Greece Defaults on IMF. Now What?!

Unfortunately for those wishing for a happily-ever-after ending in the Greek debt drama, the clock struck midnight on the June 30 IMF deadline and the current bailout program with neither a last-minute deal nor prince charming in sight. If you’ve marked the key dates on your forex calendar, you’d know that the debt-ridden nation has now entered “uncharted territory” as ECB Governor Mario Draghi puts it.

What happens to countries that default on the IMF?

greece euroGreece isn’t actually the first country to default on an IMF loan but it is the first developed economy to do so in the entire 71-year existence of the fund, which makes this a pretty big deal. IMF officials don’t really like using the D-word and prefer to use the less damning term “in arrears” to describe Greece’s current state.

According to IMF spokesman Gerry Rice, the debt-ridden nation can no longer receive further assistance from the fund until the arrears are cleared. The Greek government now has two years to gradually pay the amount it owes, before it loses its voting rights and eventually gets expelled from the fund. That’s the least of Greece’s concerns at the moment, though, as it faces another debt deadline from the ECB on July 20.

Yikes! Can’t Greece just ask for another bailout?

That’s what they’ve been working on for the past months! However, bailout discussions have failed to bear fruit, as the anti-austerity Greek government and its creditors have repeatedly refused to give in to each other’s demands. EU officials want to see further spending cuts while Greek Prime Minister Alex Tsipras has insisted that additional austerity is not an option. Heck, there was even an episode where the IMF panel walked out of the negotiations out of sheer frustration!

Because of this deadlock, Tsipras decided to give the power to the people in calling for a referendum on July 5. In this latest plot twist, Greek citizens will be able to vote on whether or not they’re willing to accept further austerity measures in exchange for more money from its creditors.

How might this referendum turn out?

Remember when the Syriza party defeated former PM Antonio Samaras’ New Democracy party in the Greek elections? Well, Tsipras and his boys owe their victory to their anti-austerity campaign, as the Greeks were tired of seeing spending cuts that put the country in recession and pushed joblessness to record highs.

Greek voters are probably still driven by these same sentiments, which makes the odds of a pro-austerity victory very slim. If they vote against austerity, Greece could stay on its current path with strict capital controls on banks and financial markets, possibly facing another default on its next set of debt obligations.

On the other hand, a vote in favor of further austerity could unlock additional bailout funds. However, this would reflect discontent over the Syriza leadership and probably lead to political chaos in the country. But hey, at least Greece gets to sit with the cool kids of the euro zone for a bit longer.

So what does this mean for the euro’s forex action?

It has been a wild ride, to say the least, as forex traders have been getting their hopes up only to be let down afterwards. The fate of Greece, its membership in the euro zone, the possibility of debt contagion, and the stability of the euro are all hanging in the balance ahead of the referendum this weekend. The suspense is killing me!

Based on this week’s forex price movements, euro pairs could make huge weekend gaps again, depending on the outcome of the referendum. But with the next debt deadline scheduled towards the end of the month, there’s a chance that EU officials and Greek government leaders might still make emergency meetings until then, which could mean more suspense-filled days for the euro.

If you’re not comfortable trading with all this uncertainty lingering in the markets, there’s no shame in sitting on the sidelines or closing out your forex positions. But if this kind of volatility and excitement is your cup of tea, just make sure you practice proper risk management!