After much debate eurozone ministers along with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), finally announced an emergency loan package for Greece amounting to EUR 110 billion. In return for the bailout Greece agreed to enhanced austerity measures. The good news is that the package covers Greece’s funding requirements until 2012, and is sufficient to avoid debt restructuring and default. The loan package has also removed uncertainty ahead of bond redemption on May 19th.
One aim of the package was to prevent contagion to other eurozone countries, especially Portugal and Spain, where there has been growing pressure on local bond and equity markets. However, the path ahead is strewn with obstacles and it is too early to believe that the package has ensured medium term stability for the EUR.
The challenges ahead are two-fold, including both the implementation of the measures in Greece in the face of strong domestic opposition and the approval of the loans by individual country parliaments within the eurozone, both of which are by no means guaranteed.
The toughest approval process is likely to be seen in Germany where the government will face a grilling in parliament and a challenge in the constitutional court ahead of official approval of the package. European Union leaders are scheduled to meet on May 7th to discuss the parliamentary approval of loans to Greece whilst German officials meet on the same day.
Implementation risk is also high. Although the Greek government appears to be sufficiently committed, opposition within Greece is growing; various strikes planned over coming days. Aside from union opposition, the scale of the budgetary task ahead is enormous, having never been undertaken on such a large scale in recent history. The sharp decline in growth associated with the austerity measures will make the task even harder.
The EUR bounce on the news has been limited, with the currency failing to hold onto gains. The announcement seems to have triggered a “buy on rumour, sell on fact” reaction, with the size of the loan package falling within the broad estimates speculated upon over the last week. The lack of EUR bounce despite the fact that going into this week the CFTC Commitment of Traders report revealed record net short speculative positioning in EUR/USD, reveals the extent of pessimism towards the currency.
The EUR may benefit from a likely narrowing in bond spreads between Greece and Germany. Given that sovereign risk is being increasingly transferred from the periphery to the core, the net impact on bond markets may not be so positive for the EUR. Over the short-term there will be strong technical resistance on the upside around EUR/USD 1.3417 but more likely the currency pair will target support at around 1.3114.
The Herculean task ahead for the Greek government suggests that markets will not rest easy until there are credible signs of progress. Investors would be forgiven for having a high degree of scepticism given the degree of “fudging” involved in the past, whilst Greek unions will undoubtedly not make the government’s task an easy one by any means. Such scepticism will prevent a sustained EUR recovery and more likely keep the EUR under pressure.
As noted above the divergence in growth for the eurozone economy between Northern and Southern Europe will make policy very difficult. Moreover, the EUR is set to suffer from an overall weak trajectory for the eurozone economy, relative to the US and other major economies. The widening growth gap with the US will also fuel a widening in bond yield differentials, a key reason for EUR/USD to continue to decline to around or below 1.25 by the end of the year.