The mood is especially sombre in provincial towns such as Igualada, a prosperous textile and leather manufacturing centre near Barcelona in the north-east.
“I’ve been a bank manager for 28 years and I have never lived through a situation as dramatic as this,” says the branch manager of a regional savings bank, who asked not to be named. “House prices in this town have fallen by 20 per cent, there is no demand, and no mortgage finance. Savings banks have cut off funding. Before the credit crunch, I used to do 12 mortgages a month. Since August, my branch has approved only one new loan.”
He says that for the first time, clients are handing in the keys of their homes and walking away from their debt problems. “With the fall in house prices, families are giving up. They don’t see the point of struggling on with their mortgage payments.” Repossessions, he says, are on the rise.
Some property developments have been stopped, and Igualada, a busy town of 38,000 people, is dotted with idle construction sites and foundation holes.
Developers with recently completed projects were in an even worse bind, the bank manager said. “Because property prices are falling, buyers who put a downpayment on a flat are going back on their agreements. They prefer to lose their deposits than to be trapped in a negative equity situation.”
In Madrid, the Bank of Spain, which acts as financial regulator, and the country’s banking lobbies insist that the lending business remains sound. Only 0.9 per cent of some €1,700bn ($2,500bn, £1,270bn) in outstanding loans are officially classified as non-performing, according to the bank. Spanish banks have set aside enough provisions to cover a three-fold increase in bad loans.
But in Igualada, bank managers of regional and national savings banks – all of whom asked not to be named – say that official statistics are not telling the full story. Developers in Spain raise bank credit on the basis of the downpayments they receive. “In an environment of falling house prices, we have no way of knowing how many units have actually been sold, or how many sales will fall through,” says one banker.
Adéu a Nihil Obstat | Hola a The Catalan AnalystDesprés de 13 anys d'escriure en aquest bloc pràcticament sense interrumpció, avui el dono per clausurat. Això no vol dir que m'hagi jubilat de la xarxa, sinó que he passat el relleu a un altra bloc que segueix la mateixa línia del Nihil Obstat. Es tracta del bloc The Catalan Analyst i del compte de Twitter del mateix nom: @CatalanAnalyst Us recomano que els seguiu.
Moltes gràcies a tots per haver-me seguit amb tanta fidelitat durant tots aquests anys.
dimecres, 9 de gener de 2008
Igualada o com Zapatero ens aixeca la camisa
El Financial Times publica un article en el que contraposa el triomfalisme ecònomic del govern socialista amb la crua realitat de les butxaques dels ciutadans espanyols.
Publicado por NO a les 10:40 a. m.