Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Choice for EU: Bail Out Greece or Bail Your Banks

by Alen Mattich

Wall Street Journal

August 31, 2011

The yield on Greek one-year government bills hit 60% Tuesday.

Not only does this suggest default is now all but certain and will come soon, it also implies that the terms of the default will be particularly brutal for investors, with recovery rates possibly even lower than the currently anticipated 50%.

European governments are being forced to face up to the significance of a Greek default. This is perhaps the underlying message from International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde's warning that Europe's banks "need urgent recapitalization." She may have been warning about the costly alternative to a solution to the Greek sovereign crisis. But it could well be too late.

Finnish insistence on additional collateral against any further bailout loans it makes to Greece threatens to scupper Europe's rescue vehicle, the European Financial Stability Facility. Without EFSF funds, Greece will almost certainly have no choice but to default on its obligations.

And default will damage Europe's already fragile banks.


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