ECONOMY

In Brief

IMF not in loan talks with Spain, Portugal The International Monetary Fund isn’t in talks for a loan with Spain and Portugal, the No 2 official at the institution said, as investors test the euro region’s effort to contain the Greek crisis. «We’re certainly in contact with these authorities but let me be clear, there is no program of discussion or negotiations under way at this time with any of these countries,» John Lipsky, the IMF’s first deputy managing director, said in an interview yesterday with Bloomberg Television, when asked whether the IMF has contingency plans for Spain or Portugal. Fears that Greece’s fiscal crisis could spread to other indebted countries are growing even after the IMF and countries from the euro region agreed on a 110-billion-euro ($140 billion) bailout for Greece. (Bloomberg) Greek sentiment falls to 11-month low in April Greek economic sentiment fell to the lowest in 11 months in April and may drop further after the government implemented austerity measures to tame the deficit that may deepen the country’s recession. An index measuring short-term economic trends slipped to 69.1 from 69.6 in March, the Athens-based Foundation for Economic & Industrial Research (IOBE) said in a statement yesterday. Consumer confidence declined to a record low of minus 61, said the Athens-based foundation. «The intensifying fears of Greek consumers about the amount of their incomes and reduced purchasing power, the negative psychology that has been created and the increased uncertainty around security in the job market burden the already extremely negative climate,» the foundation said. «So worsening forecasts are being recorded, which are expected to peak in May, when the announced fiscal measures are finalized.» (Bloomberg) Bond exposure BNP Paribas revealed a 5-billion-euro ($6.7 billion) exposure to Greece, the largest among major French banks, as worries over contagion from the debt crisis keep lenders under pressure. France’s biggest listed bank said however it would not lend a helping hand to Greece by participating in a rescue package, as some German banks plan to do. «The commitments we have made [on Greece] we will keep… We will do all this but nothing more,» CEO Baudouin Prot told a news conference in Brussels, at the headquarters of the Fortis bank the French group acquired as part of a rescue deal. (Reuters) Japan different A senior Japanese official rejected comparisons between the country’s mounting public debt and the crisis in Greece yesterday but acknowledged long-term concerns for Asia’s biggest economy. Japan, after decades of heavy stimulus spending and declining tax revenues, has a public debt mountain bigger than any other industrialized nation, expected to hit 200 percent of gross domestic product in the next year. Amid increasing scrutiny, rating agencies Fitch and Standard & Poor’s have warned they may cut their rating on Japanese government bonds, which would hike borrowing costs. But Senior Vice Minister of Finance Naoki Minezaki told reporters, «As 95 percent of Japanese government bonds are bought domestically, there is no reason to compare them with Greece,» the Nikkei business daily reported. However Japan’s situation is «quite severe over the medium and long term,» said Minezaki, one of two politically appointed senior vice ministers of finance. With global investors worried over a possible default on debt obligations by Greece or other eurozone countries with high fiscal debts, Japan’s situation is being more closely watched. (AFP) Entry on ice The debt crisis in Greece will delay Poland’s entry into the eurozone for an unspecified period of time, Poland’s deputy central bank chief Witold Kozinski said yesterday. «In the wake of the events in Greece, Poland’s adoption of the euro will be delayed but I am convinced that sooner or later Poland will join the euro,» Kozinski told the commercial TVN CNBC business channel. «It will certainly delay us,» he said, adding it was «very difficult to say» when Poland may join the eurozone, as mandated by its 2004 European Union accession agreement. «I’d be afraid to speak of any kind of concrete date,» Kozinski said. (AFP)