Interest rates on 10-year government bonds are a stark illustration of the growing chances of default. Governments have teetered, or even collapsed, when their interest rate approached 7 percent, deemed the unofficial cutoff for sustainable borrowing.
- Before the eurozone was formed in 1999, rates averaged between 4.5 and 5 percent. The exception: Greece, which was paying 8.5 percent to borrow.
- By 2003, Greece and Italy were borrowing at 4.3 percent. France, Germany, Spain, and Portugal were at 4.1 percent – meaning Greek and Italian bonds were seen as only marginally riskier than French and German bonds. Greece hit a low of 3.6 percent by 2005.
- Interest rates began rising – and the spread began growing in 2009, with Greece registering a 4.8 percent interest rate and Germany only 4 percent – as Europe neared the beginning of the crisis.
- In 2010, Greece’s rate jumped to 9 percent. Germany’s was at 2.7 percent, with France’s at 3.1 percent. The rate of troubled Ireland and Portugal neared 7 percent.
- By 2011, the picture was grim: France was at 3.7 percent and Germany at 3.3. Meanwhile, Greece was borrowing at a debilitating 13.5 percent, Portugal was at 8.7 percent, and Ireland was at 9.6 percent. Three months ago, Germany was at 1.83 percent. At the other extreme, Greece was at 17.78 percent. Italy and Spain hovered near 5.5 percent.