Tag Archives: greek debt crisis

ANZ: Greece Could Affect Oz Banking

30 Apr

Yesterday I posted about how vulnerable Australia’s banking system is to the spreading debt contagion in the Eurozone. It seems that ANZ chief Mike Smith shares the concern for the same reason – our banking system’s heavy reliance on getting funding from the international markets, which are again beginning to freeze up due to concerns about counterparty risk.

From Business Spectator:

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd (ANZ) chief executive Mike Smith has warned that sovereign debt problems in Europe have the ability to affect Australian markets.

Speaking to reporters after the bank’s first-half results were released, Mr Smith said the “contagion issue is now very real”, in reference to Europe’s sovereign debt problems.

Mr Smith said the crisis may affect Australia in terms of its dependence on access to the international credit market, and said the concern was very relevant to businesses across the country.

“I think it will probably have an effect on equity and credit markets, but credit markets I think is more relevant to the Australian situation,” he said.

Roubini: Rising Sovereign Debt Leads to Defaults

30 Apr

Nouriel Roubini, one of just a dozen economists who publicly forecast the GFC, and who recently declared that ‘risky rich’ countries are in greatest danger of default, comments again on the rapidly spreading sovereign debt crisis (from Bloomberg):

Nouriel Roubini, the New York University professor who forecast the U.S. recession more than a year before it began, said sovereign debt from the U.S. to Japan and Greece will lead to higher inflation or government defaults.

“The bond vigilantes are walking out on Greece, Spain, Portugal, the U.K. and Iceland,” Roubini, 52, said yesterday during a panel discussion on financial markets at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California. “Unfortunately in the U.S., the bond-market vigilantes are not walking out.”

“The thing I worry about is the buildup of sovereign debt,” said Roubini, a former adviser to the U.S. Treasury and IMF consultant, who in August 2006 predicted a “painful” U.S. recession that came to fruition in December 2007. If the problem isn’t addressed, he said, nations will either fail to meet obligations or see faster inflation as officials “monetize” their debts, or print money to tackle the shortfalls.

Roubini, who teaches at NYU’s Stern School of Business, told attendees at the Beverly Hilton hotel that “Greece is just the tip of the iceberg, or the canary in the coal mine for a much broader range of fiscal problems.”

“Eventually, the fiscal problems of the U.S. will also come to the fore,” Roubini said during the panel discussion. “The risk of something serious happening in the U.S. in the next two or three years is going to be significant” because there’s “no willingness in Washington to do anything” unless forced by the bond markets.

Barnaby Joyce began trying to draw attention to the dangers of growing sovereign debt – warning of a coming day of reckoning in the USA and Europe and here in Australia – as far back as October 2009. As I have shown in countless posts on this blog, many leading economists, financiers, and informed commentators in other countries have been raising almost exactly the same concerns as Barnaby.

Few in Australia chose to listen.

Instead, Barnaby was ridiculed by the government and the media for every minor gaffe or slip of the tongue, his every statement misquoted or twisted out of context. With the ultimate result that he lost his position as opposition Finance spokesman thanks to the relentless attacks on his economic credibility. Despite his being better qualified to comment on finance than the entire Rudd Government economic team.

Only weeks later, those who do choose to look and listen can see ever more clearly… Barnaby Is Right.

OECD: Greek Crisis ‘Like Ebola’

29 Apr

From Bloomberg:

European policy makers may need to stump up as much as 600 billion euros ($794 billion) in aid or buy government bonds if they are to stamp out the region’s spreading fiscal crisis, said economists at JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc.

With Greece’s budget turmoil infecting markets from Rome to Madrid, economists are urging German Chancellor Angela Merkel, European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet and other officials to come up with unprecedented measures. Other steps could see governments guaranteeing bonds and the ECB abandoning collateral rules or reviving unlimited lending to banks, the economists said.

As OECD head Angel Gurria likens the crisis to the Ebola virus, Europe may need to come up with a plan equivalent to the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program deployed by the U.S. after the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. “It is perhaps time to think of policy options of the last resort in the current sovereign crisis,” said David Mackie, chief European economist at JPMorgan in London.

“This is like Ebola,” Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Secretary General Gurria told Bloomberg Television yesterday. “It’s threatening the stability of the financial system.” The World Health Organization calls Ebola “one of the most virulent viral diseases known to humankind.”

‘Shock And Awe’ Needed To Save Eurozone

29 Apr

Following close on the heels of the extraordinary revelation by Ben Bernanke that the US Federal Reserve has printed $1.3 Trillion out of thin air to buy toxic Mortgage Backed Securities and prop up the US economy, now the European Central Bank may have to invoke emergency powers in order to engage in massive money printing to prop up the collapsing European bond markets.

From the UK’s Telegraph:

The European Central Bank may soon have to invoke emergency powers to prevent the disintegration of southern European bond markets, with ominous signs of investor flight from Spain and Italy.

