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The Spread! The Spread!

Nutella - Photo by Trisha Thomas

Ricevo e pubblico da valente giornalista (mia moglie)

As a journalist for Associated Press Television News based in Rome, I probably should have known what a spread is.  But I must honestly and humbly admit that as of last summer, I did not. For me, as a mother, a spread was something my children put on their bread in the morning. Nutella in Italy,  Peanut Butter in the US.  So it was a bit of a shock for me when I came back from vacation in September and had to spend the next 3 months talking about the spread.
For anyone who might be as ignorant as me, the spread is the difference between interest rates paid for a German government bond compared to an Italian government bond. The German bonds (BUND)  bring in lower interest rates than the Italian bonds (BTP) which have been struggling: as the German bonds are less risky they are more expensive to buy and yield less, my husband tells me.

Nearly every day this fall I have found myself on the street interviewing Italians on what they thought about the spread. Italians – being a clever people (popolo furbo)—caught on quickly.  The bigger the spread, the worse for Italy, the smaller the better.  “Oddio, lo spread è andato sopra 500” mi dicevano.  “Meno male sta scendendo adesso.” I have also interviewed dozens of market analysts who say more or less the same thing.  Together with various cameramen from my office, I have plagued the Bloomberg office in Rome begging them to let us film their beautiful deep blue and orange monitors showing the spread.  We’ve done close ups of the past 24-hours and wide shots of the past 10 years. Some days the future of Italy seems to be hanging in those little lines.

Recently, it has dawned on me that all this talk of “the spread” is a kind of macho schoolyard, locker room (spogliatoio) game.  Who is bigger, stronger and tougher versus who is smaller and weaker.  As a mother it reminds me a bit of a child coming home from school after the big, tough bully has picked on him in the playground, making him feel bad because of “the spread.” So I will say to Italy what I would say to one of my children.  First I would put my hands on his shoulders, look him straight in the eye and then I would say, “Italy, sweetie—you are right, Germany is stronger and tougher.  Germany can make a Mercedes that is fast, and tough and reliable.  You are different. You are passionate and creative.  Perhaps you are less reliable, you don’t always follow the rules, but you are more flexible.  Sweetie, keep in mind, that you can make a Ferrari with the power and passion that Germany can only dream of.”

Trisha Thomas is my wife and a journalist for Associated Press Television News in Rome. Anyone interested in reading more of her thoughts on motherhood in Italy, you can check out her blog at .


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