Research Radar: Greek gloom

May 14, 2012

Greek gloom dominates the start of the week as new elections there look inevitable and talk of Greek euro exit, or a Grexit” as common market parlance now has it, mounts. All risk assets and securities hinged on global growth have been hit, with China’s weekend reserve ratio easing doing little to offset gloomy data from world’s second biggest economy at the end of last week. World stocks are down heavily and emerging markets are underperforming; the euro has fallen to near 4-month lows below $1.29; safe haven core government debt is bid as euro peripheral debt yields in Italy and Spain push higher; and global growth bellwethers such as crude oil and the Australian dollar are down – the latter below parity against the US dollar for the first time in 5 months.

Financial research reports on Monday and over the weekend were just as gloomy, but plenty of interesting takes:

Bank of New York Mellon’s Simon Derrick’s view of the Greek political impasse concluded “there is at least an evens chance that the latter part of this summer will see what had officially been seen up until last November as an impossibility: a nation leaving the EUR.”

RBS’s Sanjay Mathur reckons that if there is another hung parliament after new Greek elections, implying no significant voter return to the pro-bailout parties, then euro risk soars.  “This means, on another hung parliament, that Greek government IOUs could trade as proxy currency as early as July.” If that does not galvanize sufficient parties into accepting Trioka bailout demands at that point, he said that then exit looms. “Opening up the Pandora’s box of exit means deposit risk across the periphery. The future of the euro would then be dictated by the subsequent policy response.”

Barclays Sree Kochugovindan talks of a three phase possible deterioration of the euro crisis — one, where solvency concerns and asset market fright are contained to Europe and mostly the fixed income markets of the periphery countries concerned; two, solvency concerns hit the core such as France and Belgium with asset market contagion widening before a series of major policy responses; and three, no major policy response or ECB SMP/LTRO, which leads to Greek default and even exit and global market shock akin to September 2008. “Given the immense cost of a crisis triggered by a Greek exit, we are not expecting the current situation to deteriorate into Phase 2. However, the risks are elevated and with the prospect of second round Greek elections in a few weeks, market jitters are likely to continue.”

Deutsche Bank’s global markets note also focuses on rising risks from Greece and also on the May 31 Irish referendum on the EU fiscal pact. Apart from outlining obvious risks to the Greek financing from a political vacuum, one conclusion Deutsche comes to is that a new EU growth pact may happen sooner than many had figured. “The new situation in Athens forces EU leaders to find common ground faster than we thought.” Another conclusion was that Ireland may consider postponing its referendum, given the risk that a “no” vote may disastrously cut off its access to new EU funds and also given a possible delay in German parliamentary votes on the fiscal deal to June. “Ireland might do well to think about postponing the 31 May referendum.” It called Spain’s sweeping banking reform plan “making progress” but a 15 bln euro government recapitalisaation of the banks “too timid”.

HSBC’s Karen Ward and Simon Wells warn about the long-term impact of continuous quantitative easing by central banks, saying the political relationship between central banks and governments rather than inflationary consequences may be the biggest concern. “The heyday of independent central banking could be drawing to a close.”

Darren Williams at AllianceBernstein thinks sterling’s rise against the newly weakened euro could well bring QE3 back onto the Bank of England’s agenda. “The Bank of England… may well use next week’s Inflation Report to fire a shot across sterling’s bows. If that fails, and the pound continues to rise, quantitative easing may again come onto the agenda.”

Societe Generale’s Andrew Lapthorne warned of a repeat for equities of a now almost annual post-Q1 ebbing of earnings outlooks. “Equity markets have in recent years developed a somewhat repetitive feel, with early in the year upward momentum fading, turning into mid-year slump once the Q1 reporting season is finished. If history is any guide, earnings momentum, having moved steadily higher over the past few months will also fade over the coming weeks.”

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