Archive for the ‘Financial & Mortgages’ Category

 

February 23rd, 2010

The International Monetary Fund said Thursday that Spain’s fiscal challenges are not as severe as those faced by Greece, reinforcing the message that Madrid has been delivering to the world’s financial markets.

In its first official comment on the matter, the IMF told investors that Spain should not be placed in the same boat as debt-laden Greece.

“Regarding Spain, we do see differences between their circumstances and those of other parts of the euro area,” IMF spokesman David Hawley said, dismissing the idea that Greece’s financial woes could spread beyond its borders.

Hawley said Spain has robust economic statistics and institutions with a solid track record and credibility, adding that the Iberian nation also had strong fiscal starting positions prior to the global recession.

That assessment echoed the message Spanish Economy Secretary Jose Manuel Campa has brought to Paris and London and plans to reiterate at closed-door meetings with investors in New York and Boston.

Campa said in an interview with Efe-DowJones that when investors see that the diagnosis of the situation has been correct and that the measures that the Spanish government has taken are adequate, “it will generate a lot of reassurance.”

Spain’s investment waters were calmer Thursday after the government sold a 5-billion-euro 15-year bond the day before in an auction that was oversubscribed, proving – experts said – the government’s ability to raise financing.

The country paid a risk premium of 85 basis points in the bond issue over the benchmark swap rate. By comparison, the risk premium demanded by holders of 10-year Greek bonds over Germany’s 10-year benchmark bonds rose Thursday to 328 basis points.

Hawley stressed Thursday that Greece’s budget deficit woes date back to before the global recession, while Spain had a surplus equal to 2 percent of GDP at the start of the financial downturn.

Story from Herald Tribune

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February 9th, 2010

The number of Brits buying euros for property purchases has increased in the last few days after sterling reached a rate of €1.15 for the first time since August 2008.

Foreign currency brokers have seen a 40% increase in clients buying euros, while new enquiries have shot up by 24%.

“A number of our clients in the market for euros are taking advantage of the improved exchange rate and buying their euros for overseas mortgage payments, property purchases etc now,” World First’s head of private clients, Elisabeth Dobson, told OPP.

“They are delighted to be getting a rate that is up to 12% better than the lows we have seen over the last 17 months. There are a number of clients who will have been holding off on property purchases and overseas investments due to sterling’s weakness against the euro. This rate move will certainly spur people on.”

A run of economic good news from the UK, including a fall in unemployment, rising inflation and an anticipation that the country is out of recession, has helped increase the pound’s strength. Meanwhile, economic problems in Spain and Greece have weakened consumer confidence in the euro.

Not all currency brokers have seen a substantial increase in business. “€1.15 is a bit of psychological barrier but most clients are still waiting for the magic €1.20 number,” Marc Morley-Freer, commercial director at Moneycorp, told OPP. “After the UK election we could see improvements that could push people to make lifestyle purchases – things are too uncertain before then.”

World First’s chief economist Jeremy Cook remains bullish following sterling’s 9% growth over the last year. “I don’t think this run in particular will last because it has happened so quickly, but the pound could be up to around €1.22 by the end of the year,” he told OPP.

Story from OPP

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February 8th, 2010

According to data released today by the National Statistics Institute (INE), the number of home mortgages issued during November 2009 was 52,043, representing a growth of 1.8 percent over the same month in 2008 and the first recorded rise since April 2007.

The volume of loan capital amounted to 6010.5 million, 10.1% less than the same month in 2008, which means that the average amount borrowed fell by 11.7% to 115,492 euros. Despite the rebound year in November, the cumulative comparison of January and November 2009 to the same period in 2008 showed an overall decrease of 23.2%.

Savings banks granted the most mortgages (52.2%), followed by banks (36.6%) and other financial institutions (10.9%). As for borrowed capital, savings banks granted 45.3% of the total, banks provided 43.0% and other financial institutions contributed 11.7%.

The average interest rate of savings banks was 4.25% and the average term was 23 years, while in banks, the average rate was 4.03% and the average term was 21 years. The variable interest mortgage remains the preferred option in 95.2% of mortgages, compared with only 4.8% opting for fixed rate. The Euribor was reported as the reference rate that was used in 88.7% of the mortgages.

The data also shows that in November, 40,156 mortgages had their conditions changed, 35.3 percent more than last year – 32,379 of these were changes in the conditions of a mortgage with the same institution (42.4% higher), mostly being attributed to mortgage payers taking advantage of lower interest rates and longer terms.

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February 5th, 2010

Euribor (12 months), the interest rate normally used to calculate mortgage payments in Spain, fell 0.8% in January compared to the previous month. It now stands at 1.232%, the second lowest level on record.

