Greece: Monday Could Disappoint Markets

 |  Includes: ERO, EU, EZU, FXE, IEV
by: Chris Ciovacco

Late last week, the vast majority of media coverage reported the next bailout for Greece is basically a done deal. A few reports Saturday suggest it is unwise to believe we are a rubber stamp away from bailout II being approved. Even if Greece gets the next check, it appears as if the Greek tragedy will continue (something we already knew).

The excerpts below come from an article published by the Guardian:

Angela Merkel, Mario Monti and Lucas Papademos 'confident' deal on €130bn (£108bn) bailout would be struck on Monday, but concerns are growing behind the scenes.

The German news weekly Der Spiegel reports that a majority of eurogroup finance ministers are readying themselves for a collapse of the latest rescue package on Monday - or, at least, leaving it to a planned EU summit on 1 March to decide.

Greek hopes of winning the final go-ahead for a new €130bn (£108bn) bailout when eurozone finance ministers meet on Monday could be shattered even though Athens has agreed to further bruising savings.

The optimism seeped into global markets with the Dow Jones rising towards 13,000 points in New York and the FTSE 100 inching close to the 6000-mark. But, behind the scenes, sources indicated it could be seriously misplaced.

"Scepticism is especially strong among the AAA-rated states (Germany, Finland, the Netherlands) whether Greece can turn it around," said Maria Fekter, Austrian finance minister. "The threat of a Greek default is not off the table."

In Berlin officials rebutted widespread reports of a growing rift between Merkel, who backs Greece staying a member of the euro, and Schäuble.

Amid growing evidence of a significant split between Merkel and her finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble on a new Greek bailout, some officials spoke darkly of Athens being allowed to default within the eurozone by early summer.

In a seemingly endless tussle between stability and solidarity, finance ministers could end up agreeing to the bailout but only in tranches - with the first one, required for Greece to repay €14.5bn of debt by 20 March, held in an escrow account. This account would be topped up only if Athens did indeed service its debts and implement reforms.

An article in the Telegraph (excerpts below) says Monday's EU meeting may leave the markets disappointed:

Plans for Greece to default, potentially leaving the euro, have been drafted in Germany as the European Union begins to face up to the fact that Greek debt is spiralling out of control - with or without a second bailout.

The German finance ministry is actively pushing for Greece to declare itself bankrupt and to agree a "haircut" on the bulk of its debts held by banks, a move that would be classed as a default by financial markets.

Eurozone finance ministers meet on Monday to approve the next tranche of loans from the EU and the International Monetary Fund, designed to stave off national bankruptcy while the new Greek government puts the country's finances in order.

But the severe austerity measures being demanded have caused such fury in Greece, and the cuts required are so deep, that Wolfgang Schäuble, the German finance minister, does not believe that any government would be able to implement them.

Mr Schäuble's pessimism will not be welcomed in Athens. The hugely influential German politician's doubts have been growing for several weeks, and prompted angry exchanges when Greece accused Germany of trying to drive it out of the euro.

His scepticism is not yet fully shared by Angela Merkel, who is said still to be determined to prevent Greece's financial collapse. "She thinks Greece going bust could cause a shock wave that buries other countries - with Spain and Italy among them. It could break apart the entire monetary union," said an official.

But it has support from Austria and Finland - holding the prospect that a eurozone meeting tomorrow will fail to agree the next set of EU-IMF payments for Greece.

The standard response in Europe is to kick the can down the road. Therefore, it seems reasonable to expect some progress on Sunday and Monday, but not as much as is priced into the markets. As always, next week should be interesting.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.