“We have gone past the point of no return,” said Jacques Cailloux, chief Europe economist at the Royal Bank of Scotland.“There is a complete loss of confidence. The bond markets are in disintegration and it is getting worse every day.

“The ECB has been side-lined in the Greek crisis so far but do you allow a bond crash in your region if you are the lender-of-last resort? They may have to act as contagion spreads to larger countries such as Italy. We started to see the first glimpse of that today.”

Mr Cailloux said the ECB should resort to its “nuclear option” of intervening directly in the markets to purchase government bonds.

This is prohibited in normal times under the EU Treaties but the bank can buy a wide range of assets under its “structural operations” mandate in times of systemic crisis, theoretically in unlimited quantities.

The issue of the ECB buying bonds is a political minefield. Any such action would inevitably be viewed in Germany as a form of printing money to bail out Club Med debtors, and the start of a slippery slope towards in an “inflation union”.

But the ECB may no longer have any choice. There is a growing view that nothing short of a monetary blitz — or “shock and awe” on the bonds markets — can halt the spiral under way.

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.

Greece Downgraded To Junk Status

28 Apr

Readers will be aware that I’ve been highlighting news about the Greek debt situation for some months. As a member of the European Monetary Union, and the Eurozone country with the gravest debt situation, it was always likely to be the first domino to fall.  Now it has.

From AAP:

Greece’s debt has been downgraded to junk status by Standard & Poor’s amid mounting fears that the debt crisis in Europe is spiralling out of control.

In a statement on Tuesday, the agency says that it is lowering its rating on Greece’s debt to BB+ from BBB- – that means that the country’s debt does not carry the investment grade tag.

The agency is also warning debtholders that they only have an average chance of between 30 to 50 per cent of getting their money back in the event of a debt restructuring or default.

European stock markets and the euro sank on Tuesday amid growing fears that the Greek debt crisis will spread to other weak eurozone countries, with Portugal now in the firing line.

“It can really be summed up in one word – contagion,” said CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson.

The markets fell after Standard & Poor’s, a leading international ratings agency, downgraded Greek sovereign debt to junk status and cut Portugal’s long-term credit score by two notches.

The London stock market dived 2.61 per cent, the Frankfurt DAX sank 2.73 per cent and the CAC 40 in Paris plunged by 3.82 per cent. The Lisbon stock market sank by 5.36 per cent and Athens plunged six per cent.

The euro, which has been rocked for months over the debt drama in Greece, plunged again against the US and Japanese currencies, falling to $1.3250 from $1.3378 a day earlier and to Y123.46 yen from Y125.72 on Monday.


“Greece’s fiscal problems, and the market’s lack of confidence in dealing with them, are spilling over to other countries seen as having a kindred fiscal spirit,” said Patrick O’Hare at Briefing.com.

Greece has asked the European Union and International Monetary Fund to activate a three-year rescue package worth up to E45 billion ($A64.98 billion) in the first year.

However, the bailout is shrouded in uncertainty, with Germany insisting that Athens must first demonstrate how it plans to get its public finances in order before it gets the money.

“It is still the uncertainty surrounding this Greece bailout,” added Spreadex trader David Rees.

To compound matters, the EU/IMF rescue package may not be enough to resolve the wider problem of debt, according to VTB Capital economist Neil MacKinnon.

“The markets are worried that any fresh EU/IMF package to cover Greece’s funding needs in the short term are not enough to resolve the problem of worsening debt sustainability,” MacKinnon told AFP.

“Double digit interest rates and triple-digit debt levels are a recipe for debt restructuring and eventual default.”

The Greek debt crisis also unnerved Wall Street, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average sliding 1.24 per cent, Nasdaq shedding 1.44 per cent and the Standard & Poor’s 500 index declining 1.57 per cent.

The first domino has fallen. Who will be next? And just how far will the contagion spread?

Barnaby Joyce began speaking out about the risks to our economy from excessive debt both here and in other countries as early as October last year. For this, he was ridiculed and smeared by our know-nothing media and “expert” economic commentariat, and by the pompous “authorities” in government, the Treasury, and the RBA.

All of these utterly failed the Australian public, by their complete failure to foresee the on-rushing first wave of the GFC in 2008.

Now they are failing us all over again, by their naïve and arrogant dismissal of the potential global impacts of the rapidly spreading Eurozone debt crisis.  They seem to believe that because our island “escaped” the first wave, that somehow means we will miss the next (bigger) one as well.

Barnaby Is Right.

Greek Debt Woes Rising

8 Apr

From the Associated Press:

European stock markets fell Wednesday amid mounting concerns about Greece’s debt crisis while U.S. shares drifted lower as the Dow Jones industrial average fell short of breaking above 11,000.

Once again, Greece took center stage as investors continued to fret about the country’s ability to pay off its debts — the ten-year spread between Greek and Germany bond yields stood at 4 percentage points, having earlier hit 4.12 percent, its highest level since the euro was introduced in 1999. The spread is also way up on the 3 percent level when the EU agreed on an aid program that would involve the International Monetary Fund.

