There's a Der Spiegel report moving markets today, and it contends that Greece is thinking about dropping the euro and reintroducing its own currency, and that euro zone finance ministers are secretly meeting in Luxembourg on Friday night to discuss the situation. The euro slid around 0.9% against the dollar after the German newspaper's report, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Why is the report, if true, such a big deal? Quoting from an internal German finance ministry paper, Der Spiegel explains that the new Greek currency could lose much of its value against the euro, adding to the country's already massive debt. This, plus the fact that Greece might hemorrhage capital and inflict a fatal blow to its banking sector, could propel the recent recipient of an E.U. and I.M.F. bailout toward bankruptcy. What's more, European banks could suffer losses on their outstanding debts and the world's faith in the euro zone could be shattered, ushering in an "existential turning point" for the European monetary union.
But here's the rub: Many analysts are skeptical of the report. There are several reasons why:
- Greek Denial: Greece's deputy finance minister called the Der Spiegel report "untrue" and said it only served to "undermine Greece and the euro and serve market speculation games," according to Reuters.
- European Denial: A spokesman for Jean-Claude Juncker, who heads othe group of euro-zone finance ministers, told Reuters that the Der Spiegel report was "wrong" and denied that there was an imminent meeting in Luxembourg. Yet two other unnamed European officials told Reuters some E.U. ministers were in fact meeting in in the country.
- Market Yawn: The euro may have dropped on the news, but Reuters adds it soon recovered most of its losses. And the Journal points out that yield spreads (or rates of return) between Greek debt and similar German debt "haven't moved very much."
- German Sources: Business Insider points out that Der Spiegel's report cites "German government sources," and German officials have been on Greece's case for weeks about restructuring its debt."The Der Spiegel report may be true," Business Insider writes, "but it also may just be a calculated move by the German government to ramp up the speed of Greek debt restructuring."
- The Stakes: Douglas Borthwick of Faros Trading tells the Journal the threat of Greece leaving the euro zone is "nothing more than a bargaining tactic." If Greece were to make good on its threat, he says, the euro and the dollar would soar, which "would be terrible for French and German exporters." Germany and France would therefore "do whatever Greece needs to keep them in the euro zone," he concludes.
Photo by Reuters