European Central Bank action has failed: Some have claimed the LTRO was a game changer but it hasn’t solved the structural issues within Europe. They continue so yields are starting to rise again, and the lending isn’t being passed on to consumers and businesses… Watch the debate below and vote…
Debate has been raging as to whether the Greek economy can avoid bankruptcy. Just how big is the problem, what are the options and how is this impacting financial markets?
Background to the Problem
Greece is around €300bn in debt. Putting that into context, its budget deficit is one of the highest in Europe and last year amounted to more than four times the Eurozone limit at 13.6% of GDP. This more than supports the country’s inclusion in the infamous ‘PIIGS’ acronym (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain) used to refer to the areas of sovereign debt concern.
What’s Going On?
Despite the jobless rate reaching 16% (and a horrific 42.5% for youth), the Greek economy has seen only marginal deleveraging. Instead, people are depending on consumer credit to maintain their levels of expenditure and service their debts (i.e. paying credit card bills with other credit cards). Moreover, whilst many in the UK struggle to obtain loans from banks, the overall banking sector in Greece actually increased their credit availability, with the most significant increase going to the government itself.
Last Thursday, Jean-Claude Trichet, President of the European Central Bank, announced that they would lend Greece €45bn in new loans. However, this alone, they acknowledge, is not enough. The ECB wants to see structural reforms and a good deal of privatization, with the claim that €50bn could be generated over 3 to 5 years to reduce debt/GDP from 160% to 140%.
What are the Complications?
Loans to ‘bailout’ struggling countries are partially funded by taxpayers from different countries within the EU. Therefore, the problem is not an isolated one. Furthermore, even after this loan and the privatization contributions, there will be a financing gap of €170bn between 2012 -14 which will need filling. European banks have to refinance €1.3tn maturing debt by end 2012 and are owed over €200bn already by the PIIGs for refinancing ops.
Could a Good ‘Haircut’ Help?
With so much talk of a ‘restructuring’, i.e. bond holders sharing some of the pain, it is interesting to hear the views of Lorenzo Bini Smaghi, an ECB executive board member on the subject. He maintains that these are not the tools by which Greece can save its economy but could cause a “Depression” and “banking system collapse”. Furthermore, those pointing to a compromise of a voluntary or ‘soft’ restructuring appear to be fooling themselves. According to him, there is “no such thing as an ‘orderly’ or ‘soft’ re-structuring” since ‘haircuts’ (a percentage knocked off the par value of a bond) would have to be forced by governments. Crucially, any type of restructuring would cause a panic in the markets and cause credit events reducing the value of these investment vehicles either way.
So, What Are the Options?
As previously mentioned, a default on some of its debts would have dire consequences but the prospects for sustainable financial solvency appear weak with such a substantial deficit and the habits of borrowers and lenders not much improved. Most worrying, from the perspective of European stability is the recent comments from a Greek EU Commissioner that “The scenario of removing Greece from the euro is now on the table”. Therefore, although in stark contrast to statements by Greece’s Prime Minister and with France and Germany still heavily exposed to EU laggards, which together make a break up of the euro unlikely in the short-term, it is a fear weighing on investors minds.
How are the financial Markets Reacting?
Risk aversion is back on the rise. Investors are worried and, understandably, demanding higher premiums to lend to Greece. That’s not all. Other markets are suffering. “All sophisticated indicators of systemic risk, cross correlations of CDS and yield spreads show a high sensitivity to restructuring moves and are at levels higher than in September 2008”.
The Investment Insight: What Can You Do?
This has two consequences. Firstly, investors should be more cautious of an indiscriminate sell-off but secondly, this can be used as an opportunity to pick up high quality assets at a lower price. Be wary but remain opportunistic.
One of the most lucrative investments is investment in real estate. Although, the process may seem quite simple to you, but it is not so. The way you evaluate a property while buying for investment purposes is not the same as the way you will evaluate a property while home buying. When it comes to investment property you have to think like a business owner and not a home owner.
Thus, there are various tests that you must out the property you are buying through, before you purchase it. 2 of the most important tests are as follows.
1. Testing for a good neighborhood: Location is a very important factor when it comes to purchasing a property. The property you buy should have the availability of basic amenities in close proximity. You must also check if the area in which the property is situated should not be prone to crime. You must check all this because no one would like to stay in a place where the crime rate is high and there is no proper availability of essential facilities. So no matter how well decorated the property you buy, is from within, it will not sell well in the real estate market because of the location factor.
2. Testing for the need of extensive repairs: Before you buy a property it is essential that you check what sort of repairs are required in the house. Find out if these repairs are an extensive repair that is structural repairs or they are merely minor repairs that you can tackle. You must not buy properties that need structural repairs, this is because you lose a lot of money and the percentage of profit reduces.
These are the 2 tests that are very essential before you buy any property.