mortgage payments are bound to push up the still moderate delinquency rates and the number of foreclosures. This will affect the balance sheet of the cajas, the Spanish savings banks. The balance sheets carry all property loans and mortgages at cost. As default rates rise, the savings bank system will need to be recapitalised to cover the losses. The Spanish government implausibly estimates the recapitalisation need to be below €20bn, while other estimates put the number at between €50bn and €100bn. The assets most at risk are loans to the construction and real estate sector – €439bn as of end-2010. Spanish banks also have about €100bn in exposures to Portugal, a further source of risk. (...)
"If my hunch on the Spanish property market proves correct, I would expect the Spanish banking sector to need more capital than is currently estimated. (...)
"The mix of high external indebtedness, the fragility of the financial sector and the probability of further declines in asset prices increase the probability of a funding squeeze at some point. And that means that Spain will be the next country to seek financial assistance from the EU and the International Monetary Fund. As for the large number of official statements that Spain is safe, I think they are merely a metric of the complacency that has characterised the European crisis from the start."