Category Archives: ELA

19/6/2015: Greek ELA and ECB… What’s the Rationale?

The price of getting Greece ejected or pushed out of the euro has now risen once again as ECB added to the ELA provided to Greek banks amidst a bank run that is sapping as much as EUR800mln per day.

In basic terms, ECB is allowing lending via Eurosystem to Greek banks to fund withdrawals of deposits. Once deposits are monetised and shifted out of Greek banks, Eurosystem holds a liability, Greek depositors hold an asset and the latter cannot be seized to cover the former. ECB was very unhappy with doing the same for Ireland at the height of the crisis, resulting in a huge shift of ELA debt onto taxpayers' shoulders via Anglo ELA conversion into Government bonds.

But ECB continues to increase Greek ELA. Why? We do not know, but we can speculate. Specifically there can be only three reasons the ECB is doing this:

Reason 1: increase the cost of letting Greece go. If Greece crashes out of the euro zone, the ELA liabilities will have to be covered out of Eurosystem funds, implying - in theory - a hit on member-states central banks. In theory, I stress this bit, this means higher ELA, greater incentives to keep member states negotiating with intransigent Greece. Why am I stressing the 'in theory' bet? Because in the end, even if Greece does crash out of the euro area, ELA liabilities can be easily written off by the ECB or monetized (electronically) without any cost to the member states.

Reason 2: keep Greece within the euro area as long as possible, thus allowing the member states to hammer out some sort of an agreement. In theory, this implies that the ECB is buying time by giving cash to Greek depositors so they can run, in hope that they continue to run at a 'reasonable' rate (at, say, less than EUR2 billion per day or so). In practice, however, this is a very short-term position.

Reason 3: ECB is monetizing Greek run on the banks in hope that Greece does crash out of the euro. Here's how the scheme might work: increasing ELA for Greece weakens Greek banks and, simultaneously, strengthens the incentives for Greece to exit the euro once deposits left in the system become negligible and the economy is fully cashed-in. On such an exit, Greek residents will be holding physical euros that cannot be expropriated by the Eurosystem, and thus Greece can launch drachma at highly devalued exchange rate, while relying on a buffer of cash in euros held within the economy.

I am not going to speculate which reason holds, but I will note that all three are pretty dire.

Take your bets, ladies and gentlemen.

2/6/15: Greece: Back to the [Groundhog Day] Future

Couple of weeks back I posted a detailed list of ECB ELA hikes since February 2015. So here's an updated table:

- Feb 5, 2015 = EUR59.5 bn
- Feb 12, 2015 = EUR65.0bn
- Feb 18, 2015 = EUR68.3 bn
- Mar 5, 2015 = EUR68.8bn
- Mar 12, 2015 = EUR69.4bn
- Mar 18, 2015 = EUR69.8bn
- Mar 25, 2015 = EUR71.0bn
- Apr 1, 2015 = EUR71.7bn
- Apr 9, 2015 = EUR73.2bn
- Apr 14, 2015 = EUR74bn
- Apr 22, 2015 = EUR75.5bn
- Apr 29, 2015 = EUR76.9bn
- May 6, 2015 = EUR78.9bn
- May 12, 2015 = EUR80.0bn
- May 21, 2015 = EUR80.2bn
- May 27, 2015 = EUR80.2bn
- Jun 2, 2015 = EUR80.7bn

Now, that implies 3 weeks cumulative ELA rises of EUR700mln and reserve cushion on ELA below EUR2.5bn by my estimate. And for all that, Greek Central Bank recoverable assets are currently at EUR41 billion. Ugh… Oh… the proverbial nose is tightening… but on who's neck?

