FT´s commentator finds of course a fly in the ointment of Europe´s deal

Discussion in 'Wall St. News' started by ASusilovic, Oct 27, 2011.

  1. The day may yet come when the eurozone finally agrees a comprehensive package to end the crisis, but this was not the day. What policymakers agreed at 4am Brussels time on Thursday came close to what they set out to do. They secured a “voluntary” deal with the banks, and they agreed the outer perimeters of a system to leverage the European financial stability facility. But none of this is going to end the crisis.

    The deal with the Institute of International Finance is for a “voluntary” 50 per cent haircut on Greek debt on behalf of their member banks. This would amount to €100bn, and would be supplemented by a contribution from eurozone governments to the tune of €30bn. The goal is to achieve a ratio of Greek sovereign debt to gross domestic product of 120 per cent by 2020.

    I do not believe this is going to work. First, the agreement with the IIF is not binding on the banks. The IIF has yet to deliver the voluntary participation. Many banks would be better off if the haircut was involuntary, given their offsetting positions in credit default swaps. The whole point of a CDS is to ensure creditors against an involuntary default. By agreeing a voluntary deal, the insurance will not kick in. In other words, there is a significant probability that we will end up with an involuntary agreement – which is precisely the outcome the eurozone governments, except perhaps a small group of northern countries, had sought to avoid.

    My second reason for scepticism concerns the forecast of sustainable 120 per cent debt-to-GDP ratio. The European Union has been consistently wrong in its economic forecasts for Greece. They misjudged the impact of austerity on economic growth and public sector deficits. This misjudgement is the reason why the voluntary bank haircut of 21 per cent, agreed in July, has now grown to 50 per cent. What happens if the outlook were to deteriorate further? There is no sign yet of a turnaround.

    Third, in the unlikely event that the banks come up with the money, and that Greece manages to hit a 120 per cent debt-to-GDP level in 2020, it is far from clear that Greece can return to the capital markets even then. I believe that Greece will require a much lower debt-to-GDP level, perhaps around 80 per cent, to achieve sustainability and access to market funding. Italy has a debt-to-GDP of 120 per cent now – this number may have served as a benchmark for policymakers. But Italy has a far more solid base of domestic savers than Greece, and this level is not sustainable for Italy either.

    On the EFSF, the leaders reached political agreement to leverage it up to about €1,000bn. Herman van Rompuy, the president of the European Council, made a revealing comment following the meeting when he said that banks have been doing this forever. Why should governments not do so as well?

    The reason is simple. Banks can only do this because central banks and governments act as ultimate guarantors of the financial system. There exists an implicit insurance of unlimited liability. In the case of the European financial stability facility the very opposite is the case: there is an explicit insurance of limited liability. Germany wants its exposure capped to a maximum of €210bn. I doubt that global investors will rush into the tranches of the special purpose vehicle through which the eurozone wants to leverage the EFSF. I struggle to see how this structure can lead to a significant and sustained fall in bond spreads.

    Leveraging can work, but only if the eurozone were willing to provide an unlimited backstop. This would be either in the form of an explicit lender-of-last-resort guarantee by the European Central Bank, or through a eurobond – or ideally both.

    Now that is something I would consider to be a comprehensive agreement. It may yet happen, but not for a long time. The crisis, meanwhile, continues.

    The writer is an associate editor of the Financial Times and president of Eurointelligence.


    This gentlman is a nervy fly with his comments. A clever Dick. Maybe the EU send him next time to negotiate with creditors on behald to let him feel a bit "the headwind" and "the heat" of dicsussing with several dozen "counterparties". But most probably he has not the guts to do so.
  2. C6H12O6


    lame arguments from the "president of the Eurointelligence"
    Oh, by the way, shouldn't they call themselves "UKintelligence" ? :D
  3. TGregg


    It's just another kick. It's a nice kick and the can moved much further than the last few times, but it's still the same thing. The underlying issues have not been addressed.

    Be interesting to see the final numbers. What's Greece look like after blithely ignoring half her debt? Is it 50% across all of it or are they playing favorites?

    Heaven help `em if 50% turns out to not be enough.
  4. Tsing Tao

    Tsing Tao

    Favorites, of course. 50% is applied to private investors, and government or national investors do not get the cut.
  5. TGregg


    LOL. So it's not really a 50% haircut! And presumably the private side was anticipating this arrangement and selling to the favored. Both win on that deal, the favored gets a discount and the private side sells for more. So the free markets were probably working against this deal from the get go.

    It's not nice to fool with Mother Nature. ;)
  6. Just last week I was thinking of posting that very same. :D
  7. achilles28


    How much debt will be forgiven, exactly?
  8. Tsing Tao

    Tsing Tao

    The real funny piece, in my opinion, is that this supposedly does NOT trigger a CDS event. So what's the point in buying insurance protection when the government can just come in and say "your insurance policy isn't valid"?
  9. achilles28


    The point is to maintain the *illusion* of free markets. It's socialism for the rich and hyper-regulation for everyone else.
  10. TGregg


    Or how can something get rated nicely because it has a credit wrapper when the government can come along, set it aside and default anyway? Structured finance is already too damn complicated, and now they are making the rules variable? HTF can anyone tell what some paper is worth? They've just added a huge risk to EU paper that is hard to evaluate.

    But I am sure we can trust the politicians and the finance gurus. After all, they only have our best interest at heart. ;)

    Oh, and for the record, I doubt they would have announced this if they didn't have the big players already on board for a 50% haircut. So I agree with the OP, the initial commentator is nuts.
    #10     Oct 27, 2011