Archive for the ‘Greek Debt Crisis’ Category

Here and here are links to two very interesting readings about bank runs occurring in Greece and Spain. Why is the bank “jog” happening? In a couple of sentences, concerns about the safety of deposits. If you have deposits in a Greek/Spanish bank and the bank goes under, will you get your money back? What about if the country leaves the Euro — will you be paid in Euros or in the new, less valuable currency? Given the fears that either might happen, depositors are taking their Euros out of these countries to the banks of other countries.

What I think this bank jog is forcing, is a quiet but massive increase in the financial commitments of the ECB (Germany) to Spain and Greece.  The ECB is being forced to either lend to these banks or let them collapse; if they collapse, then Germany must decide to either lend to these countries or let them collapse/leave the Euro.  The loans are supposedly collateralized.  But the sheer size of the bank jog and the problems in these counties suggests that the collateral probably contains lots of bad collateral, like debt of sovereigns of questionable solvency and packaged highly-rated debt that should never have been highly rates.  That is, while we can call the current support loans, I suspect that many of them will be transfers (big transfers) in the case that these countries/banks do not grow and solve their fiscal imbalances.  How does it end?  It has to end when the banks run out of collateral that even the ECB in its most desperate hour cannot in good conscience lend against, and the banks start to collapse.  But it may end sooner, when some politicians have the good sense to finally pull the plug and default and devalue.

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I was at the Fed last Friday giving a briefing for the staff about the effects of tax rebates, and happened to see my old colleague Ben Bernanke walking the halls.  With a few quick steps I risked getting tasered and we said a quick hello.  His life has been one long sprint for at least two years now. Thursday’s market chaos was being reviewed, and following stresses to the market for dollars in Europe in particular stemming from the Greek debt crisis, the Fed has re-opened swap lines with foreign central banks (release here).

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