Monday, January 9, 2012

9/1/2012: Week opener: Merkozy continuing to ignore Greek realities

Today's meeting between Sarkozy and Merkel is being framed in the context of continued pressures across the euro area (see report on the meeting here). More ominously - within the context of the euro area leadership duet ignoring the latests warning signs for Greece.

Per Der Spiegel report, IMF has changed its analysis of the Greek rescue package agreed in July 2011 in-line with IMF changes in forecasts for Greek economy in the latest programme review in December 2011. Specifically, IMF lowered its forecast for growth from -3% to -6% GDP.

Der Spiegel cites IMF internal memo in claiming that the Fund is viewing existent Greek programme (including to 50% 'voluntary' haircut on Greek bonds currently under negotiations) as insufficient to stabilize the Greek economy and fiscal situation. The Fund is, reportedly, considering 3 possible options to alleviate the latest set of growth pressures:

  • New austerity measures for Athens - a measure that in my view will only exacerbate immediate pressures on Greece and will lead to dangerous destabilization of political situation in the country, leading to even more second order adverse effects on growth (e.g. prolonged strikes and rioting);
  • Deeper haircuts on Greek debt held by private institutions - in my opinion this will lead to more contagion from Greece to euro area banks and sovereigns and should be, instead complemented by writedowns of Greek debt held by the ECB, to match existent private sector arrangements;
  • Increase in the euro zone bailout funds - in my view, this measure is currently outside the feasibility envelope for Europe and, if attempted, will lead to increased cost of euro area borrowing and have a knock on effect of higher cost of lending to countries currently in the Troika programme. It is also important to note that the EFSF head Klaus Regling is aiming to raise EFSF guarantees to foreign investors to 30%, thus reducing the leverage ratio from 4-5 times to 3 times. This will lower EFSF's theoretical borrowing capacity even further.

The IMF note reports are effectively matched by the statement from the senior Germany Finance Ministry adviser made Saturday, who tole the Greek press that a 50% haircut on Greek debt will not be enough to restore sustainability to Greek fiscal dynamics.

In effect, three of out three IMF 'options' cited will exacerbate the crisis, not resolve it. And there is no Option 4 on the books.

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