Greece Ends Week In Absurdum

In spite of the alleged deal of another bailout package for Greece, the spreads on Greek CDS rose to the absurd level of 2150 basis points, that is 21,5 percentage points above the benchmark – the German bonds. Yesterday Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao arrived in Europe to check on China‘s investments. Dear God!

“Given its obvious interest in the stability of euro zone it will be keen to find what progress, if any, has been made in tackling the region’s fiscal problems.”

Gavan Nolan

"Reductio ad absurdum" by Rodion Tikhomirov

The Chinese premier Wen Jiabao arrives in Europe Friday, and the main topic of discussion when he meets Europe’s leaders is likely to be Greece. China has been taking a keen interest in Europe’s periphery over the last few years.

The European Council on Foreign Relations estimates that 40% of Chinese investment in the EU is in eastern Europe and the peripherals, excluding Ireland.

  • In Greece the Chinese shipping company Cosco in 2008 signed a 35-year lease on a container port in Piraeus.
  • Jiabao’s deputy Zhang Dejiang visited Greece in 2009 with more offers of investment.

Of course, the reason China is so interested in Greece at the moment is that it is at the heart of the euro zone debt crisis.

China has made several public proclamations of support in favor of Greece and the other peripherals, though it is not clear if it has backed this up by buying large amounts of government bonds.

“Nonetheless, given its obvious interest in the stability of euro zone it will be keen to find what progress, if any, has been made in tackling the region’s fiscal problems,” credit analyst Gavan Nolan at Markit Credit Research writes in his weekly Market Wrap.

Of course, the reason China is so interested in Greece at the moment is that it is at the heart of the euro zone debt crisis.

China has made several public proclamations of support in favor of Greece and the other peripherals, though it is not clear if it has backed this up by buying large amounts of government bonds.

“Given its obvious interest in the stability of euro zone it will be keen to find what progress, if any, has been made in tackling the region’s fiscal problems,” Gavan Nolan points out.

So, what will Wen Jiabao find?

Well, the news that Greece and the EU had agreed a new five-year austerity plan last night was trumpeted as a great success.

But according to Markit the market participants are aware that the passage of the austerity bill through the Greek parliament is far from a formality.

Prime minister George Papandreou is in a stronger position after winning the no confidence vote earlier this week.

“But his control over his own party is still tenuous,” Nolan notes.

Another member of PASOK  declared Friday that he would vote against the bill, shrinking the already slim majority.

The vote begins on Tuesday but could last until Thursday.

Greece’s spreads closed the week at an unprecedented  record of 2150 basis points, reflecting the political uncertainty.

“But that is not the only doubt that the CDS markets are grappling with,” Nolan writes.

“The extent and form of private sector participation in the proposed bailout are still not clear. It seems that there will be an “informal and voluntary” rollover of debt similar to the Vienna Initiative.”

Nicholas Sarkozy and other European leaders have said Friday that they have been in discussion with financial institutions about a rollover, and there will be “no difficulties or concerns”, according to Sarkozy.

“But it remains to be seen just how “voluntary” this rollover is, and how they will incentive bondholders to participate,” Nolan comments.

Adding: “The answers to these questions are crucial for the CDS market and will influence spread direction. It should also be remembered that the total net notional outstanding for Greek sovereign CDS is just over EUR5 billion, and has been falling for some time.”

“This is small beer compared to the government bond market.”

“Unfortunately there have been several media reports that have been quoting the misleading gross notional figure; the lessons of the Lehman Brothers credit event auction clearly haven’t been learnt.”

China, on the other hand, has seen a considerable increase in its CDS net notional, particularly in recent months. It is now the 10th largest sovereign in terms of CDS exposure, according to DTCC figures.

The sovereign’s spreads have also widened in recent weeks, though they are nowhere near the levels they reached in the darkest days of the recession.

Premier Jiabao declared victory over inflation in an op-ed article in the Financial Times, Friday.

“Perhaps he is right, but the activity in the CDS market suggests that the Chinese economy faces more than one challenge in the months and years ahead,” Gavan Nolan concludes.

See also:

Markit Economic Research: HSBC Flash China Manufacturing PMI. 23062011.

Markit Economic Research. China PMI Flash Comment. 23062011.

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7 responses to “Greece Ends Week In Absurdum

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