Category Archives: grexit

19/4/15: Greece In or Out: Ifo ain’t caring much

Ifo Institute calculated euro system-wide losses from Greek default under two scenarios: Greece remains in the Euro and Greece exits the Euro.

In basic terms, there is no difference between the two.

And alongside that, called for the annual settlement of euro system liabilities and higher cost of funding within the central banks system. Which would trigger Greek default literally overnight and probably make Grexit total inevitability. In effect, thus, Ifo - a very influential German think tank - is calling for shutting the lid on Greece, comprehensively, and crystalising losses across the Eurozone and Eurosystem.

27/1/15: Greek Debt: Non-Crisis Porkies Flying Around

There is an interesting sense of dramatic contradictions emerging when one considers on the one hand the outcome of the Greek elections, and on the other hand the statements from some EU finance ministers (for example see this: The basic contradiction is that one set of agents - the new Greek government and the Greek electorate - seem to be insisting on the urgency of a debt writedowns, while the other set of agents - majority of the European finance heads - seem to be insisting on the non-urgency of even discussing such.

What's going on?

Here is a neat summary of official (Government) debt redemptions coming up, by the holder of debt (source: @Schuldensuehner):

This clearly, as in daylight clear, shows 2015 as being a massive peak year for redemptions.

Note to the above: GLF debt reference covers GDP-linked bonds - see

Alternative way of looking at the burden of debt is to compare debt dynamics and debt funding costs dynamics. Here these are for Greece, based on IMF data:

Take a look at the above blue line: in effect, this measures the cost of carrying Government debt. This cost did improve, significantly in 2012 and 2013, but has been once again rising in 2014. It is projected to continue to rise into 2019. So Greece can run all the primary surpluses the Troika can demand, the cost of servicing legacy debts is on the upward trend once again and Herr. Schaueble and his ilk are talking tripe.

Now, consider the red line in the chart above: in absolute terms, there is no reduction in Greek debt to-date compared to 2012. But do note the third argument advanced by Herr. Schaueble in the link above, the one that states that Greek debt reductions have exceeded those forecast under the programme. Did they? Chart below shows the reality to be quite different from that claim:

What the chart above shows is that 2015 projections for debt/GDP ratio (the latest being published in october 2014) range quite a bit across different years when forecast was made. Back in October 2010, the IMF predicted 2015 level of debt/GDP ratio to be 133.9%, this rocketed to 165.1% in October 2011 forecast, rose again to 174.0% forecast published in October 2012, declined to 168.6% in forecast published in October 2013 and rose once again in forecast published in October last year to 171% of GDP.  In other words, debt outlook for Greece for 2015 did not improve relative to 3 forecast years and improved only relative to one forecast year. Rather similar case applies to 016 projections and 2017 projections and 2018 projections. So where is that dramatic improvement in debt profile? Ah, nowhere to be seen.

And then again we keep hearing about the fabled end of contagion, 'thank God', that Herr. Schaeuble likes referencing. I wrote about this before, especially about the fact that risk liabilities have not gone away, but were shifted over the years from the shoulders of German banks to the shoulders of German taxpayers. But you don't have to take my word on this, here's a German view:

26/1/15: Markets v Greece: Too Cool for School… for now

There is much talk about the impact (or rather lack thereof) of Greek elections on the markets.

In fact, the euro continued to price in the effects of a much larger factor - the QE announcement by the ECB, the stock markets did the same. Only bonds and CDS markets reacted to the Greek elections, and even here the re-pricing of Greek risks was moderate so far (see chart below and the day summary for CDS - both courtesy of CMA).

The reason for this reaction is two-fold.

Firstly, Greece is a small blip on the overall radar map of Euro area's problems. Even in terms of Government debt. Here is the summary of the Government debt overhang levels (over and above 60% of debt/GDP benchmark) across the Euro area:

In simple terms, real problems for the euro, in terms of risk pricing, are in Italy, France and Spain.

Secondly, Greece is a political risk, not a financial risk to the Euro area. And it is a risk in so far, only, as yesterday's election increases the probability of a Grexit. But increasing probability of a Grexit does not mean that this increase is worth re-pricing. It is only worth worrying about if (1) increase in probability is significant enough, and (2) if elections changed the timing of the possible event, bringing it closer to today compared to previous markets expectations.

Now, here is the problem: neither (1) nor (2) have been materially changed by the Syriza victory last night. My comments to two publications yesterday and today, summarised below, explain.

