Greece to default “very shortly” … Do all the dominoes fall, very shortly?
Many prominent voices in the financial world that have been watching all of this play out are now openly declaring the Greece is about to default. Moritz Kraemer, the head of S&P’s European sovereign ratings unit, made the following statement on Bloomberg Television on Monday: “Greece will default very shortly. Whether there will be a solution at the end of the current rocky negotiations I cannot say.”
If the EU allows Greece to default, that would be a signal to investors that the EU would allow Italy, Spain and Portugal to all default someday too.
Confidence in the bonds of those countries would disintegrate and bond yields would go through the roof.
Right now, confidence in government debt is one of the things holding up the fragile global financial system. Governments must be able to borrow gigantic piles of very cheap money for the system to keep going, and once confidence is gone it is going to be incredibly difficult to rebuild it.
That is why a Greek default (whether orderly or disorderly) is so dangerous. Investors all over the world would be wondering who is next.
At the end of last week, negotiations between the Greek government and private holders of Greek debt broke down. Negotiations are scheduled to resume Wednesday, and there is a lot riding on them.
The Greek government desperately needs private bondholders to agree to accept a “voluntary haircut” of 50% or more. Not that such a “haircut” will enable the Greek government to avoid a default. It would just enable them to kick the can down the road a little farther.
But if Greece is able to get a 50% haircut from private investors, then why shouldn’t Italy, Spain, Portugal and Ireland all get one?