If you recall the early stages of the financial crisis there was one glaring trend from the various bank CEO’s and CFO’s – they just couldn’t wait to get on TV with their slogan:
“We are well capitalized.”
Of course, that turned out to be a lie as it’s now clear that most banks in the USA were woefully undercapitalized. Today, Greece’s finance minister is out with similar comments:
“Restructuring is not going to happen. There are much broader implications for the eurozone should Greece have to restructure its debt. People fail to see the costs to both Greece and the eurozone of a restructuring: the cost to its citizens, the cost to its access to markets. If Greece restructures, why on earth would people invest in other peripheral economies? It would be a fundamental break to the unity of the eurozone.”
In other words, “we are well capitalized”. That’s all well and good, but actions speak louder than words. The truth is that austerity is not working in Greece. They have failed to realize the crucial flaw in the Greek austerity plan: the private sector and public sector can’t save at the same time. They’re essentially hoping that they can get more blood to the heart by cutting off both arms. That’s just not how it works. Cutting off both arms simply exacerbates the problems. Slowly, but surely, you bleed out.
Their continued funding woes are obvious. According to the bailout facility Greece continues to increase their reliance on the ECB. ECB funding now represents 20% of total Greek banking assets. The following two charts from Goldman Sachs show Greece’s (and the entire periphery’s) increasing reliance on the kindness of strangers.
Of course, this is all just politics as Greek politicians hope for some sort of economic miracle (which isn’t going to happen) and the ECB tries to come up with a plan that actually resolves the structural flaws in the Euro system. The markets (as seen by yields and CDS) clearly aren’t so optimistic that Greece is “well capitalized”. Without major reforms in the EMU or an economic miracle the endgame for Greece looks increasingly dire. These periphery nations sound all too much like the many US banks that were on the verge of collapse in 2007 and 2008.
Mr. Roche is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Discipline Funds.Discipline Funds is a low fee financial advisory firm with a focus on helping people be more disciplined with their finances.
He is also the author of Pragmatic Capitalism: What Every Investor Needs to Understand About Money and Finance, Understanding the Modern Monetary System and Understanding Modern Portfolio Construction.