Last month I reported that Euribor rose a fraction in December, suggesting that, after 14 consecutive months of falls, a change of trend might be in the offing. Despite a return to declines in January, that is still probably the case. Flipping around is often consistent with a period of change.

After January’s fall, Euribor is now 53% lower than it was a year ago. That means borrowers on annually resetting mortgages can expect some relief in their mortgage payments. As a consequence of the latest reduction in Euribor, repayments on a typical mortgage (150,000 Euros, 25 years, Euribor +0.75%) will fall by around 100 Euros a month, or 1,200 Euros a year.

Most of the savings from the fall in Euribor have already been had, and Euribor is unlikely to go much lower. By March borrowers on annually resetting mortgages will hardly notice any savings, even if Euribor goes a bit lower.

Story by Mark Stucklin

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January 5th, 2010

Euribor 12 months, the interest rate normally used to calculate mortgage payments in Spain, rose 0.9% in December compared to the previous month, finishing the year at 1.242%. This was the first monthly rise in Euribor in 14 months, suggesting that a change in tendency is on the way. But despite the increase in December, Euribor is still 64% lower than it was 12 months ago. That means borrowers on annually resetting mortgages can expect some relief in their future mortgage payments. Euribor is based on interest rates set by the European Central Bank. Base rates are expected to remain at 1% for the first quarter of 2010, rising gradually after that.

The volume of new residential mortgages signed in October was 52,451, down 18% compared to the same month last year, and 16% compared to September, according to the latest figures from the INE. In value terms new residential mortgages were down 31% to 6 billion Euros. New mortgage signings in Spain have now fallen for 28 consecutive months, often by double digits. That illustrates the severity of Spain’s property crash, even if official figures disguise the extent to which property prices have fallen. The average new mortgage value also fell, by 15.8% to 113,882 Euros.

Story by Mark Stucklin

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December 17th, 2009

If you bank in Spain, your bank is probably ripping you off regarding bank charges for transfers. This week, we transferred some money between a Euro bank account in Spain to another Euro bank account in the UK and our bank charged us €63 for the privilege of doing so.

However, a quick phone call later and €62 of that transfer fee had been refunded. Here’s how to do the same with your bank.

In September of this year the European Commission passed regulation 924/2009 which states that charges for transactions offered by your bank have to be the same whether the payment is national or cross-border.

In our case, our bank charges €1 for national transfers, yet persists in applying a percentage based charge for international transfers.

We simply had to remind them of this EC regulation, and hey presto, we had been refunded.

If your bank is less willing to cooperate, you can dob them in to the Spanish national authority and make a formal complaint by emailing The Bank of Spain.

If that fails, you can also and ask the Bank of Spain to mediate a resolution to the problem.

More information about EC Regulation 924/2009 can be found at the European Commission website and Wikipedia.

Story by Martin Dell, Kyero.

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December 13th, 2009

Euribor 12 months, the interest rate normally used to calculate mortgage payments in Spain, fell 1 % in November to a new record low of 1.231 %. Euribor has now fallen for 14 consecutive months, and is 72 % lower than it was a year ago. As a consequence of the latest reduction in Euribor, repayments on a typical annually-resetting mortgage (140,000 euros, 25 years, Euribor + 0.5 %) will fall by around 240 Euros a month, or 2,800 euros a year.

Economic analysts expect Euribor to stay around current low levels in the months to come. Both Jean Claude Trichet, president of the ECB and Miguel Ángel Fernández Ordóñez, governor of the Bank of Spain, have said that current base rates are at the “appropriate level”.

The volume of new residential mortgages signed in September was 62,411, down 4.2 % compared to the same month last year. In value terms new residential mortgages were down 16 % to 7.3 billion euros.
The good news is the decline in new mortgage lending has been bottoming out in the last few months. It fell 31 % in June, 19 % in July, 7 % in August, and 4 % in September. If the trend continues new mortgage lending will soon be growing again year-on-year in volume terms. That will give some support to the housing market.

Story by Mark Stucklin

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December 2nd, 2009

Once a star performer in Europe’s 11-year old monetary union, Spain has become the wayward laggard. Growth data last week showed the Spanish economy – hit badly by a property market collapse and soaring unemployment – stuck firmly in recession in the third quarter, while the eurozone as a whole grew 0.4 per cent. The rollercoaster ride might suggest the European Central Bank would have difficulty calibrating policy steps to suit Spain and the other 15 eurozone countries.

During the economic crisis, Miguel Fernández Ordóñez, Spain’s central bank governor since 2006, has rarely given interviews. Talking to the Financial Times in the library of the bank’s plush Madrid headquarters, he strikes a distinctly cautious tone, but his messages are not so different from those of his colleagues in Frankfurt.

