If You Think Greece is Bad, Check Out Spain

Download 2010-2-25 The Euro's Final Battleground: Spain – WSJ.com

Spain can't devalue its currency to make its exports more attractive and its sunny beach resorts cheaper because the euro's value is driven by Germany's bigger, competitive industrial economy. Madrid can't slash interest rates or print money to spur borrowing and spending, because those decisions are now made in Frankfurt by the European Central Bank.

Spain could still try to stimulate growth through tax cuts and spending increases. But it has already mounted enormous stimulus spending that swelled its budget deficit to 11.4% of GDP last year, and it would need to sell more bonds to raise fresh cash. Buyers of Spanish government bonds, spooked by the prospect of a Greek default, have already demanded higher interest rates from Madrid.

"Spain is the real test case for the euro," says Desmond Lachman of the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. "If Spain is in deep trouble, it will be difficult to hold the euro together…and my own view is that Spain is in deep trouble."

Euro heavyweights Germany and France have pledged to support Greece if necessary. But any bailout for Spain—whose $1.6 trillion economy is nearly double those of troubled euro-zone partners Greece, Portugal and Ireland combined—would be far costlier.

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