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April 23, 2015

Europe Confounded by Negative Interest Rates and Greek Debt

By Peak Advisor Alliance

In the United States, during the last quarter of 2014, about seven million (13 percent) of all mortgaged residential properties were underwater, meaning the mortgage loan amount was at least 25 percent higher than the estimated market value of the property, according to RealtyTrac.com. That's a significantly lower number than the 12.8 million that were underwater early in 2012. Regardless, it's an unhappy situation for the homeowners who may wish they lived in Spain.

Why Spain? Well, as has been mentioned before, negative interest rates have been sweeping across Europe and affected mortgage rates. The Wall Street Journal explained:
"In countries such as Spain, Portugal, and Italy, the base interest rate used for many loans, especially mortgages, is the euro interbank offered rate, or Euribor... Banks set interest rates on many loans as a small percentage above or below a benchmark such as Euribor. As rates have declined, sometimes to below zero, some banks have faced the paradox of paying interest to those who have borrowed money from them."
In fact, at least one bank - the seventh largest in Spain - has been paying some of its mortgage holders' interest! It just deducts the interest amount from the principal amount the borrower owes. It may be safe to say European banks' expenses have increased since, in addition to paying interest on some loans they've issued, banks also have been "compelled to rebuild computer programs, update legal documents, and redo spreadsheets to account for negative rates."

In addition to a confounding interest rate environment, Europe is also contending with issues related to Greek debt, which triggered a sell-off in stock markets late last week. U.S. markets fared no better. Major markets lost value last week on concerns about Greece leaving the Euro, the potential for weaker-than-expected earnings results, and new trading regulations in China.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the author's own, and do not necessarily reflect those of EconMatters. © EconMatters All Rights Reserved | Facebook | Twitter | Free Email | Kindle

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Item Reviewed: Europe Confounded by Negative Interest Rates and Greek Debt Rating: 5 Reviewed By: EconMatters