Greek bailout edges closer

A semblance of calm appears to have returned into the weekend following a fit of nervousness about all things Greece.  For currency markets this means that the EUR has recovered some composure after hitting 2010 lows around 1.3115 but direction next week will largely depend on the much anticipated announcement from European officials over coming days on the size and conditionality of a loan package to the country.   In return Greece is reported to be planning a EUR 24 billion package of additional measures to cut its burgeoning fiscal deficit.

Over recent days the consensus on how much funding Greece will need has increased to EUR 120 billion from the initial EUR 45 billion announced just over a couple of weeks ago.   Presumably the jump in size of assistance will be sufficient to convince markets that Greece’s default risk will be minimal, not just in the coming year but over the next few years.   It may also help to prevent further credit ratings downgrades following the decision by S&P ratings agency to downgrade Greece to junk status.  Moody’s left Greece on review for a downgrade but may also cut its ratings to junk if the situation does not improve. 

There are still many obstacles to an improvement in confidence towards Greece, however including the willingness of Germany to contribute to any aid package ahead of regional elections on May 9th and the ability of the Greek government to push through austerity measures in the face of growing social unrest in the country.   Moreover, the task ahead for Greece which aims at cutting the budget deficit down to 2% by 2013 is enormous having never been achieved in modern history.  Given the outlook for much weaker growth in the months and years ahead as well as growing domestic resistance in Greece, it will be all the more difficult. 

The likely announcement of an aid package over coming days will keep market sentiment relatively well supported and as reflected in the narrowing in Greek debt spreads, which seem to be trading more like equities, it is already having a positive impact.  Nonetheless, the bounce to markets will be limited and whilst a EUR 100-120 billion package will help to shore up confidence, there is just too much uncertainty remaining.  This points to continued volatility in the weeks ahead and very limited upside for EUR/USD and more likely a test of technical support around 1.3091 in the short-term then down to 1.2885.

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