Don’t say ‘credit event’. Don’t say ‘default’. And yet it appears obvious even to Joe Public that the spin is becoming increasingly laughable and insults the intelligence of leaders of the financial system.
How will Greece ever be able to repay its debts? Procrastinating creditors are mouthing implausible platitudes that even they don’t believe. So, the charade is being kept alive to protect creditors who refuse to recognise losses and are fearful of knock-on effects, which are significant. Just because a problem is big, it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be confronted, rather than denied.
Hong Kong hedge fund manager Geoffrey Barker, of Ballingal Investment Advisors, observes: "With each successive, temporary half-measure, designed to delay rather than fully address the underlying problem – namely, that Greece cannot repay its debt – the credibility of the policy is destroyed and the willingness of ordinary people to endure austerity, on the one hand, and of private creditors to roll over their debt holdings, on the other, diminishes."
The Greek government this week won a no-confidence vote and now has to push through more austerity measures (which their people don't appear ready to tolerate) before receiving EU money (which it is unable to repay).
“Countries will have to start leaving the euro, starting with Greece," says Bob Howe, Hong Kong-based manager of the Opera Pan-Asia Fund. "Portugal will go next and Spain eventually.
“Bond vigilantes and short-sellers will pick up another carcass when it has finished feeding on the last one. The end-game of austerity is too crushing and a vicious circle that doesn’t work. This will play out over the next three-to-five years with plenty of counter-trend rallies and bounces, like that of the past couple days.”
The slow-motion car crash taking place feels like a replay of the six months in 2008 between the Bear Stearns collapse and that of Lehman Brothers. That was a grace period in which we were put on notice of likely impending doom and it was a subliminal cue to sell off our shares (even if we didn’t). Perhaps we are destined to look back at this precise moment and say, ‘Mid-2011 was our chance to sell-off while the Grecian can was still being kicked up the road.’
Back to the Greek man on the street in Athens, who probably prefers to default on the debts, dispense with the austerity and to hell with the consequences for neighbouring countries. If this means that Greece can’t raise money until a new class of rosy-cheeked investment bank analysts declare “It’s a new Greece” in 10 years’ time, then so what?
As there is no salvation from a deus ex machina, the investment industry wants the politicians to face up to the inevitable.