- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 23, 2011

BERLIN The German economy, which has been a bastion while its neighbors have buckled one by one under debt, showed signs of strain Wednesday and raised fears across world financial markets that Europe is far from containing its crisis.

An auction of bonds by the German government flopped, generating some of the weakest demand in a decade. And investors who buy German bonds on the open market demanded higher yields, a sign of concern about Germany’s finances.

Compounding the problems for Europe, France received another warning that it might be stripped of its top-notch credit rating, and borrowing costs for Italy neared dangerous levels.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the head of the European Union clashed openly over one proposed solution to the European crisis - common bonds issued by all 17 nations that use the euro currency.

A European bond could promote stability in the markets. But Mrs. Merkel said it would not solve “structural flaws” with the euro, and, in a testy exchange, an EU official said Mrs. Merkel was trying to cut off the debate before it could even start.

While European leaders bickered and the bond market fretted, investors sold stocks all over the world. In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average lost 236 points, more than 2 percent. Stock markets across Europe finished more than 1 percent lower.

“If Germany can’t sell bonds, what is the rest of Europe going to do?” asked Benjamin Reitzes, an analyst at BMO Capital Markets.

The debt crisis in Europe has forced Greece, Portugal and Ireland to accept international bailouts, and it has threatened Italy and Spain, which have much bigger economies.

But Germany had weathered the storm. It has the largest economy in Europe, with $3.3 trillion of output last year, or about 20 percent of the EU economy. It is vital to any continentwide solution, both as a source of strength and as a source of cash.

Germany had hoped to raise $8.1 billion by selling bonds, but it sold only $5.9 billion, one of the worst showings since the adoption of the euro in 1999.

German officials cited a record-low offered yield and the “extraordinarily nervous market environment” for the auction’s failure, but investors took it as a warning that the crisis might threaten the rock-solid German economy.

Germany kept the rest of the bonds to auction another day. The agency was careful to say that the result did not represent a “refinancing squeeze” for Germany.

The poor auction piled pressure on German bonds in secondary markets. The yield on benchmark 10-year German bonds climbed by a hefty 0.2 percentage points to 2.08 percent, its highest since Oct. 28.

And for the first time since Oct. 10, investors demanded a higher interest rate to lend to Germany than to the U.S., which is wrestling with its own long-term debt problems.

The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury was 1.89 percent, down from 1.94 percent a day earlier - a substantial move in the bond market and a sign investors were seeking the safety of U.S. securities.

AP writers Geir Moulson, Greg Keller and Nicholas Paphitis contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

blog comments powered by Disqus

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide