Over the course of documenting the ECB’s push to phase out the €500 note, we stumbled upon something rather interesting that’s taking place at Greek banks.
Courtesy of a reader, we learned that Piraeus Bank (among others) has begun charging a fee to exchange large denomination bills for small. The charge is listed as 0.15% by the bank and Kathimerini would later report that across the Greek banking sector “exchanging one 500-euro note for smaller bills, [will cost you] 3-5 euros (depending on the bank), while the maximum charge comes to 200-250 euros regardless of the amount a customer wishes to exchange.”
This is amusing for two reasons: 1) the ECB effectively gets to charge for the privilege for banning large bills and 2) it means that if you are Greek and you were effectively forced to take your money out of the bank because after last summer you feared a depositor bail-in might be right around the corner, you now have the distinct pleasure of having to pay a fee to exchange your large bills for smaller ones at the very same banks where you withdrew the money in the first place. Continue reading
The deadline to dispense further rescue loans to debt-stricken Greece was extended by eurozone countries once again on Sunday amid continuing deadlock between Athens and its creditors.
With negotiations still bogged down over failure to agree on a new foreclosure law – legislation the leftist-led government says would push austerity-hit Greeks over the edge – lenders postponed a critical Eurogroup Working Group until Tuesday. Continue reading
For years, many – and certainly this website – had mocked both European and US stress tests as futile exercises in boosting investor and public confidence, which instead of being taken seriously repeatedly failed to highlight failing banks such as Dexia, Bankia and all the Greek banks, in the process rendering the exercise a total farce. The implication of course, is that regulators, thus central bankers, openly lied to the public over and over just to preserve what little confidence in the system has left.
Now we know that far from merely another “conspiracy theory”, this is precisely the policy intent behind the “stress tests” – as Reuters reports citing a paper co-authored by a Bundesbank economist, “banking supervisors should withhold some information when they publish stress test results to prevent both bank runs and excessive risk taking by lenders.”
In other words: lie. Continue reading
Now Berlin’s Troika is gunning for the cash.
Two weeks ago we explained why Greek banks, which Greece no longer has any direct control over having handed over the keys to their operations to the ECB as part of Bailout #3’s terms, are a “strong sell” at any price: due to the collapse of the local economy as a result of the velocity of money plunging to zero thanks to capital controls which just had their 1 month anniversary, bank Non-Performing Loans, already at €100 billion (out of a total of €210 billion in loans), are rising at a pace as high as €1 billion per day (this was confirmed when the IMF boosted Greece’s liquidity needs by €25 billion in just two weeks), are rising at a pace unseen at any time in modern history.
Which means that any substantial attempt to bailout Greek banks would require a massive, new capital injection to restore confidence; however as we reported, a recapitalization of the Greek banks will hit at least shareholders and certain bondholders under a new set of European regulations—the Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive—enacted at the beginning of the year. And since Greek banks are woefully undercapitalized and there is already a danger of depositor bail-ins, all securities that are below the depositor claim in the cap structure will have to be impaired, as in wiped out. Continue reading
As we have repeated since January, and certainly on numerous occasions over the weekend, at this point the only variable is what the ECB will do: will it give insolvent Greek banks more aid, or will it increase its ELA collateral haircut (or even withdraw it altogether), the ramifications of which action would have a dire impact on contagion within the rest of the periphery but most certainly on both the Greek financial system as well as Greek society which is now facing an indefinitely period of capital controls. Continue reading
As we said earlier today, following today’s dramatic referendum result the Greeks may have burned all symbolic bridges with the Eurozone. However, there still is one key link: the insolvent Greek banks’ reliance on the ECB’s goodwill via the ELA. While we have explained countless times that even a modest ELA collateral haircut would lead to prompt depositor bail-ins, here is DB’s George Saravelos with a simplified version of the potential worst case for Greece in the coming days:The ECB is scheduled to meet tomorrow morning to decide on ELA policy. An outright suspension would effectively put the banking system into immediate resolution and would be a step closer to Eurozone exit. All outstanding Greek bank ELA liquidity (and hence deposits) would become immediately due and payable to the Bank of Greece. The maintenance of ELA at the existing level is the most likely outcome, at least until the European political reaction has materialized. This will in any case materially increase the pressure on the economy in coming days.
All of which of course, is meant to suggest that there is no formal way to expel Greece from the Euro and only a slow (or not so slow) economic and financial collapse of Greece is what the Troika and ECB have left as a negotiating card.
A Greek exit from the euro is now a “base case” scenario for economists and is set to trigger a flight to safety for nervy investors
Financial markets were braced for their worst period of turmoil since the height of the eurozone crisis three years ago, after Greeks chose to overwhelmingly reject the bail-out terms of their creditors, throwing the country on a collision course with the eurozone.
The prolonged period of uncertainty is expected to roil European equities and see investors flock to safe haven assets such as US and German government bonds.