“All of this puts a question mark over longer term debt sustainability as well as the threat of contagion elsewhere in the eurozone,” said Neil Mackinnon, global macro strategist at VTB Capital.

With fiscal retrenchment due in Greece, as well as Portugal and Spain, there are also mounting concerns that the debt crisis will weigh on eurozone economic growth for a long time yet, particularly as lower demand for German goods could squeeze the eurozone’s biggest economy.

“This does not look like a sensible strategy and will likely end up in economic slump for the eurozone generally alongside the risk of deflation,” said Mackinnon.

Worries about the strength of the eurozone economy were stoked further on Wednesday with the news that economic growth ground to a halt in the last three months of 2009 as output stagnated in Germany and contracted once again in Italy.

Default Possible On ‘Stunningly Small’ Debts

1 Apr

Recently Professor Ken Rogoff, former chief economist for the IMF, warned that ballooning debts could cause “a bunch of sovereign defaults”.

He has also warned that China is in a bubble that will burst within 10 years, sparking a regional crisis.

In 2008 he correctly forewarned of the possibility of large bank failures in the USA.

Now his latest research offers very important insights for all Australians who believe the Rudd Labor “spin”, that our national debts are very low, and no cause for concern.

From the New York Times:

Professor Rogoff, who has spent most of his career studying global debt crises, has combed through several centuries’ worth of records with a fellow economist, Carmen M. Reinhart of the University of Maryland, looking for signs that a country was about to default.

One finding was that countries “can default on stunningly small amounts of debt,” he said, perhaps just one-fourth of what stopped Greece in its tracks. “The fact that the states’ debts aren’t as big as Greece’s doesn’t mean it can’t happen.”

Also, officials and their lenders often refused to admit they had a debt problem until too late.

“When an accident is waiting to happen, it eventually does,” the two economists wrote in their book, titled “This Time Is Different” — the words often on the lips of policy makers just before a debt bomb exploded.

Barnaby Joyce has been ridiculed up hill and down dale since late 2009, for daring to raise questions about the unbelievably huge US debt (see chart here), and Australia’s own ever-growing national debts.

Professor Rogoff’s research shows that even a debt that is only one-fourth of Greece’s can be enough to cause a sovereign default.

In December, Greece’s debt was $482bn.

Australia’s public debt is $131.682bn.  And growing at around $2bn per fortnight.

Barnaby is right.

Only US Collapse Can Save The Euro

30 Mar

From Zerohedge:

For once, some actually good insight from a CNBC guest. Philip Manduca, Head of Investment of the ECU Group, discusses Greece and the very severe implications of what the final outcome will look like. “Trichet (Ed: President of the European Central Bank) said the Greeks are crooks, and they’ve been lying about the numbers. There is a deeply embedded corruption within the Eurozone. Combined with the endemic European socialism and there is just no way you are going to get spending cuts and tax raises and maintain a GDP that makes any sense of the percentage aspect of debt to GDP. So the whole show is wrong. This is an intractable situation, this is going to continue on and on. The only hope for the Eurozone, and the Euro as a currency, is that someone takes the spotlight soon, and that may be the United States.

We’re About To Discover That Sovereign Nations Can Go Bust Just Like Companies

30 Mar

From BusinessInsider:

Bill Gross (Ed: Head of PIMCO, the world’s largest bond trading firm) knocks the halo off of sovereign bonds in his latest March outlook.

He highlights how sovereign debt has been struck with more bad news than corporate debt lately.

While sovereign credit used to be generally considered more secure than that of private companies, suddenly the default of nations such as Greece, the U.K., or even Japan seems on the table, while that of many strong corporates remains remote.

What’s happening, according to Mr. Gross, is that government bonds are starting to look just like corporate bonds, rather than existing on some privileged less-risky peer as in the past. Because it’s anything goes and anyone can default in the new ‘unibond’ market.

Bill Gross commented that:

Government bailouts and guarantees such as those evidenced and envisioned in Dubai and Greece, as well as those for the last 18 months with banks and large industrial corporations across the globe, suggest a more homogeneous “unicredit” type of bond market. If core sovereigns such as the U.S., Germany, U.K., and Japan “absorb” more and more credit risk, then the credit spreads and yields of these sovereigns should look more and more like the markets that they guarantee. The Kings, in other words, in the process of increasingly shedding their clothes, begin to look more and more like their subjects. Kings and serfs begin to share the same castle.

Barnaby Joyce began raising questions about the possibility of ‘default’ by nations such as the USA last year. He was roundly ridiculed by all and sundry for doing so.

Unfortunately, no one raised the point that there is more than one way that a sovereign ‘default’ can occur. Historically, the most common form of ‘default’ is simply where the sovereign nation inflates away its debts. How? By destroying the value of its own currency:

Thus there are no longer any holy bond cows left in this world.

Heck, even U.S. bonds are subject to ‘stealth-default’ risk, which is simply the eating away of bond value over time via inflation and dollar depreciation.

Barnaby is right.

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