The euro debt crisis is moving from the euro to European banks.
Dollar LIBOR, the London Interbank Offered Rate that banks pay for short-term loans in dollars, climbed to 0.51% today. That’s the highest level since July 16, 2009.
A rising LIBOR reflects increasing worries about the credit-worthiness of banks.
Certainly the Bank of Spain’s seizure of CajaSur, one of the weakest of Spain’s weak local banks, over the weekend did nothing to reduce worries about the financial sector. CajaSur is just one of the banks that the central bank of Spain will close under a new state-financed plan. Standard & Poor’s puts the cost of closing the weakest of the country’s local banks at about $28 billion. CajaSur lost $748 million on $340 million in revenue last year.
LIBOR is a daily average based on a survey of 16 banks and besides heading upward in general that average shows in increasingly large spread between the most and least stressed banks.
In today’s LIBOR survey, WestLB, a state-owned bank that had to be bailed out during the post-Lehman stage of the global financial crisis, showed the highest dollar LIBOR at 0.565%. HSBC Holdings showed the lowest rate at 0.44%.
LIBOR has more than doubled this year under the impact of the euro debt crisis and looks set to climb higher.
That puts more strain on the still shaky global economic recovery. The 3-month LIBOR is used as a benchmark for $360 trillion in global financial products, such as mortgages and loans, so an increase in LIBOR means an increase in the cost of credit for billions of consumers and millions of businesses.