The Corner

Here We Go Again

Click on the link for a grim chart over at one of the Economist’s blogs (posted today) that shows recent trends on 10-year Greek debt yields.

There’s a spike, followed by a decline, followed by a higher spike, followed by a decline to a higher trough, and so on. European leaders keep taking steps to avert disaster, and each time markets are less assuaged.

The latest spike corresponds to the stalemate over the IMF’s willingness to continue making bail-out payments without a new, long-term rescue package in place (and the corresponding disagreement over how to rollover Greek debt, plus the drama surrounding the passage of Greece’s new austerity plan). The IMF agreed to keep paying, French and German banks seemed willing to sign on to a rollover plan, and Greece got its new austerity programme through parliament. But it wasn’t long before trouble kicked up again.

Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s have both suggested that the agreed-upon rollover plan might well constitute a default. Since that’s precisely the outcome European leaders were hoping to avoid, this news has sent everyone scurrying to come up with a new and better deal. Meanwhile, Moody’s has cut Portugal’s debt rating to junk. Portugal may well need a new rescue package, which will surely include debate over the fate of creditors, which will mean more questions about bank finances and more brinksmanship. And the European economy continues to slow, even as the European Central Bank continues to tighten policy.

Over at FT Alphaville, John McDermott looks at the Moody’s report in question, and rightly highlights this:

The EU’s evolving approach to providing official support is an important factor for Portugal because it implies a rising risk that private sector participation [the bank rollovers] could become a precondition for additional rounds of official lending to Portugal in the future as well. This development is significant not only because it increases the economic risks facing current investors, but also because it may discourage new private sector lending going forward and reduce the likelihood that Portugal will soon be able to regain market access on sustainable terms.

Rock meet hard place (again).

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