Friday, March 5, 2010

Economics 05.03.2010: Greeks are paying the price

So you've heard by now that Greece 'escaped' the wrath of the market yesterday by placing €5bn worth of 10-year bonds. But don't be fooled - Greek's escape was nothing more than a respite: Greek taxpayers are now on the hook for paying a 6.3% yield on the 10-year paper - in line with near junk status of the bonds. This marks the highest spread for Greek debt since 2001.

Despite the issue being covered at 3x, there is a possibility for prices to tumble in the secondary markets (as happened with their 5-year paper last month) and there is an added concern that demand was underpinned by speculative investors with short-term horizons, as 'hold-to-maturity' types of investors (e.g insurance companies and pension funds) are cutting back on their holdings of PIIGS bonds. If the latter is true, then we can expect a serious pressure on yields to emerge in the next few days, with subsequent noises from the EU authorities about 'speculators' profiteering.

Big - albeit artificial - test for the euro will be March 16th when the EU Commission will rule on Greek fiscal consolidation plans. Expect approval, enthused speeches, and backroom talks on how to proceed forward with the country that
  • plans to cut 2% of its GDP-worth off the deficit this year, but
  • is unlikely to deliver on this target, whilst
  • needing to cut a whooping double the planned amount just to stay afloat toward the 3% deficit goal for 2014-2015.
Meanwhile, Jean Claude Trichet went out of his way yesterday to tell the Greeks not to invite the IMF. During his press conference, Trichet repeatedly stressed that Europe has its own safety net for defaulting states (well, not quite in these terms) so no need to call in the big boys from the IMF. One wonders, what is Mr Trichet talking about. Papers quote Trichet saying that it is absurd to envisage scenarios of Greek exit from the euro.

All of this resembles the debates in the Afghan government in 1979 - to invite the Soviets or not... And the really, really, really funny thing is - IMF is EU-led organization (of the two supernationals: the World Bank is traditionally reserved as the leadership game for the Americans, while the IMF leadership goes to the EU appointees). While the Greek taxpayers are now set to pay over ten years €184.22 per each €100 borrowed last night - a steep price for not calling in 'Your Own Bad Guys' from Washington.

Now, put the Greek pricing into a perspective. On 14 January 2010 the NTMA issued €5 billion of a new bond, the 5% Treasury Bond 2020. If Irish debt was priced at Greek yields, the total cost to Irish taxpayer from this deficit financing would have risen €21.33 from €62.89 per €100 borrowed. In other words, our expected annual deficit for 2010 alone would be some €4,050 million more expensive over 10 years.
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