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Elena Moya

Irish government faces growing fears of debt default

by Elena Moya

17 February 2009

Fears are growing that Ireland could default on its national debt after the cost to insure against possible losses on loans to the country rose to record highs at the end of last week.

Credit ratings agency Moody’s recently followed rival Standard & Poor’s in warning it might downgrade Irish debt, amid fears that one of Europe’s former success stories is falling into a deepening recession. The cost to hedge against losses on Irish debt rose last week to a record 355 basis points - meaning that for every £100 of debt, investors have to pay £3.55 to insure against default, according to data firm CMA Datavision. It was about 262 basis points at the end of January.

Moody’s has warned there is a more than 50% chance Ireland will lose its triple A rating within 12 to 18 months.

The spread between Irish and German debt rose last week to 203 points, meaning Ireland has to pay 2% more interest than Germany to borrow in the financial markets because of its perceived higher risk.

Ireland last week announced an additional €7bn (£6.3bn) injection into its top banks, Bank of Ireland and Allied Irish Banks, which are suffering from an increase in bad loans. Thousands of Irish citizens are struggling to pay their mortgages which they arranged at the peak of the country’s real estate bubble. Unemployment is at a 15-year high.

The IMF tried to calm investors by saying the country, once known as the Celtic Tiger because of its economic growth, did not need any financing from it.

Published by The Guardian- February 16th. 2009

• This article was amended on Tuesday 17 February 2009. The cost of insuring against Ireland defaulting on its national debt has risen from 2.62% to 3.55%, rather than tripling. This has been corrected.

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