Monday, April 20, 2015

Greece: Is the End Game near? (Updated)

According to some sources capital controls are now in place -- not really, or at least not yet. Rumours are that local governments have been instructed to "swept" all cash deposits to the central bank. So far this news has only appeared on a few "crazier" websites (Zerohedge) but in reality this is not what it appears to be.

In fact, local government have been told that all free cash has to be forwarded to the central bank so that the most urgent payments are made first, while the others languish.  There's simple not enough money for all the bills so Greece will pay the most important first (mortgage & insurance), and see later about the others.  This of course, with the advent of credit default swaps, could get ugly real fast, because lots of agreements have cross trigger clauses that active when "a default" occurs.  What used to be simple now can become complicated real fast...

Yesterday, Greece's minister of finance pointed out the obvious -- the risk of contagion!  There is no doubt that Europe's leaders are fully aware [God I hope they are] of the risks they face (hence they may quick Greece out before Greece quits!).  The fundamental problem is there are no recent example of countries being kicked out of monetary unions (Singapore is a known example, but that was in 65).  Think Lehman Brothers, considered a second rate IB player -- with a relatively small footprint, well the impact of that default far exceeded even the worse estimates, because risks are correlated and the world is linked; any many many financial institutions are short of capital, so Greece leaving the Euro can have all kinds of consequences, it is nearly impossible to predict the outcome of such a massive change.

So today April 20th all the players are in their respective corners -- The Greeks are saying they have a budget surplus (sure if you exclude lots of stuff), but are running out of cash (see above), Europe wants more cuts to social programs, privatisation and other removal of the state from the operation of the economy.

Somehow this cannot end well.  There are talks of snap elections, there are talks of default, there are talks of the end of the world.  One thing for sure the economic end game is getting much closer.

Note:  It was pointed out to me that Greece's recent "rapprochement" with Russia could cause all sort of actions.  First, we saw the White House make its first comment about the Greek crisis!  That a new player in an old geopolitical struggle.  One item that will create problems soon is the renewal of the European sanctions against Russia -- they are coming to a vote very soon, and their renewal could be "black-balled" by Greece.   That would not please Berlin or Washington.  Its possible that the Americans will force the Europeans to start having a serious conversation.  Then again this morning the ECB tightened the screw again with requirements for additional reserves if they are to lend liquidity to the Greek central bank... Time will tell.

Finally, although I predict that exit of Greece from Europe I believe that this would be a terrible outcome for the country.  However, the "European Plan" for Greece implies decades of hardship.


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