Greek Default Could Have Lehman-Like Impact

29 Apr

The rapidly spreading Greek debt contagion poses a very real and present danger to the Australian banking sector, and thus to our economy. Why? Because our banking system is desperately overreliant on sourcing its funding from the global capital markets.

From The Big Chair:

The chief executive of National Australia Bank, Cameron Clyne, referred last week to Australian banks’ dependence on wholesale funding markets as their Achilles heel.

The Treasury secretary, Ken Henry, has also talked about Australian banks not being “well insulated” from the fallout of events like the Lehman Bros collapse, and the International Monetary Fund has said Australian banks are exposed to rollover risks on their short-term wholesale funding.

On average, Australian banks are sourcing just under a third of their funding from overseas wholesale markets and still too much of their existing borrowings are short term.

Australian banks are among the more vulnerable plays in the world to another Lehman-style event because of their dependence on overseas wholesale markets, which have proven already they can freeze up for extended periods.

It is these very same wholesale markets that are now trembling with trepidation at the consequences of the Greek – and now Eurozone – debt crisis.

From the UK’s Independent:

Why does Greece’s debt crisis matter to the rest of us? The answer, in a word: contagion.

If Greece defaults or crashes out of the euro it will send an almighty shockwave through the global capital markets. First of all, French and German banks, which are estimated to hold up to 70 per cent of Greece’s debt, will register writedowns. If their exposure is great enough, they could even go bust.

The fear that commercial banks were on the verge of failure was responsible for the last credit crunch as financial firms grew wary of lending money to each other at anything other than penal interest rates. If that fear of failure returns, we might witness another savage contraction in lending. And another credit crunch would open the way for the long-feared “double dip” recession.

Most Australians remain oblivious to this threat of another, much larger wave of the GFC. Doubtless this is largely because our “experts” continue to tell us that the GFC is “over”, while preaching the dawning of a “period of unprecedented prosperity”, and downplaying any concerns for this country. Just as they did in 2008 when they all completely failed to foresee the onrushing first wave of the GFC.

From The Australian (Feb 2010):

Investor confidence was roiled in recent weeks on fears of sovereign default in Europe and some signs that the broader global economic recovery was slowing as policy stimulus measures wound down.

Dr Debelle (Assistant Governor of the RBA) said risks that still existed did not relate to Australia or Asia, however, where bank balance sheets remained in sound condition – instead they referred to banks in Europe and the US, where poor macroeconomic conditions were expected to weigh on loan books.

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