The Financial Times says Madrid in ‘game of chicken’ with EU.

I disagree. I think Spain’s prime minister Mariano Rajoy is a stubborn fool engaged in Fantasyland thinking, unable to think straight.

The issue regards a proposed Ponzi financing scheme to recapitalize Spanish banks.

For details of the scheme, please see Spain’s Plans to Recapitalize Bankia Will Put Germany, ECB at Risk; When Does the Ponzi Scheme Collapse?

Fantasyland Thinking or Failed Bluff?

If Spain was playing a game of chicken, the ECB just ended it by rejecting the Ponzi financing scheme of Rajoy.

Please consider ECB rejects Madrid plan to boost Bankia

A Spanish plan to recapitalise Bankia, the troubled lender, by indirectly tapping the European Central Bank for cash, was bluntly rejected as unacceptable by the ECB, European officials said.

News of the rejection came as Spain faces elevated borrowing costs in the bond markets, tries to persuade investors it can contain problems in a banking sector weighed down by €180bn of bad property loans and, on Tuesday, saw its central bank governor stand down early.

Madrid had floated the unorthodox idea over the weekend of recapitalising Bankia by injecting €19bn of sovereign bonds into its parent company, which could then be swapped for cash at the ECB’s three-month refinancing window, avoiding the need to raise the money on bond markets.

The ECB told Madrid that a proper capital injection was needed for Bankia and its plans were in danger of breaching an EU ban on “monetary financing,” or central bank funding of governments, according to two European officials.

Senior government officials in Madrid argue that bailouts in Portugal, Greece and Ireland have been catastrophic and Spain will not compromise on its refusal to accept a similar form of intervention.

They said the country had implemented reforms requested by Brussels and must now be granted relief by the ECB, or the future of the single currency will be threatened. The government would like to see the ECB restart its government bond-buying programme and wants the nascent European Stability Mechanism to be retooled as a bank bailout fund.

“This is like a game of poker now,” one government adviser said, “and I don’t think Spain is bluffing”.

ECB Had No Choice

If this was a bluff by Rajoy, it was a very poorly conceived one. The ECB had no choice but to call it, given its disastrous position of Greek garbage on its balance sheet.

The ECB simply cannot afford to load up on Spanish garbage for fear Spain will do as Greece threatens to do: default.

Irish Turn

The Financial Times says Spain must avoid an Irish turn

“We are not going to let . . . any bank fall . . . if that happens the country will fall,” Mr Rajoy said on Monday. That is the message Ireland’s government insisted on as it piled private banks’ debts on to its puny sovereign shoulders. By the end of 2010 markets had lost faith in Dublin’s ability to repay and it was strong-armed into a eurozone rescue loan.

Ireland’s folly made clear that the interdependence of sovereigns and national banks is at the heart of the monetary union’s present dysfunction. But to judge from Mr Rajoy’s words, Madrid will tighten this deadly embrace instead of loosening it – even as its sovereign bond spreads hit euro-era records.

Losses at Bankia – spawned of a shotgun marriage between savings banks – has made Madrid promise a bailout of €19bn on top of what the state has already provided. It may reportedly place sovereign bonds directly with Bankia so as to give the bank collateral for European Central Bank liquidity while avoiding market borrowing at current punishing yields. This trick would not change the key fact of Spain increasing a debt burden it already struggles to refinance.

Promising that no bank will fall is what truly brings a country down.

Can someone please explain the absurd line of thinking that says banks and bondholders cannot take losses?

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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