Anyone worried about Greece and the potential impact of the euro debt crisis on the world economy should have a chat with Jim O’Neill. O’Neill, the head of Goldman Sachs Asset Management ten years ago coined the BRIC acronym to describe the four biggest emerging economies and perhaps understandably, he is not too perturbed by the outcome of the Greek crisis. Speaking at a recent conference, the man who is often called Mr BRIC, pointed out that China’s economy is growing by $1 trillion a year and that means it is adding the equivalent of a Greece every 4 months. And what if the market turns its guns on Italy, a far larger economy than Greece? Italy’s economy was surpassed in size last year by Brazil, another of the BRICs, O’Neill counters, adding:
Currency speculators boosted bets against the euro to a record high in the latest week of data (to end December 27) and built up the biggest long dollar position since mid-2010, according to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Here -- courtesy of Reuters' graphics whiz Scott Barber, is what happens to the euro when shorts build up:
Watchers of ratings agencies might be wondering if a golden period of steady credit upgrades for emerging economies is coming to an end. This week brought a ratings downgrade for Egypt and an outlook cut for Turkey. Hungary is teetering on the brink of having its rating cut to junk. Across the emerging world, countries are struggling with weaker growth, still-high inflation and falling investment. Debt ratios are rising. All this could bode ill for sovereign credit ratings.
Signs of the wholesale funding stress are cropping up in the FX swaps market, with the premium for swapping euro LIBOR into dollar LIBOR over 3 months (so-called cross currency swap) rising to 141.5 basis points, which is the post-Lehman Brothers high.
from Jeremy Gaunt:
One of the more bizarre aspects of the euro zone crisis is that the currency in question -- the euro -- has actually not had that bad a year, certainly against the dollar. Even with Greece on the brink and Italy sending ripples of fear across financial markets, the single currency is still up 1.4 percent against the greenback for the year to date.
No longer an idle “what if” game, investors are actively debating the chance of a breakup of the euro as a creditor strike in the zone’s largest government bond market sends Italian debt yields into the stratosphere — or at least beyond the circa 7% levels where government funding is seen as sustainable over time. Emergency funding for Italy, along the lines of bailouts for Greece, Ireland and Portugal over the past two years, may now be needed but no one’s sure there’s enough money available — in large part due to Germany’s refusal to contemplate either a bigger bailout fund or open-ended debt purchases from the European Central Bank as a lender of last resort.
Whether or not it’s likely or even a good idea, talk of Greece leaving the euro is no longer taboo in either financial or political circles. What is more, anxiety over the future of the single currency has reached such a pitch since the infection of the giant Italian bond market that there are many investors talking openly of an unraveling of the entire bloc. But against such an amplified “tail risk”, it’s remarkable how stable world financial markets have been over the past few turbulent weeks — at least outside the ailing sovereign debt markets in question.
from Jeremy Gaunt:
It seems as if almost everyone was surprised by Prime Minister George Papandreou's decision to hold a referendum on the euro zone's bailout package for his country. At the very least, it can probably be said that he is weary of being hammered from all sides -- his own party, the opposition, the people on the street, Germany, the tabloid press, you name it.