In case you’ve been too caught up in the NFL playoffs, here’s a brief background on what’s been happening over in Greece recently.
Once again, Greece is in the process of applying for another bailout, as it doesn’t quite have enough cash on hand to pay for a 14.5-billion EUR bond payment coming up on March 20. The problem is that if Greece fails to meet this payment, it will most likely lead to an ugly default.
Moreover, the clock is ticking away for Greece, as it only has till February 13 to come to an agreement with the Troika (the EU, ECB, and IMF) in order to obtain another 130-billion EUR bailout package. An agreement must be made within the next week so that all the paperwork can be accomplished ahead of the March 20 payment date.
But of course, the Troika isn’t just about to hand a suitcase of unmarked Euros over to Papademos. We’ve seen many delays over the past few weeks, as they have insisted that Greece implement stricter austerity measures, 25% wage cuts, 35% pension cuts, and the closure of over 100 government agencies. By implementing these procedures, the Big Three argue that it would save Greece over 4.4 billion EUR.
However, Greek leaders argue that this would send the country deeper into recession territory, as it would reduce government tax collection and widen the already humungous budget deficit.
The good news though, is that this past weekend, Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos and the leaders of the three political parties (Socialists, New Democracy, and Nationalists) agreed to spending cuts of about 1.5% of GDP, or equivalent to about 3 billion EUR.
This was definitely a step in the right direction, as it bought Greece a first down and putting it in good field position to get a deal done. The question is though, will it be enough?
For one thing, there is a lot of skepticism as to whether Greece can actually live up to all its promises.
Back in July, Greek officials promised to implement 30 billion EUR worth of budget cuts, slash public deficit to less than 3% of GDP by 2014, and raise sales tax from 21% to 23% in exchange for a second bailout package.
Judging by the fact that the Greek economy actually contracted by 6% in 2011, its deficit is still at around 10% of GDP, and that its unemployment rate is at 18.8%, I’d say that the Greek officials haven’t been working hard enough to hit the end zone!
Greece’s economy isn’t the only bump in the road though. Word on the newswires is that Antonis Samaras, leader of Greece’s conservative New Democracy Party, said that he will fight to prevent the European officials’ demands for more austerity as it can drag the Greek economy into a deeper recession.
From the looks of the euro’s price action early Monday, I bet investors also think that Greece hasn’t crossed over major hurdles just yet. On EUR/USD’s 4-hour chart we saw a gap to the downside as soon as the market opened this week, despite rosy NFP numbers that should have boosted risk appetite.
The pair is currently stuck in a 150-pip range as traders wait for more developments over the next couple of days. If it appears that Greek leaders and the Troika are willing to come to an agreement, then it could boost risk appetite and allow EUR/USD to climb higher. On the other hand, if both sides remained stubborn on their demands, then it might send the euro to retest its lows.