Risk of contagion if Greece exits euro: WestLB
What happens if Greece leaves the euro? No one can say for sure. But John Davies at WestLB, finds it difficult to envision a benign outcome.
Greece’s economy, at around $300 billion, is very small compared to the euro zone as a whole. The problem is if other countries follow suit – or are pressured in that direction by stubborn financial markets.
Such a scenario doesn’t bear thinking about because it is so horrible.
There is a good chance that the market would immediately trade Portugal towards pre-debt swap Greece levels. The next in line would certainly be Ireland and Spain.
Initially you have got to assume that spreads would become even more dislocated. As you are moving out and down the credit curve the ones with the weakest credit ratings will likely suffer worst, at least initially, because we are moving clearly into the world of the unknown and that’s precisely what the market doesn’t like.
The Greek elections have left a political vacuum that is raising speculation that the country may eventually exit the euro. Last Sunday, Greek voters punished mainstream parties that supported harsh austerity in exchange for international bailout cash. That left the Greek parliament with a jumble of minority parties that have been unable to form a government.
The leaders of Greece’s once-dominant conservative and socialist parties made a push on Friday to avert new elections and prevent a victory by a radical leftist who has promised to tear up its international bailout deal.
Inability to implement the reforms set out by international lenders amid this political void could compromise the country’s life-support bailout money and lead to a default. This could make the country’s membership of the euro increasingly unsustainable, even though those very reforms risked choking growth further in an economy suffering its fifth year of recession.
Even Germany, the key driver of growth in the euro zone, might eventually be threatened by worsening financial and economic conditions around it. And what of the bullish German Bund market which seems to know no bounds? Davies again:
For Bunds, given where the two year is, I would assume you would get bullish flattening out to the five year and potentially the 10-year as well but the long end I would be more reticent to take a positive view on.
Two-year German bonds currently yield 0.09 percent and 10-year debt, 1.52 percent. Presumably, the uncertainty of a country exiting the euro would hurt the single currency in an immediate reaction, Davies says. The widening of peripheral spreads could mean a greater chance of bigger countries like Spain and Italy needing a bailout, he said.