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.
For all the ifs and buts about the latest euro rescue agreement, one of its most profound market legacies may be to sound the death knell for sovereign credit default swaps — at least those covering richer developed economies. In short, the agreement reached in Brussels last night outlined a haircut on Greek government bonds of some 50 percent as a way to keep the country’s debt mountain sustainable over time. But anyone who had bought default insurance on the debt in the form of CDS would not get compensated as long as the “restructuring” was voluntary, or so says a top lawyer for the International Swaps and Derivatives Association — the arbiter of CDS contracts.
In less than two months, Turkey will mark the first anniversary of the start of an unusual monetary policy experiment, and it may well do so by calling it off. The experiment hinged on cutting interest rates while raising banks’ reserve ratio requirements, and as recently as August, the central bank was hoping it would be able to slow a local credit boom a bit but still protect exports by keeping the currency cheap. Instead, an investor exodus from emerging markets has put the lira to the sword, fuelling at one point a 20 percent collapse in its value against the dollar. That has forced the central bank to roll back some of the reserve ratio hikes and last week it jacked up overnight lending rates in an attempt to boost the currency. It has also sold vast quantities of dollars and is promising to unveil more measures on Wednesday.
Greece is in the danger zone. Even as the country's finance minister sought to reassure his euro zone counterparts at a meeting in Poland, Greek credit default swaps were pricing in a more than 90 percent chance of default, according to Reuters calculations of Markit data. Economists in a Reuters poll see a 65 percent chance of that happening, probably within a year.
A fresh twist in Hungary's Swiss franc debt saga. The ruling party, Fidesz, is proposing to offer mortgage holders the opportunity to repay their franc-denominated loans in one fell swoop at an exchange rate to be fixed well below the market rate. This is a deviation from the existing plan, agreed in June, which allows households to repay mortgage installments at a fixed rate of 180 forints per Swiss franc (well below the current 230 rate). Households would repay the difference, with interest, after 2015.
“Sell in May and go away” — a strategy that implies that taking a good summer holiday is the best way to deliver returns — may seem like an out-dated axiom by which to manage a share portfolio, but research from S&P indicates that using a strategy this decade would have paid dividends.
Morgan Stanley has been crunching some numbers about Europe and come up with something that (not surprisingly) fits their scenario of a near-term stock correction but only within a longer-term cyclical bull market for equities. It all comes down to eight days in March, apparently.
Slightly strange data from Deutsche Börse. Its latest survey of what top European executives have been doing shows increasing signs of optimism. That is, management board and supervisory board members and their families have been buying shares in their own companies.
Wolfgang Munchau, co-founder and president of Eurointelligence, has raised an uncomfortable prospect for investors in Greece. In a Financial Times column today, the long-time Europe commentator argues that Brussels may not be willing to bail Greece out if it were to default on its debt à la all-but sovereign Dubai World is about to.