Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Bloomberg: War-Gaming Greek Euro Exit Shows Hazards in 46-Hour Weekend

Greece may have only a 46-hour window of opportunity should it need to plot a route out of the euro.
That’s how much time the country’s leaders would probably have to enact any departure from the single currency while global markets are largely closed, from the end of trading in New York on a Friday to Monday’s market opening in Wellington, New Zealand, based on a synthesis of euro-exit scenarios from 21 economists, analysts and academics. 

Over the two days, leaders would have to calm civil unrest while managing a potential sovereign default, planning a new currency, recapitalizing the banks, stemming the outflow of capital and seeking a way to pay bills once the bailout lifeline is cut. The risk is that the task would overwhelm any new government in a country that has had to be rescued twice since 2010 because it couldn’t manage its public finances.

“Leaving is difficult and messy, so anyone who thinks it’s easy is just wrong,” said Lorenzo Bini Smaghi, who left the European Central Bank’s executive board last year, in a phone interview. “The Greeks must be rational and protect themselves from rash decisions that they will live to regret. Leaving the euro is not the answer to their problems.” He declined to say whether he thought an exit would occur.

No Renegotiation

The specter of Greece leaving the euro was evoked when ECB executive board member Joerg Asmussen told Germany’s Handelsblatt in an interview published May 8 that Greece couldn’t renegotiate its bailout terms if it wanted to stay in the euro. President Mario Draghi responded May 16 that the ECB’s “strong preference” was for Greece to stay in the euro.

The remarks followed elections May 6 that propelled the Syriza party, which calls for reneging on the bailout accords, into second place. Syriza may build on that support in June 17 elections, according to three opinion polls, complicating Greece’s efforts to avoid running out of cash by early July.
Syriza’s opposition to the terms of Greece’s financial-aid program doesn’t mean the country would have to abandon the euro should the party form a government after the elections, party leader Alexis Tsipras said May 20. The Pasok Socialist party and the New Democracy party, which have taken turns running Greece over the past four decades, favor meeting the bailout terms.

First in Century

“This is the first time since the beginning of the last century that it’s not about the left or right winning, it’s about pro-bailout or anti-bailout,” said Aristotle Kallis, professor of modern and contemporary history at Lancaster University in the U.K.

European leaders meeting today in Brussels are seeking to keep Greece within the 17-nation single currency as new French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel disagree on how much austerity is needed to stem the crisis.

In the end Greece will stick to its commitments, said Bill O’Neill, chief investment officer for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management in London.

“We don’t think Greece will walk away, even if the result after the June 17 election is difficult for the pro-bailout parties,” he said in a May 21 interview on Bloomberg Television’s “The Pulse” with Maryam Nemazee. “We don’t think they will deliberately step away from the bailout. There will be a process of negotiation in a worst-case scenario, but we don’t believe a Greek exit is going to happen.”

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