Europe crisis deepens

By Patrick Donahue Bloomberg News

BERLIN — Europe was plunged into fresh market turmoil as this week’s visit by Greece’s creditors rekindled concern the currency union will splinter and the first call for bailout aid by a Spanish region caused borrowing costs to surge.

Stocks and the euro fell before the arrival in Athens today of Greece’s troika of international creditors — the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. In Spain, Catalonia joined a list of the country’s regions that may tap aid from the central government in Madrid, spurring Spanish 10-year yields to surge above 7.5 percent for the first time.

“The problem in the region is profound, but the pace that it has been dealt with was slow,” said John Stopford, head of fixed income at Investec Asset Management, which oversees $98 billion. “The bank bailout for Spain is far from sufficient to deal with the country’s problems.”

After euro finance ministers failed to staunch a decline in the single currency with the approval of a 100 billion-euro ($122 billion) aid package for Spanish banks last week, the troika will seek to determine the fiscal state of the nation where the crisis began almost three years ago. Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras Sunday compared his economy after five years of contraction to the Great Depression of the 1930s.

The slump has been compounded as Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy confronts 15 billion euros of debt redemptions in Spain’s regions in the second half of this year. In addition to Catalonia, Spain’s most indebted region, Castilla-La-Mancha, Murcia, the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands may follow Valencia in seeking aid from Madrid, El Pais newspaper reported.

Spain’s Economy Minister Luis de Guindos will visit Berlin Tuesday for talks with German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, the German government said Monday. No press conference is planned.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, his country also burdened under surging borrowing costs, said last week that unrest in Spain, where protesters derided the country’s new 65 billion-euro austerity package, added to euro concerns.

In Greece, troika officials will face down doubts that the country can meet its bailout commitments and reluctance among euro states to put up more funds should it fail. German coalition politicians over the weekend torpedoed the possibility of renegotiating the terms of Greece’s agreement.

“If Greece doesn’t fulfill those conditions, then there can be no more payments,” German Vice Chancellor Philipp Roesler told broadcaster ARD Sunday, adding that he is “very skeptical” Greece can be rescued and that the prospect of its exit from the monetary union “has long ago lost its terror.”

The Greek government has struggled to stand by obligations tied to 240 billion euros of rescue funding over the past two years. The country is clamoring for more help as efforts to reduce its debt to 120 percent of gross domestic product by 2020 fall short.

The IMF, which indicated in March it won’t commit more money to Greece, will make a decision on its next disbursement in late August at the earliest based on the troika’s findings, said two fund officials familiar with the situation in recent days.