Demand for German bonds remains strong

Stephen Beard Jan 4, 2012

Stacey Vanek Smith: Several European countries will stage big bond auctions today. Much of the drama of Europe’s debt crisis has played out in the bond market, as governments — like Italy and Spain — have tried to borrow and investors have made their feelings plain, demanding higher and higher interest rates. Today, it’s Germany’s turn — it’s aiming to borrow $6.5 billion.

Joining us now live to talk about this is our own Stephen Beard in London. Good morning, Stephen.

Stephen Beard: Hello Stacey.

Smith: Stephen, Germany’s economy has remained strong, even as Greece and other European countries have struggled. Will they have any trouble selling bonds?

Beard: No, Germany is one of Europe’s most creditworthy nations. It’s likely to borrow all it needs today, and at a pretty low rate of interest — around about the American — super cheap American — rate, around 1.9 percent. However, compare that with the 7 percent plus that Italy now has to pay — more than three times Germany’s rate. And of course, paying so much interest makes it more difficult for Italy to pay off its debt.

Smith: Right, but isn’t Germany suffering like the rest of Europe in this debt crisis?

Beard: No, far from it. In fact, it’s benefitted. As investors have steered clear of lending to the likes of Italy, Spain, Greece and other southern European countries, that money has to go somewhere; the investors have plowed it into Germany instead. And that, of course, has made it easier and cheaper for Germany to borrow.

Barry Bosworth is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and an advisor to President Carter. He told me Germany has also profited from the declining euro.

Barry Bosworth: If you’re a German businessman — or worker even — you think this crisis is a good thing. It improves your competitiveness, by driving down the price of the euro and making European goods more attractive in world markets.

And since Germany is by far the biggest exporter in the eurozone, it’s benefitted the most. You can really see the stark contrast between the fortunes of Germany and its weaker European partners in the unemployment figures. Germany’s just announced an unemployment rate of 6.8 percent — a 20 year low — while Spain has reported its unemployment rate has now reached 23 percent.

Smith: Stephen Beard in London. Thank you Stephen.

Beard: OK Stacey.

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