The Danish daily newspaper JyllandsPosten brings a story by one of their house journalists Mattias Grøndal (has on occasion used both brain cells). The content is about the Spanish housing crisis.
The interesting part for an international audience:
The comments from Danske Banks Europe-analyst: Frank Øland. Comments to the drop in real estate price drop of 21.7% since the top in Q3 2007:
If the negative development in the Spanish housing market continues, it can – worst case – lead to renewed concern over that the Spanish state will need outside help – or even go bankrupt. Banks might face several hundred billion Euros in losses on the Spanish real estate market. This will mean a recapitalization of the Spanish banks – capital that can only come from the Spanish state.
Now there is nothing new in that; but what is interesting is the free admission of a need to nationalize the Spanish banks. If you glace at the graph you will see the Danish housing market has dropped between 22% and 30% from the top – time and actual drop depending on market segment.
As Danske Bank is roughly half the Danish finance sector it is hard to escape the conclusion that Danske Bank is in at least as big trouble as the banks in one of the more notorious frivolous and irresponsible economies in Europe.
Danske Bank will presumably peg their flag to the difference in unemployment figure (Spain hovers around 20%). True as that may be; but unemployment figures are notoriously difficult to compare between countries. Not only do criteria differ; but the criteria differs over time – according to political convenience.
It is kind of discussing distress on board the Titanic: “It’s only your end that is under water! I’m fine!!”
That is the nearest to a Freudian slip admission of life threatening financial distress we can expect from Danske Bank.
But it is time to bust a few myths before they come too much of age – and be established as “truths” – and draw some conclusions.
1) Looking at the graph again prices on condominiums/flats/apartments had begun to drop way before the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Two years in fact. That was more due to a temporary rise in interest rates that made the calculations of monthly payments – even to the least lunatic bank manager – clearly unrealistic.
2) Generally sales were falling from mid 2007 – I trust the reader is can see through the regular seasonal variation to distinguish the trend.
3) The collapse of Lehman Brothers and the perhaps inept handling of the resulting Credit Default Swap disaster had indeed nothing to do with the much deeper issue of banking irresponsibility and incompetence. Alan Greenspan has been quoted for saying that what surprised him was that banks had not taken preventive measures in their own interest. The forces of the free market self-regulating controls do NOT apply in the financial sector.
4) The next major meltdown – which clearly is underway (Spain will not be able to meet the budget target agreed upon by Rajoy) – will in essence have nothing to do with the Greek debacle. Greece was/is – all things considered – handled more effectively than the collapse of Lehman Brother. To be fair: There was more advance warning and the cacophony of idiotic optimism had been quenched by German lack of sentimentality.
5) You can see the lack of linkage to the Greek situation by the fact that the Danish and Spanish drop in housing prices (and lack of trade) is simultaneous. Danish banks were not exposed to Greek sovereign debt to ANY appreciable extend. Furthermore Denmark has a reasonably healthy export which is more than can be said about Spain. Still a near similar and at least simultaneous price drop in Denmark and Spain points to a factor nobody has wished to mention:
The banks of both countries are to all intents and purposes deceased and with no future without state ownership.