Over the past several weeks we’ve documented the acute cash crunch that’s crippled the Greek banking sector and ultimately brought the country to its knees.
As the crisis unfolded and Athens’ negotiations with creditors became increasingly contentious, Greek banks began to bleed cash. Eventually it became clear that the banks were relying entirely on the Eurosystem to meet outflows.
Meanwhile, banknotes in circulation surged, as cash usage jumped 44%, prompting Barclays to note that “the amount of banknotes in excess of the quota for Greece represents a liability of the BoG to the Eurosystem.” Essentially, we said, Greece was quietly printing billions of euros.
Now, with the ECB holding steady on the ELA cap and the banking system still hemorrhaging deposits despite the imposition of capital controls, Greek banks are running out of cash — literally. Continue reading
Greek banks will remain shut for an unspecified time and the country is imposing restrictions on bank withdrawals following a recommendation by the Bank of Greece, the country’s prime minister said Sunday.
Sunday’s move comes after two days of long lines forming at ATMs across the country, following Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ sudden decision to call a referendum on creditor proposals for Greek reforms in return for vital bailout funds. Continue reading
We’ve long said that negotiations between Greece and its creditors are more a matter of politics than they are a matter of economics or finance.
From the troika’s perspective, breaking Greece and forcing PM Alexis Tsipras to concede to pension cuts and a VAT hike is paramount, and not necessarily because anyone believes these measures will put the perpetually indebted periphery country on a sustainable fiscal path, but because of the message such concessions would send to Syriza sympathizers in Spain and Portugal. In short, the troika cannot set a precedent of allowing debtor nations to obtain austerity concessions by threatening to expose the euro as dissoluble. Continue reading
In Athens on Friday, the ATM lines began to form in earnest.
Although estimates vary, Kathimerini, citing Greek banking officials, puts Friday’s deposit outflow at €1.7 billion. If true, that would mark a serious step up from the estimated €1.2 billion that left the banking system on Thursday and serves to underscore just how critical the ECB’s emergency decision to lift the ELA cap by €1.8 billion truly was. “Banks expressed relief following Frankfurt’s reaction, acknowledging that Friday could have ended very differently without a new cash injection,” the Greek daily said, adding that the ECB’s expectation of “a positive outcome in Monday’s meeting”, suggests ELA could be frozen if the stalemate remains after leaders convene the ad hoc summit. Bloomberg has more on the summit:
Dorothea Lambros stood outside an HSBC branch in central Athens on Friday afternoon, an envelope stuffed with cash in one hand and a 38,000 euro ($43,000) cashier’s check in the other.
She was a few minutes too late to make her deposit at the London-based bank. She was too scared to take her life-savings back to her Greek bank. She worried it wouldn’t survive the weekend.
“I don’t know what happens on Monday,” said Lambros, a 58-year-old government employee.
Saved… for now.
The European Central Bank (ECB) has raised the funding cap on its Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) for Greece’s banks, according to a CNBC source.
The decision, made in a conference call Friday and first reported by Reuters, followed a meeting of the euro zone’s finance ministers on Thursday, where the ability of the country’s lenders to open up for business next week was questioned.
It comes as a specter of a run on Greek banks is looming, after yet another round of failed rescue-for-reforms talks.
LUXEMBOURG — The European Central Bank told a meeting of euro zone finance ministers on Thursday that it was not sure if Greek banks, which have been suffering large daily deposit outflows, would be able to open on Monday, officials with knowledge of the talks said.
Greek savers have withdrawn about 2 billion euros from banks over the past three days, with outflows accelerating rapidly since talks between the government and its creditors collapsed at the weekend, banking sources told Reuters. Continue reading
This was not supposed to happen: by now the Greek insolvency “can” should have been kicked, and the Greek government, realizing the money has run out for both the government and the banking system, should have folded to Troika demands, and allow the Troika money to return repaying obligations to the Troika in exchange for more spending cuts.
Instead, the “game theoretical” approach of bluffing until the end, and beyond, has put both countries in a corner from which neither knows how to escape, and with the “final deal deadline” passing this weekend we now have quotes such as this from the EU:
- OVERTVELDT: GIVING IN TO GREECE WOULD UNDERMINE EU CREDIBILITY
As was said three years ago, this seems like the safest option in a worst-case scenario. If this backdoor method gains traction in Greece, it would no doubt help avoid a Russian and Chinese invasion via Athens and full economic breakup of the single currency bloc. Other embattled countries might string along.
European Central Bank board member floats the idea of an “IOU” system to pay civil servants if country runs out of euros
Greece could start using a “parallel currency” to pay its civil servants if it runs out of cash, one of the European Central Bank’s board members has suggested. His comments come as the country scrambles to reach a deal with international creditors and avoid a default.
Highlighting the desperate situation faced by the country, Yves Merch, a member of the ECB’s executive board and governor of Luxembourg’s central bank, told Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia that Greece could resort to using “exceptional tools” to pay its obligations.