Sovereign debt worries aren't just for the weaker European countries anymore.
The latest round of questions about the euro sent debt-default insurance prices soaring across the Continent. Even in stronger economies such as Germany and France, the price of credit default swaps on sovereign bonds soared 15% or more.
Buying insurance against a debt default in France still costs just a fraction of what it does in the more troubled, so-called peripheral countries such as Greece and Spain. But the price of hedging French debt surged 22% Friday to $102,000 annually on $10 million of debt for five years.
Thanks to questions about the future of the euro, it currently costs more to insure against a default on French debt than it does on debt issued by the United Kingdom, and more to insure against a default by thrifty Germany than by the profligate United States.
Meanwhile, several European bank stocks tumbled to 52-week lows. The big Spanish banks, Santander (STD) and Banco Bilbao (BBVA), were the biggest losers, dropping 7% and 9%. They have each lost half their value since the Greek crisis erupted in December. Other big lenders such as ING (ING) of the Netherlands also dropped around 5%, to levels within a dollar of their 52-week lows.
Hungary was the focus of Friday's action after the new government compared its situation to Greece's, raising questions about the credibility of the country's belt-tightening and the new leadership itself.
But the bigger question is whether the creeping global recovery will be able to withstand more cuts in government spending at a time when unemployment is high and personal incomes depressed.
"Consumers in a number of Eurozone countries are now facing earlier and/or more aggressive fiscal tightening as a consequence of the region's debt crisis," said economist Howard Archer of IHS Global Insight. "Consumers are also concerned that the debt crisis could derail Eurozone recovery."
Rightly so, you might add.
Hungary and its neighbors are well on their way to joining the PIIGS in Europe's economic stew.
Hungary's forint plunged to a one-year low against the euro Friday, after a spokesman for the new government warned that Hungary's economic crisis is worse than previously acknowledged.
The comments raised fears that Europe, still struggling to come to grips with the financial problems on its southern periphery, now must deal with another crisis in MOREColin Barr - Jun 4, 2010 1:07 PM ET
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