Liar’s Poker Player, Greece, Loses: Falling Further Through The Wreckage In Greece

Greece had a close call to exit from the 19-member euro-zone (Grexit) following months of uncertainty. Alex Tsipras and Yanis Varoufakis were playing creditors for fools and bluffed too much. Now, they have lost “Liar’s Poker”.

Two weeks ago, more than 61% of Greeks rejected a deal in a referendum that included pensions overhauls and sales taxes. Then on Monday morning, Greece finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, resigned after Eurogroup participants called for his resign because his absence from its meetings. Before the vote, he said he would resign if Greeks voted “Yes”. He is replaced by Euclid Tsakalotos, who has been involved in talks with European and International Monetary Fund (IMF) creditors.

Then, Euro leaders said that July 12 (Sunday) would be “deal or no deal”.  Several days before July 12, Greece Prime Minister Alex Tsipras provided the same type of deal that Greek people voted “No” for, but with little bit tougher austerity. He broke his promise to Greek people.

Over the weekend (July 11-July 12), Euro leaders clashed over the deal. On July 13 morning (Monday), deal was reached. Euro-zone leaders agreed to give Greece three-year bailout up to EUR 86 billion ($93 billion) of aid which Tsipras accepted. This time, he absolutely broke his promise to Greek people.

The deal is much tougher and harsh, for Greece and its people, than the deals in the past few weeks. The deal also includes 30-year, euro-50-billion state privatisation programme. Half of the fund will be used to recapitalise Greek banks, while the remainder will used for debt servicing and other economic needs.

On late July 15 (Wednesday), the Greek parliament approved the deal. In 300-seat chamber, 229 voted to approve the deal and 64 were against it. There was 6 abstentions and 1 absent.

On the morning of July 16 (Thursday), after leaving rates unchanged, European Central Bank (ECB) President, Mario Draghi stated in the press conference that Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) would be increased by 900 million euros ($979 million) over a week. There were reports that Greece asked for $1.5 billion ELA assistance.

On the same day, the Eurogroup finance ministers agreed to the launch of bailout talks and approved 7.2 billion euros ($7.6 billion) in bridge loans for three months. It will allow the Greek government to pay off upcoming payments. On July 20 (Monday), Greece is due to pay 3.5 billion euros ($3.8 billion) to ECB. Greece also has to pay about 2 billion euros ($2.2 billion) of arrears to the IMF. This bridge loan will “buy” time until the bailout is finalized.

Greek banks are scheduled to open on July 20 (Monday) after a 3-week closure. However, capital controls, or restrictions on cash withdrawals will remain in place.  Daily cash withdrawal is limited at 60 euros.

Despite more aid being given to Greece, the country’s debt level is still a major problem. The country has about EUR 320 billion debt ($345 billion), close to 200% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Source can be found here 

There are many calls for a debt haircut (not what you’re thinking). Debt haircut is reducing the amount of money owned. For example, if  someone owns about $10,000, but cannot pay it all. Creditor can try to accept to get paid a fraction of $10,000, say $4,000. After all something is better than nothing.

Some people including Christine Lagarde, managing director of IMF, disagreed on debt haircut. She said debt relief was needed. Extension of Greek debt maturities, extension of grade periods, and reduction of interest rates would be enough, she said.

Even though the deal gets finalized or not, Greece loses. With the deal, life gets harder. Without the deal and exit from euro-zone, life gets much harder.

I learned one important lesson over the past few months. Anything can change anytime. Greece’s current deal might fall through any moment. So much uncertainty has caused EUR (Euro) currency to move around in different directions.

Ever since the deal was announced, EUR/USD has been falling.

EUR/USD - Hourly
EUR/USD – Hourly

I have been short on Euro for some time now and I will continue to be short. Even with deal close, tough challenges remain ahead. ECB might increase or even extend its Quantitative Easing (QE) program, giving support to the European stocks and causing Euro to weaken further. I believe EUR/USD will reach parity level in the next 6 months.

Once the Greece drama settles, more focus will be on the fundamentals in the euro-zone outside of Greece, which accounts for more than 98% of the region’s GDP.

No clear road ahead, still. What’s next?

