Category Archives: Euro crisis

8/7/15: Latest Round of Greece Talks: Smoke, Fire, Grexit

Summit / Eurogroup takeaways:

1. No progress of any variety beyond the usual agreement to have more talks
2. Short term deal 'weighing in' for Sunday is rumoured - effectively a bridge loan based on Greek acceptance of pre-referendum proposals. One of proposals involved a 3-4 months long bridge financing deal (Bailout 2.1) followed by 3-4 year deal (Bailout 3.0). This was rejected by Finland.
3. Any 'possible' new deal being discussed is 2-3 years in duration - a can kicking of weak variety, in other words.
4. No haircuts on debt will be allowed.
5. Sunday - full EU heads summit (not euro alone), which indicates something serious brewing - at least in terms of applying pressure on Tsipras. Also, possible Grexit push. Summit can be 'avoided' if Greece presents an acceptable plan on Thursday. Decision to be finalised on Saturday.
6. Overall, Bailout 3.0 package of measures is now being pushed out to tougher conditionality for Greece than in previous talks.
7. Juncker stated that the EU Commission has prepared a detailed Grexit plan, inclusive of humanitarian aid. Juncker plan also includes balance of payments support scheme for non-euro states with big exposures to Greek banks: Bulgaria, Romania. Big questions are also about Macedonia and Serbia.
8. At least in theory (detailed theory per Juncker) we have the end of 'irreversibility' of the euro (for now - at single state level).
9. IMF is back in the Troika 'Institutions' pairing.
10. No parallel currency discussions - left to Finance Ministers discussions.

My take: Overall, Greek position is now nearly toast. Contrary to many expectations, a No vote did not produce a stronger playing hand for Greece. Possibly because Tsipras failed to deliver any new proposals. Sunday EU Council would be required for a treaty change. This implies two possibilities: haircuts (ruled out) or Grexit. We are leaning toward Grexit, heavily.

The acceleration in Eurogroup and council demands on Greece suggests that prior to the Referendum there was already a strong consensus that Grexit is the preferred direction for further talks.

Serious sidelines:

Italy position is optimistic on the deal, but no debt relief in sight. Still remains hard-line on Greece.

Merkel takes harder stance than anyone else: strikes down bridge agreement: "Bridge financing didn't play any role in our talks tonight." Stance on conditions: "The proposals we are expecting now encompass what we put forward for second programme plus more for third programme." Haircuts: "A haircut is not up for debate. That is a bailout under the treaties and that will not happen." Merkel isn't even keen on discussing ESM programme resumption. Tougher thing still: "The situation has become much worse. I have to take 3rd programme proposals to Bundestag - hence need detail." Which means serious hurdles to cover here.

France is the lead in Greek side support and Hollande is not impressed: "It is true that if there were no agreement, the situation would be serious. Other options would have to be sought."

Spain's Rajoy "New Greek programme will have conditions attached. Will have to be approved by institutions, then Eurogroup, then leaders". Meaningless, surprisingly.

Donald Tusk: "Our inability to find an agreement may lead to the insolvency of Greece and the bankruptcy of its banking system". Says the Greek government is to present its proposals by Thursday, July 9. Juncker put deadline at 8:30 am Friday, July 10. So lots of confusion.

Finland: ruled out Bailout 3.0 for Greece on any terms.

Belgium: Finance Minister Van Overtveldt: "very disappointed" by today's Eurogroup meeting. New Greek Finance Minister made "very good explanation" of situation, but "had no new proposals to show us". "I had the strong impression that everybody really feels the sense of urgency, except the Greek government." His boss: Belgian PM Michel: has “more and more difficulty to understand the logic of Tsipras. On the one hand he says 'we want to stay in the eurozone'. On the other hand, he's not taking any initiative, zero, nothing, to stay in the eurozone.”

Lastly - a link worth reading:

28/6/15: Grexit with Help: Hans Werner Sinn

My favourite Bad Dude of German Economics, Hans Werner Sinn on Greek crisis:

Orderly Grexit is, in my view, still more disruptive and costly to all sides than a facilitated debt writedown and restructuring, while allowing Greece more time and fiscal room for implementing real reforms (as opposed to the currently proposed reforms, which are aimed solely on addressing short term fiscal imbalances).

Truth is - Europe has the means to meaningfully help Greece, as well as other 'peripheral' states, to get back onto growth path consistent with long term sustainability (in Greek case, we are talking about 3.5-4 percent annual growth averaging over a good decade). What Europe lacks is the will.

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.

11/6/15: What Markets Are Pricing in Greece-Troika ex-IMF Standoff

Head on collision warning 1: IMF has now left the 'political dialogue' room where Greece and Troika (pardon, Institutions) have been pretending to negotiate a pretence at a solution:

Which brings us to the markets.

CDS-implied probability of default for Greece is now at 82.04%, ahead of Ukraine:
But bond markets seem relatively cool:
Which suggests two things:

  1. Markets still anticipate a deal; but
  2. Markets also push down expected duration / longevity of the deal and, in case of the deal unraveling, they expect lower recovery rates.
This, amidst continued 'warnings' and 'dire warnings' and 'ultimatums' and 'take-it-or-leave' offers and the rest of warring rhetoric is not a good omen for the crisis resolution.

Even Jean-Claude 'The Rubber Chicken of European Politics' Junker seemed to have given his last push to this: and failed...

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.