Euro Crisis Is Helping UK Borrowing Costs


Whilst David Cameron is busily chastising the euro-zone countries for their inability to sort out their problems, he should bear in mind that Britain is receiving significant benefits from the Euro currently being perceived as a risky currency.

Britain, despite having an enormous public sector debt and a deficit that is still very high, currently has an extremely low borrowing rate. This is because most pension funds, banks and sovereign wealth funds have to invest some of their portfolios in assets that are seen as the least risky.

As a result of the euro instability, euro denominated investments now have some risk premium attached, and even the US with its alleged ability to print money without consequence (due to its reserve currency status), has been downgraded by S&P thus attaching some risk to US dollar assets. Sterling right now is benefiting from being seen as one of the least bad options for investing in sovereign assets.

There are better choices of assets denominated in low risk currencies of course, however in many cases there are structural problems in investing in these. For example in the case of Switzerland, there are currently currency controls in place to prevent currency appreciation, and there is only so much to go around of Norwegian denominated assets.

The strong demand for UK based debt is giving the chancellor the opportunity to issue debt at all- time low rates. Whilst George Osborne crows about this low borrowing cost due to the strong management behind the UK economy he should bear in mind that this is more due to the markets being stuck for choices right now. The money has to be parked somewhere and right now the UK is the least bad choice.

If the euro-zone countries were to sort out their problems, and/or the US were to start growing again, the consequences for the UK could be quite dramatic. Money could start flowing out of the UK, exposing an extremely weak economy that is either flat or back in recession, with a high deficit and very high public debt. This would focus the “Eye of Sauron”, the currency traders on Britain’s parlous financial state causing Britain’s borrowing costs to escalate sharply.

Whilst nobody, particularly the UK would benefit from a euro collapse and the corresponding financial Armageddon that would result, despite all the grand posturing, the last thing Britain could use right now is a financially strong euro-zone. Its just that its not really very likely in the short term.

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