The neck is somewhere in here - within the Greek Target 2 liabilities debate, liabilities that continue to rise, prompting a fine, but esoteric debate:

I side with Karl Whelan on this. What is material is Sinn's assertion that the Greek residents' "stock of money sent abroad and held in cash having already ballooned to 79% of GDP". And Greece is facing big bills on debt redemptions and wages and pensions in the next 3 months (see timeline here: or:

One thing is clear from all of this: Credit Swiss estimate of 75% chance of a deal being done this month on Greek 'programme', while the CDS markets are pricing in 75% probability of Greek default over the next 5 years:

And we have equally conflicting 'proposals' on how such  programme might be arranged: which can be summarised as "the bottom line seems to be that, fed up Syriza's unwillingness to concede its election mandate, the troika will now write the agreement for Greece and Tsipras can either sign it or not. Apparently, the IMF has scaled back its demands for EU creditor writedowns (another loss for Athens) but remains skeptical of the entire undertaking."

If this is true, the entire 'new deal' being offered to Greece amounts to a new can being kicked down the same road.

Map of the road? [note: the below table excludes short-term debt]

h/t to @NChildersMEP 

So to sum up today on the Greek front:

  1. ELA is running tight, just as deposit flights goes on;
  2. Target 2 liabilities continue to mount;
  3. Probability of default remains material at present;
  4. Choices available to Greek authorities are Plan A: horrible and Plan B: terrible; and
  5. Absent debt write down, even the best case scenario still leads to high risk of a political crisis in the short run and a default in the medium (3 years) term. 
It's Back to the Future, in a Groundhog Day-like sorts of the Future...

27/5/15: No ELA Increase amidst Deposits Flight: Greece

Three quick updates to my earlier post on things getting crunch-time(y) in Greece:

Firstly, the U.S. is stepping up its pressure on the European 'leadership' to take Greek risks more seriously: U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew : "My concern is not the good will of the parties -- I don't think anyone wants this to blow up -- but ... a miscalculation could lead to a crisis that would be potentially very damaging". Talks are going to be toasty at G7 summit and this time around not down to Vladimir Putin.

Secondly, as I said in the earlier post, we have EUR3 billion cushion left when it comes to Greek banks ELA and increases in ELA approvals by the ECB are getting smaller by week. So here's the bad news: "Greek banks have seen deposit outflows accelerate over the past week as fears rise that the euro zone country will default on debt, two banking sources said on Wednesday." This is via Reuters. Remember, last hike in ELA was EUR200 million. And today, ECB decided not to increase ELA limit - a sign that Frankfurt is getting edgy. Guess what: "The past week in May was more challenging compared to the previous ones in the month, with daily outflows of 200 to 300 million euros in the last few days," a senior Greek banker said. This might be mild after outflows of EUR12.5 billion in January and EUR7.57 billion in February, but the latest increase in outflows is coming on foot of already weak deposits and signals renewed increase in pressures. Outflows are up in April to ca EUR5 billion from EUR1.91 billion in March.

Thirdly, we now have rumours of real capital controls coming in: Athens introduced a 'small charge' on ATM withdrawals. Despite this glaringly 'capital control'-like measure, Athens subsequently said it has ruled out capital controls. But, two days ago, Greek opposition lawmaker Dora Bakoyianni said "the country could be forced into capital controls to stem deposit outflows if it did not reach a deal for aid with the government this week". And on May 20, Moody's issued a statement saying that capital controls in Greece are now "highly likely".

and CDS markets are not impressed, again...

Though the bond markets are actually pricing in continued ECB 'cooperation' - across all of the euro area peripherals:

The Euro Saga continues…

27/5/15: Crunch Time Timeline for Greece

Crunch time continues for Greece. Here is the schedule of the upcoming 'pressure points':

Source: Citi

And an update to the Greek ELA increases: +EUR200 million on May 21st, to EUR80.2 billion with remaining available cushion of just EUR3 billion. Note: earlier ELA extensions are summarised here:

15/5/15: Greece on a Wild Rollercoaster Ride

Greece has become a BitCoin of Europe in terms of volatility, and, man, things are soaring and crashing on a daily basis now. Here are three snapshots of Greek Credit Default Swaps:

End of last week:
Mid-week this week:
Closing yesterday:

Meanwhile, the entire financial system of Greece is now on a weekly timeline courtesy of the ECB approvals of ELA:
One move by ECB down on ELA or laterally on collateral requirements, and the house of cards can come crashing.

Note: Sources: CMA and @Schuldensuehner.