After the collapse of Lehman Brothers investment bank last year, the ECB cut its main interest rate farther and faster than ever before, to a record low of 1 per cent. He hints this monetary policy stance will remain for some time. “It is clear that any increase in [interest] rates is off the screen. The markets do not expect any change before the second half of next year,” he says.

He agrees, however, that with financial markets normalising, the ECB’s governing council should plan to remove emergency support, such as offers of unlimited liquidity for up to one year. “My reasoning is that those measures were exceptional because the markets did not work well. When the markets are working well, we should take them away because otherwise the markets will never work perfectly, ever. Support should be exceptional.”

Jean-Claude Trichet, the ECB’s president, indicated this month that the “exit strategy” would start in December, with the ending of one-year liquidity offers.

But is Spain ready for the start of such an ECB strategy, given its weak growth prospects? “Well, it’s ready for recovery,” Mr Fernández Ordóñez replies, “because recovery in Europe is the best news for Spain.” Some 70 per cent of Spain’s exports go to the eurozone, he points out. His biggest concern is that Spain pushes harder to bring public finances under control and increase labour market flexibility.

From one perspective, eurozone membership acts as a straitjacket in a downturn because devaluation is not an option. Worse, the euro is strengthening. Mr Fernández Ordóñez does not see things that way, however. “Of course you are right that we cannot devalue, and what does it mean? This means that we have to do more structural reforms so that you have the advantages [similar to those] of devaluing.”

As such, he is happy to see Spanish consumer prices falling faster than elsewhere. “Deflation in the euro area would be a disaster. But if you don’t have deflation in the euro area and we have a negative inflation differential in Spain compared with the rest of the eurozone, that would be the best thing. Reducing prices and regaining competitiveness is what we have to do.”

Story from FT.com

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November 25th, 2009

Euribor (12 months), the interest rate normally used to calculate mortgage payments in Spain, fell 1.4% in October to a record low of 1.243%. It has now fallen for 13 consecutive months, and is 76% lower than it was a year ago.

Monthly repayments on a typical annually-resetting mortgage (150,000 euros, 25 years) will drop by around 300 euros a month, or 4,000 euros a year, to 640 euros/month. Significantly lower monthly mortgage repayments have given many borrowers financial breathing space they did not have when Euribor stood at 5.26% in October last year. Estate agents report this is taking some pressure of the property market, by reducing the number of forced sellers. Many more borrowers can now afford to take their homes of the market in the hope of selling when the market recovers.

The average value of new residential mortgages signed in August fell 19% to 11,753 euros compared to the same time last year. The number of new mortgages signed by 6.6% to 52,482. Fewer, cheaper mortgages put downward pressure on property prices. The average interest rate on new mortgages in August was 4.3%. Interest rates from banks (4.15%) were better than savings banks or cajas (4.46%).

Many analysts expect Euribor to continue falling until the early part of 2010, further reducing the cost of money to Spanish mortgage borrowers.

Story by Mark Stucklin

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November 6th, 2009

The government of Andalucia, or Junta, announced yesterday a subsidy of 1 billion Euros to help liquidate the region’s property glut estimated at around 70,000 newly-built homes.

Like the ‘cash-for-clunkers’ programme used to subsidise car sales, public money will now be showered on house-hunters in Andalucia. But second home buyers can stay in their seats as the scheme only applies to local residents buying main homes. Even so, it could benefit foreigners living in Andalucia, and help lift the market out of its slump, which might lift prices for all types of property.

How it works
The way it works is developers participating in the scheme have to offer their property for sale at mortgage cost, wiping out their margins and giving a discount of 20%. Participating banks, for their part, will loan 100% interest only for the first 3 years. Starting in the fourth year the Junta will offer loans to subsidise mortgage payments for up to 5 years and a maximum of 15,000 Euros. As a result, buyers will save as much as 40% over 8 years, according to calculations by the Junta.

More conditions: The offer stands until the end of 2010, the properties must be newly- built, and the mortgage no greater than 245,000 Euros, the price limit for social housing. Mortgages must be 100% LTV, up to 30 years, charging an interest rate of Euribor +1%

Read the fine print, though, and the Junta isn’t being so generous. In year 9 mortgage lenders have to reimburse the subsidy to the Junta and add it onto the outstanding mortgage, so the borrower pays in the end. Nevertheless, thanks to inflation, buyers will probably have to pay back less, in real terms, than they borrow. Many people expect inflation to take off in the next few years.

Criticisms
You could argue that it is morally questionable for the government to be spending 1 billion Euros subsidising home buyers when there are so many other more needy causes. And isn’t this is just a wheeze to get buyers to pay inflated prices for homes today whilst transferring the burden of payment onto tax payers in the future? Wouldn’t it be cheaper, and cause less economic distortion, just to drop prices today to a level that people can afford without crucifying themselves on a 30 year mortgage subsidised by the government?

Story by: Mark Stucklin

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