The Great Debate UK
-Jane Foley is research director of Forex.com. The opinions expressed are her own.-
Germany’s Finance Ministry this week denied a report in Le Monde that Germany, France and other countries were working on a package to rescue Greece. It seems that for now the official line from the grandfathers of European Monetary Union is that Greece can sort out its own budget deficit. The official line from the Greek government is much the same; it continues to maintain that it doesn’t need a bailout.
The problem with this is that this lacks credibility. The blowing out of the yield spreads on Greek government bonds over bunds and the price of credit default swaps are evidence of that. In the months after EMU, the 5 year Greek-bund spread was less than 200 bps. This week it was over 400 bps. Unless the impact of bond yields can be contained Greece loses a major incentive to stay within EMU.
As with many of the less well fiscally managed countries in the approach EMU in 1999, Greece benefitted hugely from convergence trades. Technically, the spread between Greek bond yields and Germany’s should have closed only after budgetary reform led to a much smaller budget deficit.
Greece's economic statistics are dubious in more than one sense. The country probably bent its figures to get into the euro zone. Now, the EU is angry that Greece has not been straightforward about the size of its fiscal deficit. But the greater doubts concern how an uncompetitive, highly indebted, weakly governed country can live with a strong currency such as the euro.
The Trojans were shocked after Greek guile got them in. The feeling may be similar at Eurostat, the European Union's statistics office. There is particular anger at Greece's increase of its estimate of the fiscal deficit last year from a tolerable 3.7 percent of GDP to a quite intolerable 12.5 percent.
-Jane Foley is research director at Forex.com. The opinions expressed are her own.-
The budget crisis facing the Greek government has drawn an array of comments and responses from various parts of the European Central Bank, the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the financial markets.
from The Great Debate:
-- James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. --
Developments in cash-strapped Iceland and Greece nicely illustrate two themes for 2010: sovereign risk and financial balkanization.
Iceland is balking at crushing terms demanded as part of its making whole overseas depositors in its ruined banking system, while Greece is involved in a game of chicken with the euro zone authorities over how, when and with whose assistance it heals its fiscal difficulties.
Juergen Stark , Germany's ECB executive board member, is well known as a true believer in tight fiscal discipline, so his reported comments in Italy's Il Sole 24 Ore about not bailing Greece out of its financial difficulties are not out of character. But the market reaction must have at least given pause for thought to EU leaders wondering how far to go in coddling their wayward child.
Within moments of Stark's reported musings that markets were "deluding themselves" if they thought member states would "put their hands in their wallets to save Greece", hitting the foreign exchange rooms, the euro was on a tumble. It hit a low of $1.4285 from a day's high of $1.4371 -- which doesn't sound like a lot, but is, especially over a very short period of time.
from Global Investing:
Let's not beat about the bush: the winners in this year's investment stakes were those who cashed out early in the financial crisis, looked at hugely oversold stock markets in March and jumped back in. The losers were those who spent too much time thinking about it or, worse, thought it was a good idea to put all their money in Dubai stocks and Greek government debt.
For the winners, it all had to do with market timing. Buying MSCI's emerging market stock index at its March 3 low brought gains of close to 110 percent. It was "only" a bit above 72 percent for the full year. World stocks as a whole gained around 30 percent for the year and nearly 75 percent from the March low.