Remember the eurocrisis? It didn’t go away, we’ve just all been nicely distracted by bread and circuses. And while no-one was looking, it’s been getting steadily worse.
A research note from Citigroup’s chief economist, William Buiter, now puts the chance of a Greek exit from the eurozone at 90 per cent:
We now believe the probability that Greece will leave EMU in the next 12-18 months is about 90%, up from our previous 50-75% estimate, and believe the most likely date is in the next 2-3 quarters. As before, for the sake of argument, we assume that “Grexit” occurs on 1 January 2013, but we stress this is an assumption rather than a forecast of the precise date. Even with the Spanish bank bailout, we continue to expect that both Spain and Italy are likely to enter some form of Troika bailout for the sovereign by the end of 2012. . .
The EA end-game is likely to be a mix of EMU exit (Greece), a significant amount of sovereign debt and bank debt restructuring (Portugal, Ireland and, eventually, perhaps Italy, Spain and Cyprus) with only limited fiscal burden-sharing.
The attention of the world has absolutely been elsewhere; while the mainstream press has moved on to the Olympics, the financial pages have been just as focused on the news from America. But just because there are more novel problems happening in other countries, doesn’t mean that any of the underlying problems of the eurozone have been fixed.
Greece is still suffering debilitating capital flight, as people steadily transfer as much of their money to safe havens as possible. The banking systems of the periphery countries – now closer to PIICS than PIIGS, as Greece graduates to a class of its own and Cyprus takes its place – are suffering under their own stresses, and the repeated bailouts push the structural problems underground for ever-shorter periods.
Mario Draghi, the ECB’s President, has not be so distracted. At a press conference today, he announced the ECB would do “whatever it takes” to preserve the euro, adding “believe me, that will be enough”. And enough it may be, for in the strange world of monetary policy, a committment to action is itself a form of action. If Draghi is believed – and that is a big if – then merely promising to do whatever it takes can be enough to end some of the capital flight and general unease which he has to tackle.
We will see whether expectations have been thus managed.