Spain's producer prices rose at an incredible 10.2% annual rate in July - the fastest pace in almost 24 years in July as record oil prices increased costs for Spanish manufacturers. Producer prices were up 1.4 percent from June, the biggest monthly increase in more than two years.
Crude oil prices a record $147.27 a barrel in New York in mid July, and that helped push euro-zone consumer price inflation to more than a 16-year high, in the process making it harder for European Central Bank to cut interest rates, even as the region's economy slows.
The price of intermediate goods in Spain rose 7.3 percent from a year earlier, compared with 6.3 percent in June, signaling further rises in consumer prices are in the pipeline.
Oil has now fallen back 22 percent from its July record and it is likely that Spain's producer price inflation peaked in July. Also the economic slowdown should, in theory, make it difficult for companies to pass on higher production costs to consumers. But what is hard to understand at this point is why German producer prices - where oil costs cannot have risen very differently - are only up by 8.9% in July, or why German monthly consumer prices rose at 3.5%, while Spain's consumer prices gained 5.3 percent in July from a year earlier. This is hardly evidence of an economy that is responding and correcting going into the slowdown, in fact it is quite the opposite, and demonstrates the presence of an economy with a high level of structural rigidities and time delays in response, which will only, unfortunately, add to the pain during the coming long recession.
ECB To Make "Changes" Yves Mersch Says
ECB council member Yves Mersch said in an interview with Bloomberg - given at Jackson Hole - that the European Central Bank is about to announce changes to the rules governing its money-market auctions in coming weeks to head off the risk of abuse by financial institutions.
These comments comments the controversy which has arisen surrounding a recent press interview with Dutch policy maker Nout Wellink where Wellink stated that banks shouldn't become too dependent on the ECB for funding (see my last post for more details on all this).
Two items which are being widely talked about as the most likely candidates for such changes are risk control measures, and restrictions on the place of issue for marketable assets eligible as collateral. The first is to address the concern that some banks are creating securities (like cedulas hipotecarias) specifically for use as collateral at the ECB which are being accepted by the ECB as having investment grade despite only having been rated by one agency (as opposed to the two which was standard practice in the past).
The second addresses the concern that securities may be being issued in one country of origin, deposited in the vaults of the ECB as collateral for borrowing, and then the funds themselves transferred for lending to bank deposits in a third country - for example Dutch banks might be raising money in the Netherlands (or German banks in Germany) and then transferring funds for aggressive lending in Spain (in order to gain market share against Spain's highly stretched national banks). There is no direct evidence that this is happening, but JP Morgan did estimate back in May that 240 billion euros of securities had been specifically created by eurozone banks with a view to being deposited at the ECB, and Spains banks only owe the ECB a total of 49 billion euros, so someone somewhere is doing something with all that money.
It is hard to know really what has been happening, since if there is one thing the ECB isn't it is transparent, and so we are only left clutching at straws and making suppositions. One recent piece of evidence we do have is that U.K. mortgage lender Nationwide Building Society said Aug. 18 it's planning to expand into Ireland, a member of the euro region, to take advantage of ``funding opportunities.'' But this would seem to refer to a non zone institution leveraging funds for use outside the zone (in the UK for example, which may well be happening), but what I am suggesting may well be happening is some sort of Credit Default Swap type "put" by canny non-Spanish banks who want future market share in Spain raising securities and making risky loans in the full expectation that since there is going to have to be some type of bail out for Spain, then they will get bailed out too.
Anyway, this is likely to remain a rather obscure topic, since as Mersch says in the interview, the ECB's response to any abuse case ``would not necessarily be a question to be discussed publicly.''
I am sure it wouldn't.
Spain Real Time Data Charts
Edward Hugh is only able to update this blog from time to time, but he does run a lively Twitter account with plenty of Spain related comment. He also maintains a collection of constantly updated Spain charts with short updates on a Storify dedicated page Spain's Economic Recovery - Glass Half Full or Glass Half Empty?