Monday, January 19, 2015

European banks get ready for possible Grexit

Both banks and brokers are dusting off contingency plans for a possible Greek exit from the eurozone (Grexit). While most think that Greece will remain in the zone, the snap elections to take place January 25 may make such an exit more likely.


The latest poll shows the leftist anti-bailout party Syriza increasing its lead over the ruling coalition of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' New Democracy. Syriza has the support of 31.2 percent versus 28.1 percent for New Democracy. This 3.1 percent lead compares with a 2.6 percent lead in an earlier January poll. To win an outright majority the leading party would require from 36 to 40 percent of the vote. Syriza is not expected to achieve that, but under the Greek system the party getting the highest vote count receives an extra 50 seats and this will make it easier for Syriza to form a coalition with one or more smaller parties. The survey was carried out from January 13-15 and so is quite recent.

 Syriza opposes the austerity requirements imposed by the Troika , the European Commission (EC), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the European Central Bank (ECB), as part of the Greek bailout terms. It also wants to write off some of the Greek debt.The Troika has spent $284.23 billion bailing out Greece. Many think that Greece will stay within the eurozone even if Syriza wins and Tsipras himself says that he wants to stay in the eurozone, as do a considerable majority of Greeks. Banks, nevertheless, want to be prepared just in case Greece does eventually leave. Citigroup, and Goldman Sachs are among those who are running tests to ensure that their trading platforms could deal with a new Greek currency , probably the drachma.

 Malcolm Barr, of J.P. Morgan writes: “The region has come far enough since the heights of the crisis to withstand a Greek euro exit intact. Though there would be a shock to confidence and growth, we would not expect others to follow a Greek euro exit." J.P. Morgan believes that if Greece did exit the eurozone, the euro would fall from 1.181 to the US dollar now to just 1.05 if the ECB balance sheet expands by 4 trillion euros to stem any contagion.The company thinks that, unlike 2012, the structures now in place could deal with any strains Grexit would create.

 Tsipras has been busy modifying some of his more radical policies. He even penned an op-ed in the Handelblatt, a German business newspaper. In it he claims that Syriza sought a new deal for Greece but within the framework of the eurozone. The deal would allow Greece to finance growth and by doing so make it possible to sustain payment on its debts. Tsipras complained: “The truth is that Greece’s debt cannot be repaid as long as our economy is subjected to constant fiscal water-boarding.” A Syriza victory would encourage other leftist parties such as Podemos in Spain to continue the focus on jettisoning austerity programs to allow for growth.

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