Front-Running Markets, Spaniards Rage Against Bailout On Twitter

By : Subscribe to Eleazar's | June 12, 2012 12:45 AM IST

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Global markets gave a solid thumbs-down Monday to the Spanish bank bailout after an initial burst of euphoria seemingly fueled by investors happy that something -- anything -- had been done to prevent the imminent collapse of Iberian finance. Gloomy analyst commentary that noted the proposed solution appeared to create more uncertainties than it solved was behind the swift change in mood.

But anyone following Twitter over the weekend could have seen it coming.

Starting in Europe and picking up after the New York markets opened Monday, traders sold Spanish investments as if nothing had happened over the weekend. Spain's benchmark equity index, which rose nearly 6 percent when the Madrid bourse opened, fell throughout and finished yet another session in the red, down 0.54 percent. This year's loss is already 24 percent.

Ten-year government obligaciones, necessary for a country running on deficit spending, sold off dramatically: yields jumped from just below 6 percent to 6.529 in afternoon U.S. trading. The price of insuring that debt skyrocketed, with benchmark credit-default swap spreads on 5-year notes exceeding 600 basis points, considered an unsustainable level.

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Meanwhile, credit researchers and pundits almost unanimously skewered the much-touted weekend solution, noting that it was too little, too harsh on current bond-holders or too half-hearted to fully contain the market's worries. By noon in London, the Financial Times had dubbed the bailout a "failout."

"Will this be good enough to immunize Spain over the Greek elections and fend off more rating downgrades, on the back of greater subordination and moral hazard? Probably not," wrote  Ciaran O'Hagan, a strategist for French bank Société Générale.

The initial backlash against the Spanish bailout, however, came much earlier. And it expressed itself largely in 140-character-or-less form. That's because the Spanish Twitter universe exploded in criticism of the bailout, days ago, even before the details of the rescue package were announced.

Twitter is a big deal in Spain and has more inluence than Americans might suppose.  A May survey of Twitter users by a group of Spanish digital media companies found most users were young urban professionals of above-average wealth who used it mainly to communicate about and respond to current events.

The social network is also seen as a powerful force for galvanizing political action. The country's "May 15" protest movement, which organized massive street actions throughout 2011 and 2012, was essentially born on the social network, with calls to protest on that day marked with the still-popular #15M hashtag.

Already, the fact the bailout of Spanish banking would be a tough sell was apparent Thursday, when the hashtag #stopmerkel began "trending" across Spain. The stream of messages, lamenting the power of German Chancellor Angela Merkel over the economic future of Europe, came out just as it was announced  Eurozone leaders would be meet Saturday.

"If Germany is the engine of Europe, somebody stop the train. I'm getting off!," user @Chabeli_katolik wrote in a popular post Thursday.

The sentiment, several media pundits noted, was interesting as an expression of visceral rejection to something that wasn't definitive, on the assumption it would be punitive to Spain.

Anti-bailout sentiment continued Saturday as #noesunrescateesunsaqueo, which translates roughly as "It's not a rescue, it's a looting" topped early Twitter trends in the country. After the  bailout specifics were announced by Spanish Finance Minister Luis de Guindos, the accusing mood turned personal once again with #RajoyCobarde suddenly appearing throughout posts. The hashtag, an ad hominem attack on Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, was commonly placed at the end of abusive messages against the politician, who was widely lampooned for not being present in bailout negotiations -- he was in Poland getting ready to see the Spanish and Italian national soccer teams face off. Later, after a leak that Rajoy had texted subordinates with the message "Spain is not Uganda," the simple #Uganda became an online touchpoint.

Monday, #DontComeBackRajoy was briefly popular, until the Spanish Twitter universe began yielding ground to less politically inclined posts about the new MacBook Pro and the exploits of tennis superstar Rafael Nadal, who won his seventh French Open Sunday.

Yet showing how a volatile mix of anger, rejection, fear and despondency still governed Spanish online feelings, at one point, #revolucion flared up.

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