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The End Game, or Just a Pause?

Friday, July 10, 2015
Money and Markets
You can also access this issue on our website.

The End Game, or Just a Pause?

(Mike Larson is out this afternoon. Mike Burnick, editor of Ultimate Stock Options and associated editor of Martin’s Ultimate Portfolio, is filling in.)

Market Roundup
Dow +211.79 to 17,760.41
S&P +25.31 to 2,076.62
NASDAQ +75.33 to 4,997.70
10-YR Yield +0.12 to 2.417%
Gold +$1.90 to $1,162.80
Oil -$0.10 to $52.67

  By Mike Burnick

In true dramatic fashion, the Greek government submitted an 11th-hour proposal late yesterday that meets most creditor demands, in exchange for a new 53.5 billion euro bailout … Greece’s third since 2011.

In fact, details of the proposal, including spending cuts, pension reform and tax hikes, are nearly identical to the offer made by European creditors way back on June 26, which was summarily rejected by the Greek government, and then by voters in a July 5 referendum.

Hmm … the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Greece appears to be on the verge of accepting conditions that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras campaigned against.

Next steps: The Greek Parliament votes today on the proposal, then EU finance ministers hold an emergency meeting in Brussels on Saturday to discuss the plan. The final yea or nay will come at a summit of EU leaders Sunday.

By the time markets open Monday, the never-ending Greek debt drama may get another extension – moving into its third act!

In a letter to EU leaders delivered with the proposal, the new Greek finance minister stated: “This [proposal] is a vision which serves our commitment to remain an integral member of the eurozone and respect the evolving rules of our monetary union …”

So the Greeks may keep the euro for the time being, but extending debt maturities and pretending Greece will be able to pay them off someday isn’t a viable solution.

The magnitude of Greece’s private and public sector debts are crushing its economy and without meaningful debt reduction, default seems inevitable. Half the country’s bank loans are non-performing, taxes aren’t being paid and Athens is financing the government by not paying its bills.

That’s why it’s likely the Grexit scenario will play out all over again at some point. So what can we expect when that day comes? The events of the past few weeks offer a glimpse into the future.

“Pretending Greece will be able to pay them off someday isn’t a viable solution.”

On some future Friday, bank deposits will be denominated in euro, and presto, converted to drachma the following Monday. This has all happened before in Argentina, Mexico and Peru in the 1980s, and as recently as 2002 for Argentina.

In all cases, the currency conversion was accompanied by massive capital flight from these countries, as citizens correctly anticipated a forced currency conversion and loss of purchasing power.

Capital continued to flow out, often at a faster clip after the currency conversion and in spite of capital controls designed to stop it, according to research by economist Carmen Reinhart. When Mexico devalued its currency in 1982 for example, bank deposits were 26% of GDP the year before, but plunged to just 5.8% by 1988. This is a lesson the Greek central bank should keep in mind for the weeks and months ahead.

Do you see this as the end game? Or are we just another step on the way to an eventual Grexit? Would you invest in Greece now? Click here to add your comments.

Our Readers Respond

Mike Larson’s column yesterday on cyber-security attracted several insightful comments from readers. Mike is away this afternoon, but he will return Monday and will review those comments, as well as any further you might have on today’s above column by Mike Burnick. Click here to add your viewpoints.

Other Developments of the Day

Bullet As negotiations in Greece appear to be – finally – coming to an end, those in another part of the world continue to drag on. Iran nuclear talks, amid further wrangling, have been extended for the third time. Investors are watching developments for the impact they might have on oil prices should Iranian production re-enter the world market, although many analysts now are saying it would take a long time before any output from that country would be sufficient enough to drive prices down significantly. What’s your view? Should the U.S. continue to participate in the talks, or should we walk out and continue the sanctions regime?

BulletAmid cheers, the Confederate battle flag was taken down from the South Caroline State House. It was lowered for the last time by an honor guard of seven South Carolina Highway Patrol officers. It was then taken to the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum, where it will go on display. The flag is still being flown over other public places in the South, but opponents are moving to have those taken down as well. How successful do you think those moves will be?

BulletKeeping to the theme of non-business-related events, famed Oscar-winning actor Omar Sharif, who starred in “Doctor Zhivago” and “Lawrence of Arabia,” died in Cairo at age 83. He had been living with Alzheimer’s disease, which was diagnosed earlier this year.

Bullet Want to make more eye contact with fellow passengers on your airline flight? Well, you might have to. A new seating plan being developed will make better use of cabin space, but it would force passengers to face one another during a flight. It would give passengers less privacy while eating or attempting to sleep. On the positive side, the new configuration might eliminate elbow wars. Still, maybe it will be better to take a train or bus in the future.

Do you have views on Greece, Iran or the Confederate battle flag? How about potential new closeness on your future airline flights? Click here to go to the website and add your comments. Mike Larson will be back Monday to respond to your comments.

Best wishes,

The Money and Markets team

Mike Larson
Mike Larson graduated from Boston University with a B.S. degree in Journalism and a B.A. degree in English in 1998, and went to work for There, he learned the mortgage and interest rates markets inside and out. Mike then joined Weiss Research in 2001. He is the editor of Safe Money Report. He is often quoted by the Washington Post, Reuters, Dow Jones Newswires, Orlando Sentinel, Palm Beach Post and Sun-Sentinel, and he has appeared on CNN, Bloomberg Television and CNBC.
The investment strategy and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of any other editor at Weiss Research or the company as a whole.

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