The Wall Street Journal – As Bank Withdrawals Surge, Athens Relies More on ECB
Greek depositors withdrew €700 million ($898 million) from the country’s banks on Monday, fueling fears of a bank run amid the growing political disarray. With deposits falling, Greek banks become even more dependent on the European Central Bank to meet their funding needs, exposing the central bank to potentially huge losses if Greece leaves the euro area.Greek President Karolos Papoulias told the country’s political leaders that bank withdrawals plus buy orders received by Greek banks for German bunds totaled some €800 million on Monday, a transcript of his comments said. A central bank official confirmed the figures. “The strength of banks is very weak right now,” Mr. Papoulias said, citing a conversation he had with Greek central-bank Gov. George Provopoulos.Monday’s deposit withdrawal far outpaced Greek banks’ steady decline in deposits since the start of the country’s debt crisis in 2009, as depositors withdraw cash and transfer funds overseas. In the past two years, deposit outflows have generally averaged between €2 billion and €3 billion a month, though in January they topped €5 billion.
Bloomberg.com – Greek President Told Banks Anxious as Deposits Pulled
“Provopoulos told me that of course there’s no panic but there’s great fear which can evolve into panic,” the president said. Central bank head George Provopoulos told Papoulias that Greeks have withdrawn as much as 700 million euros ($891 million) and the situation could worsen, according to the transcript of the president’s meeting with party leaders on May 14 that was published yesterday. Greece’s future in the euro has been thrown into doubt by the political standoff following inconclusive May 6 elections. The president was forced to call for new elections yesterday. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said the next vote will be a referendum on whether Greece exits the euro, a move that would leave lenders to its government, businesses and households unsure of recouping their money. The risk of a run on Greek banks is “a very serious problem,” Yannis Ioannides, professor of economics at Tufts University in Massachusetts, told Bloomberg Television. He said the European Central Bank needs to guarantee deposits held by the region’s lenders to guard against contagion. “That’s the only way to kill a bank run: not words but deeds.”Banks in downtown in Athens were open as normal today with no signs of unusual activity. Deposits by businesses and households held in Greek banks stood at 165.4 billion euros in March, according to the last available data from the Bank of Greece. (TELL) In 2011, deposits declined 35.4 billion euros, or 17 percent.
CNBC.com – Greeks Withdraw Nearly $1 Billion From Local Banks
Greek depositors withdrew 700 million euros ($900 million) from the nation’s local banks recently, said President Karolos Papoulias, though the exact timing of the transfer was unclear.Citing a conversation he had with Greek Central Bank Governor George Provopoulos, Papoulias said “that the strength of banks is very weak right now.” Stocks declined following the report after being up earlier in the day. Attempts to form a government in Greece collapsed on Tuesday, jolting financial markets at the prospect that leftists opposed to the terms of an EU bailout could sweep to victory in a June election and nudge the euro zone crisis into a dangerous new phase. The tremors from Greece, compounding worries about Spain’s debt-laden banking system, ended any honeymoon for new French President Francois Hollande, thrusting the growing risks to the euro zone to the top of the agenda for his first meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel hours after he took office.
The Financial Times – Greece: when the lights go out
The government had hoped to raise €1.7bn-€2bn from the levy in the fourth quarter of last year. But a massive unions-led civil disobedience movement against this “injustice” scuppered that and a ruling that it was illegal to disconnect people’s electricity supply for non-payment sent the collection rate even lower. However, the memorandum of understanding with the IMF-EU signed in March demands that Athens collects a range of back taxes, such as the property tax from 2009 which was essentially never collected. So it will be interesting to see how the Troika reacts to these most recent developments. Ironically, the scale of non-payment means that the PPC itself has run out of money. Last month it needed a €250m liquidity injection from the government so as to avert a nation-wide energy supply meltdown. So even less of the already-too-small pot of tax revenues is going to the government. The PPC has until end of June to find new sources of funding. It seems unlikely that people who stopped paying power bills last year are suddenly going to start now. While EU-IMF funding is still forthcoming, the overwhelming support for the anti-bailout parties as Greece heads for new elections next month puts an obvious question mark over future assistance. But the PCC experience suggests we really could be moving towards the IOU stage of this crisis as liquidity issues bite.
