Monday, 19 January 2009

A Greek Tragedy

Greece's financial troubles move on with all the inevitability of a classical tragedy. Today S&P downgraded their sovereign debt from A to A-.Obviously this was expected in the markets as a few days earlier the Greeks did not even try to refinance at a 2 to 10 year tenor.The interest spread on Greek 10 year bonds
is 244 basis points over German bunds. As bunds currently yield 2.9% it means the Greeks are now having to pay approaching twice the German interest rate and this rate would increase if they tried to issue at 10 years with the high chance much of their offering would be left on the shelf.

Consequently the Greeks raise 2.5bn mainly in 3 month paper a few days ago where the spread is much smaller. They are like Mr Micawber hoping for something to turn up. I fear they are only postponing the inevitable. In 3 months time things will be worse.

Greek unemployment will rise. Their political active, unemployed, well qualified students will create more civil unrest and we may well see the government fall with the possibility of a military junta. In this scenario the EU would prefer to release Greece from the Euro as the lesser of two evils but then who falls next? Portugal is next for a downgrade but my money is on Italy.

I started writing this blog on Friday since when things have taken a turn for the worse in Euroland. In the Sunday Telegraph, AEP notes how membership of the Euro has left half Europe PIGS + Eire trapped in recession. Mr Farage even gets an honourable mention for sounding a discordant note at the Euro birthday party, a Volker-Kerker moment borrowed from an earlier empire – the Austro-Hungarian. Civil unrest has surfaced in Lithuania & Bulgaria. These states are not full Euro members but are being got ready for membership. Spanish unemployment could hit 25% as the Euro prices Spanish workers out of a job.

AEP notes banks are dumping PIGS and Irish debt into ECB Euro Repo operations but what AEP is obviously unaware of the Bank of England is also being stuffed with this crap in its Sterling Repo Operations by investment banks.

As AEP notes the earthquake will come quickly without warning. It will be like the collapse of a travel company but with millions of people left stranded.

Finally, today, Monday I read that a former Irish central bank official, David McWilliams, said on RTE radio,

“It is essential we go to Europe and say we have a serious problem. We say either we default or pull out of Europe”

The hidden hand of the bond market is all powerful! Ireland is too small to matter. Greece is bigger but manageable. Add in Spain or Italy and the house falls down.

Before Xmas I recorded an off the cuff unscripted talk I gave for the SW media team. It is up on YouTube and the latter part deals with Euro problems. I recommend listening to it. You can see it if you CLICK HERE:

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