European governments are borrowing money at the cheapest rates in hundreds of years. One country is actually borrowing at the lowest rates in nearly 500 years.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s researchers have published the historical bond yields of the biggest European economies, going back to when records first began. Bond yields refer to the return an investor gets from holding the debt of a corporation or government. The lower those yields are, the cheaper it is to borrow.
Here’s how each of the countries look.
The UK Treasury is borrowing relatively expensively in comparison to some other European countries — yields are near their lowest since 1950. But a lot of countries go back a lot further.
Germany’s government bond yields are near the lowest levels on record, but they’re beaten by the massive financial instability seen in the 1920s and 1930s.
Germany saw periods of hyperinflation and aggressive deflation, which sent bond yields surging and tumbling.
Despite fears during the euro crisis that Spain would succumb to climbing borrowing costs (the country’s 10-year yield peaked above 7% in 2012), the country has seen a massive turnaround.
Borrowing costs are now at their lowest since 1821, when BAML’s data goes back to, with the 10-year yield solidly below 2% now.
Italy’s story is pretty similar: The cost of borrowing for the Italian government was extremely high for much of the 20th century, and spiked again during the euro crisis.
But the country’s yields are now at record-low levels, stretching back to 1807, before Italian unification.
France’s graph, which stretches back more than 250 years, is warped by the ludicrous borrowing costs seen during the French Revolution (if you go back to the UK graph, you’ll see a spike during the Napoleonic Wars too).
But France’s 10-year bonds are now yielding just 0.62%, by far the lowest since BAML’s record begins in 1746.
But one country blows all the others out of the water. It’s not even close.
The Netherlands’ bond yields are by far the lowest the country has ever seen, and there’s nearly 500 years of records to compare that against: Comparable data began in 1517, hundreds of years before France and Britain.