The global credit system is flashing the most serious warning signals in almost a year on triple fears of a Spanish banking crisis, escalating political risk in Asia, and a second leg to the US housing slump.
Flight to safety drove yields on 10-year German Bunds to 2.56pc, below the levels touched in the depths of the Great Depression. The spreads over peripheral European debt rose sharply again, jumping to 137 basis points for Italy, 157 for Spain and 220 for Ireland.
The strains in Europe's sovereign debt markets are nearing levels that forced EU leaders to launch their "shock and awe" rescue package. "If a $1 trillion (£700bn) bail-out did not finally turn sentiment, I struggle to see what can," said Tim Ash, an economist at RBS.
Dollar Libor rates gauging stress within the interbank lending market have jumped to a 10-month high of 0.5363pc, with credit contagion spreading to every area. The iTraxx Senior financials index – banks' "fear gauge" – rose 20 basis points on Tuesday to 184. "It turns out we weren't seeing the light at the end of the tunnel after all, but a train with a big light on it coming towards us of double-dip," said Dr Suki Mann, at Societe Generale.
While the Libor rate is still far below peaks reached during the Lehman crisis, the pattern has ominous echoes of credit market strains before the two big "pulses" of the credit crisis in August 2007 and September 2008. In each case a breakdown of trust in the interbank market was a harbinger of violent moves in equities and the real economy weeks later.
RBS's credit team said Libor strains were worse than they looked since most banks in Europe were paying much higher spreads, especially in Spain. The "implied" forward spreads were nearer 1.1pc.