The Telegraph – Greece on brink of collapse
Europe’s financial crisis lurched into a perilous new phase as dire predictions emerged of a collapse in Greece’s economy, with a run on its banks bringing an inevitable end to its membership of the euro. As leaders in Athens accepted the need for a new general election to end a national stalemate, the International Monetary Fund said Europe’s leaders should prepare for the possibility of a Greek departure from the single currency. Christine Lagarde, head of the IMF, warned she was “technically prepared for anything” and said the utmost effort must be made to ensure any Greek exit was orderly. The effect was likely to be “quite messy” with risks to growth, trade and financial markets. “It is something that would be extremely expensive and would pose great risks but it is part of options that we must technically consider,” she said. Raising tensions still further, Germany warned Greek voters that the wrong result in next month’s election will force their country out of the single currency. Greece’s president warned, perhaps most alarmingly, that its banks risk running out of money, posing a “threat to our national existence”.
CNBC.com – What Happens When Greece’s Money Runs Out?
Speculation about an endgame in Greece’s protracted crisis has flooded markets with euro exit scenarios this week, but investors reckon there’s still every chance that uncertainty will simply drag on for months. Seeking clear-cut outcomes to the euro saga to date has proven fruitless for investors, who have instead been forced to live with the “muddle through” of European politics. And more used to precedent, probabilities and precise numbers, asset managers are far from their comfort zone when interpreting the hyper-politicized standoff over Greece’s future membership of the single currency. So instead of mapping binary outcomes, investment strategists are once again looking hard at the grey areas.The political vacuum in Greece after May 6′s inconclusive elections seems to have hastened a showdown where no government in Athens can deliver more budget cuts, so no more bailout funds are forthcoming and public money drains away, leading to mass defaults [cnbc explains] and a euro exit with all its wider ramifications.And if that’s the will of the Greek people, then it may be tempting for all sides to try and manage the outcome as best they could. But nothing’s that simple. Even though Greek voters rejected austerity in favor of anti-bailout parties, opinion polls show more than 75 percent want to stay in the euro.
The Wall Street Journal – Greece Teeters as Talks Fail
Greece’s future in Europe’s common currency was in doubt after a last-ditch effort to form a new government failed and the country’s political turmoil sparked a dramatic increase in bank withdrawals. After a week of fruitless negotiations, Greece’s political parties couldn’t agree on a governing coalition, leaving the country in political limbo until new elections next month. The delay could deprive Athens of badly needed international aid and deepen Greece’s economic depression.In a potent sign of Greeks’ rising anxiety, depositors withdrew €700 million ($898 million) from local banks on Monday alone, according to the country’s national bank—a significant escalation in capital flight from the country. Greek President Karolos Papoulias told party leaders that the situation facing Greece’s lenders was very difficult and that “the strength of banks is very weak right now,” according to a transcript released Tuesday.The steady outflow of deposits from Greek banks hasn’t yet turned into a full-blown bank run, and the European Central Bank has nearly limitless capacity to provide banks with additional liquidity. But economists have long warned that a run on banks could develop if the population fears Greece’s departure from the euro is imminent and that their savings would evaporate. A bank run could trigger the euro exit if it reaches a scale that forces Greek authorities to freeze bank accounts and print their own currency to keep the financial system alive.
Bloomberg.com – Merkel-Hollande Meeting Yields Greece Growth Offer
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande said they would consider measures to spur economic growth in Greece as long as voters there committed to the austerity demanded to stay in the euro. Requests for measures to bolster growth will be “considered” and the European Union may also “approach Greece with proposals,” Merkel said late yesterday at a joint press conference with Hollande during his first official visit to Berlin. “Greece can stay in the euro area,” and “Greek citizens will be voting on exactly that.”Their encounter, the first meeting between the chiefs of Europe’s two biggest economies, came after Greece announced a return to the ballot box following the collapse of talks on forming a government. The euro and stocks fell as investors speculated that Greece may drop out of the single currency more than two years after its budget-deficit blowout triggered a financial crisis across Europe that continues to rage.Hollande saw Merkel less than 12 hours after being sworn in as president and an arrival that was delayed by a lighting strike on his plane from Paris. With Greece in its fifth year of recession, the French Socialist returned to a theme he pressed throughout his election campaign, saying policy makers must offer the prospect of something more than austerity.“I’ll respect the vote of the Greeks whatever it is,” Hollande said. “Yet my responsibility is to give Greece a signal. I see the suffering and challenges that the Greeks feel. The Greeks need to know we’ll come with growth measures that will allow them to stay in the euro zone.”
Source: Bianco Research