Not quite a Greek tragedy but getting there. Greece’s announcement of a three-year plan to reduce its burgeoning fiscal deficit has not convinced markets. Greece’s 5-year CDS widened out to around 333bps whilst 10-year sovereign spreads widened further. There has been some contagion in other European countries notably Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Poland etc.
The plan which aims to cut the budget deficit from 12.7% to 2.8% of GDP by the end of 2012 appears to be very optimistic if not unrealistic. One of the main problems is not related to the magnitude of deficit reduction but to the starting point of 12.7% of GDP which is more realistically around 14-15% of GDP.
The deficit is planned to be cut by 4% this year alone which seems tough given the likelihood that the economy will contract this year and thereby increase the cyclical portion of the deficit. However, the major concern is the ability of the Greek authorities to cut nominal wages and pensions and in areas where inefficiency and corruption are widespread, such hospital and defense spending.
Greece needs to convince the European Commission and if the negative reaction by markets is anything to go by it may need further revisions including more drastic spending cuts as well as concrete plans for structural reforms. Greece will also find it difficult to ignore the skeptical market reaction given that the country aims to raise around EUR 54 billion to fund its public debt.
Greek concerns and similar countries elsewhere in Europe will likely act as a major weight on the EUR in the days ahead. Interestingly GBP seems to be a beneficiary. The situation does not appear to have a happy ending in sight and more pain looks likely. Rumours/talk of a Eurozone break-up are likely to intensify, however unrealistic such an event may be. ECB President Trichet dampened speculation in his speech following the ECB meeting that Greece could exit the euro but also confirmed that there would be no special treatment for Greece.