A week ago we presented an excerpt from Credit Suisse’s most excellent piece “The Flaw” – merely the latest in one of the best overviews of the neverending Greek soap opera by William Porter. Yet every soap opera eventually ends. Although when it comes to Nielsen ratings, the denouement is usually a whimper. In the case of Greece, it will be anything but. Yet listening to the daily cacafony of din from Europe’s leaders, who are likely more clueless than the average reader as to what is really going on, one may be left with the impression that there is a simple solution to the problem, and Greece may be “saved… in hours.” It can’t. In fact, as of today, Porter’s s conclusion is: “we are left with a sense that the probability of delivering the largest default loss in history in a disorderly way on or before 20 March has increased relative to doing so in an orderly way.”
As a reminder, Credit Suisse was the one smart enough bank which chose to completely ignore day to day newsflow out of Greece as it is literally noise with absolutely no signal. Wish we could say the same for FX traders. As such, CS’ “view remains that, in any case, the chance of a disorderly outcome after 20 March is high, so to that extent the immediate events are not really central to our view, but of course are fascinating.” Quite fascinating indeed, because they show to what extent an unravelling financial system will go to pretend that the number one unfixable problem in Europe – the lack of money good assets, available to either be sold, repoed, pledged, equitized, or otherwise monetized. As we have observed previously, at this point it doesn’t matter for Greece- even if the country gets the second bailout, which will be used almost exclusively to recycle cash into the banking system, Europe will have a first lien on nearly 150% of its GDP. At that point the country is both a de facto andde jure colony of the Troika. The longer the bang, or whimper, is delayed, the fewer assets will remain in Greek possession, and the poorer the population will be for the inevitable fresh start, with or without the Euro.
So meandering regurgitations aside, because all this has been said one hundred times already, here is Credit Suisse’s latest attempt at a fresh take on events.
We are cautious about reports of the exchange “running out of time”: the 20 March binding constraint is a GGB maturity. Greece is sovereign and has run out of money; it can choose the timetable. The case might be different if the maturity were an English law bond (but perhaps not much.)
The real issue remains the ECB’s exposure to the BoG, in our view. Protecting that (i.e., ensuring that Greece does not systematically default via introducing a new currency) becomes the bottom line, as the latest Flash explored.
Since our objection to ‘leaving EMU’ is that its corollary is systematic default, bank nationalization and the like, once the latter problems are a given, a situation towards which we seem to be heading rapidly in Greece, then the cost of the incremental step of introducing a new currency become less. Our view remains that the economy would subsequently euro-ize but potentially at a different cost level. The effect of the delay would have been to transfer the cost from Greek citizens (who have now moved substantial sums out of the country, providing in fact a source of subsequent BoP financing that makes the equation even more attractive) to the ECB. The core has a very serious problem and again should swerve, but the probability of a ‘crash’ is rising.
We remain very cautious about the long-term sustainability of the debt after restructuring, and it is just possible (not our core case) that the troika takes the rational decision that it is cheaper to let Greece default and reimburse the ECB for its approx. €30bn of GGB losses than to pay the rising but nominally €130bn. Yet it was only on 14 February (two days before writing) that the ECB was confidently talking of distributing its GGB profits, so we are cautious about second-guessing the analytical framework being used.
Overall, we are left with a sense that the probability of delivering the largest default loss in history in a disorderly way on or before 20 March has increased relative to doing so in an orderly way. (Our view remains that, in any case, the chance of a disorderly outcome after 20 March is high, so to that extent the immediate events are not really central to our view, but of course are fascinating).