Fed removes “patient”, and adds twists

Last Wednesday (March 18, 2015), the Federal Reserve released its statement on the monetary policy and its economic projections. The The Fed dropped from its guidance “patient” in reference to its approach to raising the federal funds rate. It was largely to be expected to be removed, which would have send U.S Dollar higher and U.S market lower. However, the opposite happened because of two twists; they lowered their economic projections, and Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Janet Yellen’s words during the press conference.

According to the “dot plot”, the Fed lowered median “dot” for 2015 to 0.625% from 1.125% (December). What is “dot plot”? The Dot Plot is part of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC)’s economics projections and it shows what each member thinks the federal funds rate should be in the future. It is released quarterly. Sometimes, it might be released more than that, depending on economic circumstances. It gives you a perspective of what each member of FOMC thinks about economic and monetary conditions in the future.

Again, the Fed lowered median “dot” for the end of 2015 to 0.625% from 1.125% in December (-0.50%). The Fed also lowered the “dot” for end of 2016 and 2017. For the end of 2016, it is at 1.875% from 2.5% in December (-0.625%). For the end of 2017, it is at 3.125% from 3.625% in December (-0.50%). Besides, the “dot”, Yellen said one thing that took a toll on the U.S Dollar.

Even though the Fed removed “patient” from the statement, Yellen had “patient” tone during the press conference. Yellen said ““Just because we removed the word “patient” from the statement does not mean we are going to be impatient,”. This sentence alone halted US Dollar from rebounding after it dropped on the statement. There are other things that complicates the timing of the rate-hike.

It’s now more complicated to predict the Fed’s next move because of three reasons; very strong US Dollar, low inflation, and economic crisis in Europe and Japan, if not United Kingdom too. US Dollar is too strong, hurting U.S exports. Inflation has declined due to falling energy prices. The struggling foreign countries economically can also hurt U.S economy. I believe two majors factor of the Fed’s next move are the strong US Dollar, and the low inflation. When both of them are combined together, it makes imports cheaper and keeps inflation lower. I believe Europe will start to get better–as Quantitative Easing (QE) fully kicks in–money starts flowing in Europe. European stocks will probably hit new highs in the coming years because of QE program. Once, the Fed raises the rates, the money will probably flow into Europe from the U.S because of negative interest rates. Low rates have been a key driver of the bull markets in the U.S stock market the past six years. Lower rates makes stocks more attractive to the investors.

Since, the “dot” has dropped harshly, I believe this could be a sign of late delivery of rate hike. They might hike the interest rate in September, not June. However, if non-farm payrolls number continue to be strong, average wage (indicator for inflation) lifts and oil prices rebound, then the door for rate-hike for June might still be open. For now, there is no sign of oil rebounding since it has dropped sharply this week. We will get the next non-farm payroll, which also includes average wage, on April 3.

In the statement, FOMC stated “The Committee anticipates that it will be appropriate to raise the target range for the federal funds rate when it has seen further improvement in the labor market and is reasonably confident that inflation will move back to its 2 percent objective over the medium term. This change in the forward guidance does not indicate that the Committee has decided on the timing of the initial increase in the target range.”

The Fed want to be cautions before raising the interest rates. They want more time to be sure; “further improvement in the labor market” and “reasonably confident that inflation will move back to its 2 percent…” Although, non-farm payrolls have been strong lately, inflation is too low. The inflation is low because of the stronger dollar and the plunge in oil prices.

The Fed is in no hurry to increase the interest rate. The Fed said it would definitely not act on rates at “…April FOMC meeting.” and might wait until later in the year. I believe September has higher chance than June, from the rate-hike.

It looks to me that the Fed planned to send US Dollar lower. They probably wanted the US Dollar to be weaker before raising the rates, which could send the US Dollar a lot higher. Their plan worked. The US Dollar dropped so much that it sent EUR/USD (Euro against US Dollar) up 400 pips (above 1.10). U.S market rose after they were down ever since the release of non-farm payrolls for February. Dow gained over 200 points, as well as other indices.

 

Dow Jones (DJI) - 30 Mins
Dow Jones (DJI) – 30 Mins
US Dollar - 30 Mins
US Dollar – 30 Mins
EUR/USD - 30 Mins
EUR/USD – 30 Mins

 

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