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FT.com / Europe - Germany refuses to back down on Greece

The German government on Friday signalled it would not back down in its stand off with the European Central Bank over the involvement of owners of Greek sovereign bonds in a new round of aid for the debt-ridden country.

Wolfgang Schäuble, German finance minister, told the country's parliament he was sticking by his demand that the package observe "a fair distribution of risks between tax payers and private creditors".

That followed Thursday's warning by ECB president Jean Claude Trichet that forcing the involvement of Greece's private creditors would be akin to a default, an "enormous mistake" that would rattle a recovering financial system.

Mr Trichet was reacting to a letter from the German finance minister to eurozone peers and the ECB in which he demanded that "substantial" numbers of private creditors agree to extending the maturity on Greek paper by seven years.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Fri Jun 10th, 2011 at 12:53:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Step right up, patriotic German businessmen. Line forms to the right. I can see it now......I wish.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Jun 11th, 2011 at 12:04:14 AM EST
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Time to Get Outraged by the Banks

"First, the BIS data very helpfully breaks exposures into two pieces: direct exposures, which basically means creditors who own bonds issued by one of the PIGs; and indirect exposures, which for the most part means agents who sold default insurance to creditors, primarily through credit default swaps. As summarized in the following table, it seems that approximately 30% of total potential exposures to debt from the PIGs are covered by default insurance (see the figures in red). Put another way, if one of the PIGs defaults, creditors who actually hold bonds from that country will absorb about 70% of the losses, while agents (primarily banks and insurance companies) that sold insurance against the possibility of default will have to cover the remaining 30%.


Finally, it's worth noting that once you account for the substantial payouts that US agents will have to make to European creditors in the case of a default by one of the PIGs, financial institutions in the US have roughly as much to lose from default as those in France and Germany. (See the figures in blue in the table above.) The apparent eagerness of US banks and insurance companies to sell default insurance to European creditors means that they will now have to substantially share in the pain inflicted by a PIG default.


"This has some important implications. First, US and European financial institutions are likely to have very different incentives as negotiations regarding debt restructuring and reprofiling proceed. US banks and insurance companies are surely delighted with the " soft restructuring" that is currently being discussed. Such a partial default would probably not trigger default insurance payments, and so the pain would be borne almost exclusively by European institutions. On the other hand, some time soon it seems likely that European creditors will begin to prefer a "hard restructuring" that would require default insurance payouts from the US institutions that sold such insurance. Given how strikingly one-sided the net default insurance payments will be (from the US to Europe), it's easy to imagine how that could shape future negotiations over debt relief for the PIGs.

"Second, there's an interesting puzzle here. Why have European and American financial institutions behaved so differently when it comes to the PIGs? Specifically, why have American firms been so willing to sell default insurance to the Europeans, though they have not bought much PIG debt? And conversely, why have the Europeans systematically been so eager to buy insurance for their PIG debt, even at the very high price such insurance now commands? In essence, European firms have been betting that a PIG default will happen sooner rather than later, while US firms have been betting that default would happen later or not at all."

If I read those tables correctly, that means US banks have sold some $120 billion of credit default swaps to European banks.

Wind power
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Jun 11th, 2011 at 06:04:24 AM EST
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