The big question of the week in Europe is deceptively simple – will any countries that share the euro as their currency default on their government or bank debts in the foreseeable future? The answer to this question determines how you regard bonds from countries such as Portugal, Spain, Italy, and Belgium.
Answering this question is not as simple as it seems, however, because it involves taking a view on three intricate issues: What exactly is the eurozone policy now on bailouts, can big eurozone countries really be bailed out if needed, and what happens to the politics of these countries and of the eurozone has a whole as pressure from the financial markets mounts?
The prevailing consensus – and definite official spin – is that over the weekend European leaders backed away from the German proposal to impose losses on creditors as a condition of future bailouts, i.e., from 2013. The markets, in this view, should and likely will calm now; there is no immediate prospect of any kind of sovereign default or (more politely) “reprofiling” on debt, including the obligations of big banks.
But a close reading of the Eurogroup ministers’ statement from Sunday suggests quite a different interpretation. It’s a straightforward text, just 2 ½ pages long, but it has potentially momentous consequences – as it envisages dividing future eurozone crises into two kinds.
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Originally published at The Baseline Scenario and reproduced here with permission.