Greek elections came as a watershed for both the markets analysts and the European elites, both of which expected a much weaker majority for the Syriza-led so-called 'extreme left' coalition. The final outcome of yesterday's vote, however, is far from certain, and this has been now fully realised by the markets participants.

The confrontation with the EU, ECB and the IMF, promised by Zyriza, is but one part of the dimension of the policy course that Greece will take from here on. Another part, less talked about today in the wake of the vote is accommodation.

Let me explain first why accommodation is a necessary condition for both sides in the conflict to proceed.

Greece is systemically important to the euro area, despite all claims by various European politicians to the contrary. Greece is carrying a huge burden of debt, accumulated, in part due to its own profligacy, in part due to the botched crisis resolution measures developed and deployed by the EU. It's debt is no longer held by the German, French and Italian banks, so much is true. German and French banks held some EUR27 billion worth of Greek Government debt at the end of 2010. This has now been reduced to less than EUR100 million. There is no direct contagion route from Greek official default to the euro area banking sector worth talking about. But Greek private sector debts still amount to roughly EUR10 billion in German and French banking systems (with more than EUR8 billion of this in German banks alone). Greek default will trigger defaults on these debts too, blowing pretty sizeable hole in the euro area banks.

However, lion's share of Greek public debt is now held in various European institutions. As the result, German taxpayers are on the hook for countless tens of billions in Greek liabilities via the likes of the EFSF and Eurosystem.

And then there is the reputational costs: letting Greece slip out into a default and out of the euro area will mark the beginning of an end for the euro, especially if, post-Grexit, Greece proves to be a success.

In short, one side of the equation - the Troika - has all the incentives to deal with Syriza.

One the other side, we can expect the fighting rhetoric of Syriza to be moderated as well. The reason for this is also simple: the EU-IMF-ECB Troika contains the Lender of Desperate Resort (the ECB) and the Lender of Last Resort (the IMF). Beyond these two, there is no funding available to Greece and Syriza elections promises make it painfully clear that it cannot entertain the possibility of a sharp exit from the euro, because such an exit would require the Government to run a full-blown budgetary surplus, not just a primary surplus. For anyone offering an end to austerity, this is a no-go territory.

So we can expect Syriza to present, in its first round of talks with the Troika, some proposals on dealing with the Greek debt overhang (currently this stands at around EUR 210 billion in excess debt over the 60% debt/GDP limit), backed by a list of reforms that the Syriza government can put forward in return for EU concessions on debt.

These reforms are the critical point to any future negotiations with the EU and the IMF. If Syriza can offer the EU deep institutional reforms, especially in the areas so far failed by the previous Government: improving the efficiency and accountability of the Greek public services, robust weeding out of political and financial corruption, and developing a functional system of tax collections, we are likely to see EU counter-offers on debt, including debt restructuring.

So far, Syriza has promised to respect the IMF loans and conditions. But its rhetoric about the end of Troika surveillance is not helping this cause of keeping the IMF calm - IMF too, like the ECB and the EU Commission, requires monitoring and surveillance of its programme countries. Syriza also promised to balance the budget, while simultaneously alleviating the negative effects of austerity. In simple, brutally financial terms, these sets of objectives are mutually exclusive.

With contradictory objectives in place, perhaps the only certainty coming on foot of the latest Greek elections is that political risks in Greece and the euro area have amplified once again and are unlikely to abate any time soon. Expect the Greek Crisis 4.0 to be rolling in any time in the next 6 months.

So in the nutshell, don't expect much of fireworks now - we all know two deadlines faced by Greece over the next month:

These are the markers for the markets to worry about and these are the timings that will start revealing to us more information about Syriza policy stance too. Until then, ride the wave of QE and sip that kool-aid lads... too cool to worry about that history lesson, for now...

16/1/2015: Where did Greek ‘bailout’ funds go?

Given the gyrations of the Greek crisis or crises, it might be handy to get a handle on where all the bailout funds extended to Greece have gone. Here are two charts illustrating the said:

Update: source for the charts data: and my own calculations based on the same.

So in simple terms, Government debt 'solutions' took up 133 billion euros of 'rescue' funds - much of this going to the private sector foreign holders of bonds (PSI) and to private investors in bonds (many foreign) via interest and redemptions. Banks chewed through another 83 billion euros. Total of 81 percent of the funds went to these liabilities.

The fabled Greek deficits (careless spending meme et al) got only 6 percent of the total allocations, of which a small share went to, undoubtedly, support the 'most vulnerable'.