Data from the Bank of Spain illustrates a turning point in the accounts of non-financial companies in 2015. That said, against the backdrop of political uncertainty there is a risk that the value of this will not be unlocked so that Spanish companies can face the current challenge of increasing their size.
Bank of Spain
Spain’s public debt stood at 1.070 trillion euros in the fourth quarter, 7.562 billion euros more than in the previous one, according to Bank of Spain data. (datos del Banco de España).
The figures issued by the Bank of Spain have confirmed what we could already see with the naked eye; namely that Spaniards are losing their fear of the future and spending again. After several years of austerity, the consumers in Spain have gradually loosened their purse strings over the past year. And to such an extent that consumer spending rose 3.1% in 2015, almost tripling the 1.2% registered a year earlier.
The Bank of Spain plans to change the method for calculating provisions in H1 2016, in advance of the European Commission’s new accounting regulations due to be implemented in 2018. Under the new rules elaborated by the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB), provisions will be calculated based on the expected loss in credit operations and not on the loss already incurred, as has been the case up to now.
Spanish banks’ market capitalisation is still in the doldrums. Six of the seven lenders listed on the Ibex 35 occupied the top positions in the ranking of European banks with the worst stock market performance in 2015. And investors are continuing to punish Spain’s banking sector at the start of 2016. Analysts agree that profitability is the problem for Spanish banks. And, as the Bank of Spain insists, one solution could be a new wave of mergers, which would probably affect the mid-sized lenders.
Despite the fact that many of the banking sector ratios are improving, the Bank of Spain in its November bulletin has once again called on the industry to adjust its business model and even adapt its corporate strategy to a demanding economic and regulatory environment.
Experts are forecasting an unemployment rate of 15% in 2018, when it is estimated that Spain’s economy will have reached its GDP growth potential, so that figure could represent its structural jobless rate. This decline in the unemployment rate, the starting point of which was 26% at the lowest point in the economic cycle, is substantial. But it will still be high compared with other eurozone countries.
A new round of mergers amongst Spanish banks could just be round the corner. The Bank of Spain has also added its voice to the market rumours, the “off the record” comments from bank directors and the warnings from international organisations about the sector’s delicate health.
Although the Bank of Spain expects economic growth to slow to 0.8% in the third quarter from 1.0% in the second, international investors are still betting on Spain. Foreign investment outflow fell to 1.5 Bn€ in July compared from 5.5 Bn a year earlier, according to the central bank’s figures.
Bank of Spain’s governor Linde considers the government’s forecasts ‘feasible’ but warns about possible risks.