Monday 20 June 2011

No way to run a currency

After all weekend talks to try and resolve the Greek situation, the net result is nothing today. Instead we will have a week or two delay whilst he Greek Government tries to hold together and agree some sort of acceptable plan.

All this demonstrates the fundamental weakness of the Euro when in a crisis situation. Politics is now the driver and politics takes days and week; but markets are open daily.

A sub-plot being worked out here is that I perceive that the Western banks in the City and elsewhere are liquidating their PIGS and European assets as quickly as they can; they know the end game is a default and probably exit from the Euro for Greece. If I was being conspiratorial I would suggest that the European leaders have left this gap open just long enough for the banks to try and save themselves (not that convinced by that line though, it has been obvious this was going to happen for 18 months).

When there is a crisis you need strong leadership and decisive action; the Euro currency leaders provide the diametric opposite. Weak and confused leadership and a variety of not quite satisfactory solutions to any problem.

Indeed, it will be a wonder if the Euro survives the next few years of Sovereign insolvency crises.


Sean said...

Politics v economics.....I wonder who will win?

Mr Ecks said...

The sooner the Euro is smashed the better. Then the EU next.Along with all those who support it.

Timbo614 said...

When I read the news on Greece and the EMF/IMF/Whoever this morning I actually exclaimed out loud to my self! More & More austerity... will the Greeks stand for it, what signal does this send?

Then looked at the recent slide of 6.6% overall on the market - I decided to call this further non-announcement
"The Signal" for the markets for the remainder of the summer/year and have liquidated all my equities. We'll see what happens over the next couple of months.. Everyone else prepare for a big rally :(

Budgie said...

I really really want the euro to disappear. I want the EU to disintegrate. But ....

Germany's GDP, on its own, is more than 10 times that of Greece. They have the financial clout. All it needs is the political will to 'save' Greece (at the expense of Germany running the Greek economy, as it does Eire's already).

I do not think the EU establishment can afford the break up of the eurozone. All their power and prestige is invested in it. They know the peasants would lynch them if, upon failure, it became obvious to all that the EU/euro has been merely a scam to keep the euro political elite on top.

Financial Armageddon is postponed - sorrreee.

andrew said...

I disagree.

There is clear leadership and nothing will happen until the ECB/ Greeks do as the Germans say.

(I know this is an oversimplified stereotype)
The Germans say why should Greek civil servants retire at 50 and German workers retire at 67 and in the meantime pay for the Greek person to sit on a beach?

Bill Quango MP said...

Andrew: I'm not sure that will be enough. We have the same argument in this country, in our newspapers today. Why must I retire at 70 on an unsecured pension that may be worth less than i put in, when a teacher retires at 60, on a final salary scheme?

Yet the unions won't have it. A deal is a deal. So what if situations change? Tough. we want our money and we want to sit on the beach and we don't care how damaging that is.

Even this 2 years extra work for 300,000 women,is being reported as if they have become slaves.

The Greeks won't take austerity. The Germans will just have to pay for Greece out of their own pockets.

Richard Elliot said...

Time to close out all positions? I have a friend who has done exactly that. I think it was a bit over dramatic, but I'm beginning to think it was a good move.

Timbo614 said...

I looked at the numbers being bandied around in the press. They are saying that the original deal was 30Bln of savings/austerity... well that is already near 10% of Greece's GDP!

Now the EU/IMF want more savings - how would it look here or in the US if we/they needed to save say 12-15% of GDP when carrying a 10-12%% GDP Debt burden at near credit card interest rates? Hmmm?

I've been there personally - and I know you can't really compare the two - but there are similarities.

And I know it is hard to service/repay the debt with reduced income (which is what the Greeks are facing) and without sacrificing long-term savings I would have gone under or would have had to down-sized the house.

Greece does not have any long term savings and is being forced, forced to the sell the house, they are better off bust and in default. The brown stuff would hit the fan for sure, because Ireland and others would follow suit and they would be better off too, this would possibly lead to an uncontrolled, unintentional international debt Jubilee...

I have taken the view that the brown stuff is an irresistible force and the EU is the immovable object. A big explosion is looking inevitable :(

Anonymous said...

UC If the Euro is in trouble, judging from the exchange rate with the pound, the pound is in even worse trouble as determined by currency dealers.

andrew said...

I will restrain myself from going into rant mode on Pensions and the way this is reported in the UK.

Disclosure : my OH is a hospital doctor and so any reduction in benefits hits me.

My feelings on this are mixed.

I told her at the time, when the last Pensions review was carried out (in '07-08 iirc), that the govt fluffed it and it will all be done again.

