Friday, October 28, 2011

Financial Sense from a Greek Tragedy

In Ancient Greek Mythology, Tyche was the Goddess of Chance who ruled over people's degree of Life and Luck.

It is to this Goddess Tyche that the Greeks must be singing praises now; for saving them, and Europe, from an ignominious and impending doom.

At last, after months of discussions and debates, a deal is finally made between Europe’s leaders and the Greek debtors, on Thursday morning, which may not entirely solve the European crisis. But, at least, it won’t cause the pillars of the earth to shake, like they shook, in the recent past.

There now seems to be some hope of a solution for Europe’s financial crisis that looked, thus far, like a huge financial Hiroshima just waiting to explode as it gets ignited by a default by Greece on its sovereign debt.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. And for private investors to take a desperate 50 per cent cut in the face value of their Greek bonds is not an easy choice. How can they be willing to take such a deep ‘haircut’? They cannot.

But when one is sinking into a quagmire, grabbing quickly, and desperately, at whatever is in hand’s reach can help. And that’s just what the private bankers have done. And the bigwigs at Brussels tried hard to plan a rope out strategy for the bankers in long term, and tried hard to keep the ‘Euro’ on higher ground.

Bloomberg’s website also reported that European leaders had boosted their rescue fund’s capacity to 1 trillion euros ($1.4 trillion) in a crisis-fighting package that is intended to shield the euro area.

As the deal also includes a new €130bn bail-out of Greece by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, it, quite obviously, digs into the coffers of Europe’s funds. And the promises by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy that they will increase the size of the funds ‘four or five times’ can only send shivers up my spine, if I were a European tax-payer.

Where are they going to get the money from? From my pocket? How will they fund these funds? Well, for the moment, I don’t care.

The world was waiting with bated breath, for some decision from the European leaders. And this Thursday-morning decision is being hailed across the cyber space and satellite channels as a sensible one.

How did the markets react to this momentous deal? Very upbeat.

The Toronto Star’s website reports that by Thursday afternoon, “Britain’s FTSE climbed 2.1 per cent to 5,670.12. Germany’s DAX jumped 3.7 per cent to 6,243 and France’s CAC-40 gained 3.9 per cent to 3,297. Wall Street also headed toward gains, with Dow Jones industrial futures rising 1.6 per cent and S&P 500 futures gaining 1.8 per cent.”

Bloomberg’s website says, that by Thursday afternoon in Europe, when it was still 8.34 am in New York, “the MSCI All-Country World Index gained 2.2 percent”. The benchmark gauges in France and Italy jumped more than 4 percent to the highest levels in almost three months. It also said, “The euro appreciated above $1.40 for the first time since Sept. 8, and the cost of insuring European debt fell to a seven-week low. The 10-year Treasury yield gained nine basis points. Copper rose 4.9 percent, while gold dropped.”

So, the repercussions of this deal are far-reaching and, proverbially put, earth-shaking.

On its website, The Financial Times reports (FT, 27 Oct) that this 50% cut is expected to reduce Greek debt levels to 120 per cent of gross domestic product by the end of the decade. End of the decade?

This is just year 2011. The end of the decade is nine years away. And, in this period, let us all optimistically hope that the winds of change will not remain turbulent and cause bigger upheavals.

The goddess I believe that the Greeks must now pray to, as they stand back on their feet, is Goddess Athena, the Goddess of wisdom.

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