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25th Feb 2024

Germany estimated to have made €9bn profit out of crisis

Germany has profited to the tune of €9 billion from the eurozone crisis over the past two years, an ING economist has calculated for EUobserver, as investors flock to "safe" but near zero interest rate bunds while southern euro-countries struggle with unsustainable rates.

"For a long while, the German economy has been one of the few beneficiaries of the sovereign debt crisis. In fact, the German government can get market funding almost for free," Carsten Brzeski, a senior economist with the ING bank in Belgium told this website.

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  • Germany's low borrowing costs have allowed the government to slash taxes even as other euro countries impose austerity measures (Photo: aranjuez1404)

Borrowing costs for Italian 10-year bonds on Wednesday (9 November) hit a figure of 7 percent more than German bunds - seen as a benchmark "safe" option by investors - on the back of political turmoil which has seen Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi promise to resign.

Deemed "unsustainable" by markets, the 7 percent red line was earlier crossed by Greece, Ireland and Portugal shortly before they sought EU and International Monetary Fund (IMF) aid.

France's 10-year bond compared to German bunds the same day hit a new high of 3 percent.

"With the latest stage of the debt crisis and France and Italy seemingly drowning in the maelstrom of the crisis, the German economy has lost its immunity. However, the continued flight-to-quality trend in bond markets is still spoiling the government with unexpected revenues," Brzeski explained.

The trend has steadily driven German bond yields close to zero since the European sovereign debt crisis began some two years ago.

Berlin's two-year bond yields currently stand at just 0.3 percent and its 10-year bonds at 1.7 percent. Six-month papers - usually giving the lowest return to investors - stand at just 0.08 percent, down from 0.3 percent just one month ago.

With strong economic growth in Germany last year and with investors increasingly looking to safe havens for their money, Brzeski calculated that Berlin's net profit for bond auctions compared to other countries in this period stands at around €9 billion.

"Interestingly, this is already more than the recently announced [German] tax relief of around €8 billion for 2013 and 2014. It almost looks as if the Greeks financed the little German tax reform," he added.

In another point of reference, €8 billion is also the figure Greece hopes to get in its next EU and IMF tranche once it has a provisional government in place and all parties sign a written letter for the prescribed austerity measures.

The money roughly covers Athens' state expenditures for a period of three months.

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