It is socially inequitable that some people who happen to work for the govt and happen to do physically demanding jobs (fire police army) get to almost without exception retire at 55 on a full pension and others who happen not to (dustbin collectors, builders, agricultural workers) do not.

It is worse yet that the taxes of one group are used to pay the pensions of the other.

Having said that, the Union spokespeople are correct in that it is wrong that just because someone has a crap pension, everyone should have a crap pension. The thing that is left unsaid is who pays for this.

The days of PAYG pensions are dying as the underlying long-term social contracts/agreements come under too much pressure.

This brings me (eventually) back to the Germans and Greeks.

I think (and please correct me if wrong), the Germans as a nation will refuse to pay for the greeks due to a moral/cultural position, even if this means that some German banks get into trouble

CityUnslicker said...

Nice comments. Not liquidating anything here...just wishing I had in April.

Anyway, the Germans need to save their banks one way or the other so lots more mullah will be forthcoming - preferably from across europe to help the French and German banks.

The people who are going to get really screwed are the greek people. Either that state is halved in size overnight which means their economy will be foozled for years; or they default and suddenly find a loaf of bread is costing a weeks wages. Yuck.

Lesson; should this be visited on the UK next year (unlikely, but possible), make sure all your assets are far away invested in Swissies or things that hold value globally (um, another reasonf or the commodiite sboom there...)

Budgie said...

andrew said... "I disagree."

Alright. But who were you disagreeing with, and what about?

Old BE said...

the only solution for those is my situation is to go out spending, run up as much debt as possible and await the denoument. europe-wide hyperinflation and twenty years of grinding poverty seems the inevitable result of all this.

CityUnslicker said...

BE - don't be so optimistic!

Old BE said...

i can't see the alternative - a massive and ongoing german fiscal transfer to southern europe - happening!!!

Bill Quango MP said...

Andrew: In fact I am very sympathetic to people's pensions. It does seem ridiculous for a government to suddenly announce there's no money left, for something that has been brushed under the carpet for at least 20 years and probably 30.

But I do despair of the unions. One major union that has its own £10 billion pension black hole, went on strike, and insisted that all NEW members must get final salary, magic pensions.

This was only a few years ago. In the face of reality they argued it was an impossible concession. Members would readily have agreed, years and years ago, to newbies getting less, as long as they were OK. But the union bosses wouldn't have it.

andrew said...

"Andrew: In fact I am very sympathetic to people's pensions. It does seem ridiculous for a government to suddenly announce there's no money left, for something that has been brushed under the carpet for at least 20 years and probably 30."

Bill, this is the place where the media and interested parties are v.v. guilty

Basically, a pension is deferred pay. Short of bankruptcy, the sponsoring employer (BP, The govt, the chip shop down the road) will pay up and make up any shortfall in the fund until the last member's spouse is dead.

What the govt is talking about is changing the way it works going forward (future accrual / contributions). Any retrospective change would have lawyers going straight to the courts - and quite rightly winning.

Electro-Kevin said...

Andrew - Admittedly we've reneged on our part of the pension deal which is to pass away at three score and ten.

All agreements are off.

Anonymous said...

Greetings from Greece.

Just a small clarification with regards to pensions in Greece and the age of retirement.

The average retirement age seems low indeed but that is only brought down because of the huge number of public sector employees that retire early (police, firemen, army etc.). Granted, that number is too big for our country but that is a political issue (corruption).
For the rest of us who work in the private sector, the age of retirement is close to european standards. 65 for men and 60 for women.

Having lived in the UK for 9 years and during 6 of them having worked in the private sector, I can tell you that there is no shortage of people working hard in Greece. Many times above 9 or 10 hours a day without overtime payments (not complaining here as this was the norm for myself when working in Britain).
The main issue is that political parties in Greece have been having a financial orgy for the last 30 years, creating and maintaining a client-based relationship with a percentage of the population where jobs in the public sector where exchanged for votes.

Anonymous said...

The modern 'retirement at 65' concept was invented by the Germans (Bismark and now we find out that Queen Victoria hated him) to reward long serving industrial workers. At that time, the average life expectancy was about 64.

Malcolm Tucker said...

Anon: The Greek military.
Is it really too big for the state to support. Its very hard with ,military figs to find out.

Uk spending @ £60 billion has some 175,000 members.

Turkey 600,000 personnel - £14 billion

Greece spends £7 billion of that and has some 160,000 = 3.3%

On this basis Uk spends £350,000/man.
Turkey £23,000
Greece £60,000.
Doesn't tell us anything.