Market Overview

Greece Edges Closer to Default


Whenever Greece takes a step forward in addressing its financial crisis, the country then seems to take two steps back. Greece's chances of avoiding a painful default seem to have taken yet another step back, as Eurozone finance ministers have questioned the country's willingness to commit to reforms.

European finance ministers have insisted that Greece stick to promised reforms in order to receive the next round of bailout funds but there are signs from Greece that it might still be trying to get better terms in any deal to prevent a default that it reaches with the Eurozone finance ministers.

Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos complained that his country is constantly being asked to jump over more hurdles in order to receive the bailout funds that are needed by Greece in order to avert a financial catastrophe. Venizelos said that the Eurozone finance ministers were "playing with fire" and that some of them might not even want Greece to remain within the Eurozone anymore.

However, many Eurozone finance ministers are said to be growing impatient with Greece because they feel that the Greeks have failed to live up to past promises and that they are still using delaying tactics. Just hours before an important meeting to discuss Greece's compliance with Eurozone demands, Greece had still failed to clarify a number of matters related to promises it had made during negotiations the previous week.

According to a report by Reuters, the finance ministers were considering whether or not it was possible to delay delivery of some or all of the bailout funds without actually pushing Greece into a default.

Complicating matters is the fact that the very austerity measures insisted upon by the finance ministers are pushing Greece further into recession. As Greece's recession deepens and the country's tax base shrinks, it becomes more difficult for the Greek government to meet the requirements of the finance ministers.

Conservative party leader Antonis Samaras is the man most likely to become the new prime minister after Greece's next election. In an effort to reassure international lenders, Samaras has said that he fully backs the austerity measures and will see them through. However, he has also complained that the focus should be on creating a Greek economic recovery and that the austerity measures should be adjusted to do so. The concern is that after receiving billions more in bailout funds, the next Greek government will go back on its promises and soften or repeal many of the measures that it agreed to in order to receive the bailout funds.

Influential German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has said in recent interviews that Germany is willing to do all it can to help Greece avoid a default but that he is concerned about what will happen after the next Greek election. In what could be seen as a threat to Greece, Schaeuble also said that Europe is better prepared to deal with the aftermath of a Greek default then it was when Greece first sought a bailout two years ago.

With both sides becoming increasingly more confrontational, the odds that the Eurozone finance ministers and Greece will make a deal that keeps Greece from defaulting are worse than they were just a day ago.


Traders who believe that there is too much at stake for the Eurozone finance leaders to allow a Greek default might want to consider the following trade:
  • The CurrencyShares Euro Trust (NYSE: FXE) ETF should benefit if the Greeks get through the latest crisis unscathed. With Japan actively trying to weaken the yen, successful Greek negotiations could significantly strengthen the euro.
Traders who believe that Eurozone finance ministers have had enough of Greece's delaying tactics may consider alternative positions:
  • The euro is likely to fall against other major currencies if the current negotiations between Greece and the Eurozone fail. If this happens, the ProShares UltraShort Euro (NYSE: EUO) ETF would benefit from the euro's fall.
  • The CurrencyShares Japanese Yen Trust (NYSE: FXY) ETF could also gain if the talks fall through. The Japanese yen has been weakening because of recent announcements from the Bank of Japan. If Greece doesn't receive its next round of bailout funds or if they are reduced, traders could flee the euro in favor of the Japanese yen.
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