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希腊违约左右欧元命运

Cyrus Sanati 2011年09月16日

一旦希腊倒下,许多人会怀疑剩下的欧洲主权债务危机该将如何收场。欧元要挺过这场危机,需要有更一致的经济政策支撑。

    在投资者看来,希腊违约行为已经发生,尽管从技术上来说尚未出现。现在市场正迫使欧洲领导人当机立断,就如何收拾主权债务危机残局做出决定。虽然希腊要达到技术上违约——违约是必然的——还需要18个月的时间,但是欧元区外围成员国发生类似违约现象的时间将可能要早于希腊。

    如果以德国为首的欧元区核心成员国不发挥领导作用,很有可能会让欧洲共同货币马上寿终正寝,从而引爆难以想象的经济衰退。欧洲眼下正面临选择,要么同心同德,要么分道扬镳。

    明天就是希腊的债权人同意免除一定到期债务,将债务延后数年偿还的最后期限。该计划至少需要90%的债权人签名才能生效。但是交易者称,到目前仅有50%到70%的债权人已经签字,希腊试图摆脱违约命运的努力面临的形势更加复杂。

    最后限期到来之前仍有希望重组希腊债务,但市场似乎已经厌倦了隔靴搔痒。就算希腊能说服债权人减免大笔债务,2020年前该国仍终将偿还或再融资1,350亿欧元。希腊需要开源节流才能实现这个目标,那将意味着一大笔钱。

    如此一来就会出现问题,现在政府被迫紧缩开支已经使虚弱的希腊经济伤筋动骨。今年第二季度该国的GDP缩水了7.3%,远比原先的预期要糟糕。随之而来的税收收入下降造成国家预算赤字扩大到占整个GDP的10%。据花旗集团(Citigroup)测算,希腊必须让基本盈余保持在GDP的5%,到2014年才能将其债务负担稳定在占全部GDP的180%;而要在2031年前将债务减少到占全部GDP的90%,则可能需要保持年均9%的基本盈余。

    鉴于希腊的经济形势,该国几乎不可能达到上述基本盈余。故而,市场与其坐等希腊未来几年还不起债务,倒不如这几天把主导权拿在手中。周三早上,希腊五年期债券的信用违约掉期的交易速率表明希腊政府几乎100%会违约。持有希腊债务的法国银行这几天市值蒸发,意味着他们所持有的希腊债务完全亏损。

恐慌性抛售

    市场首当其冲。不幸的是,市场惯于反应过度。恐慌情绪在交易台之间的蔓延,速度之快自2008年股市遭遇黑暗时刻以来还从未出现。欧洲危机的慢动作已经调到快进,威胁到银行、企业、国家以及欧洲共同货币。媒体几个月以前就警告过的恐慌现在开始肆虐了。

    虽然希腊技术上违约不会像雷曼兄弟(Lehman Brothers)在2008年崩溃那样引起大轩然大波,但是其影响力正在累积。要知道,这场危机决不仅仅是希腊当前债务困局。希腊欠下的债务不足以撼动大局,仅占欧元区所有债务的3%。真正的大麻烦是在违约之后,希腊会选择留在欧元区还是回归本国货币德拉克马。

    回归本国货币能够让希腊在出口上与邻国相比占据竞争优势,特别是在吸引游客方面。与希腊隔爱琴海相望的土耳其,今年第二季度GDP增长达到了8.8%。如果重新启用廉价的本国货币,希腊没有理由不抢下部分旅游市场。

    可是脱离共同货币也会导致恶劣的后果。此举将迫使希腊筹措资金以填补预算不足,还有可能要支付比德国国债高25%的收益,看上去不太现实。这将使希腊削减更多政府开支,进一步加剧经济形势恶化。摆脱欧元之后,希腊的银行系统几乎将全面崩溃,因为欧洲中央银行(ECB)会停止垫付款额以维持银行运转。花旗集团估算,如果没有欧洲中央银行的资金注入,希腊银行将留下一个巨大的融资缺口,约合1,000亿欧元,占所有银行资产的20%左右。

    希腊银行业倒闭将导致该国经济活动戛然而止。进口产品短缺,造成波及全国的严重政治和社会动荡。希腊银行系统的崩溃将在整个欧洲范围内产生巨大的冲击波。高盛集团(Goldman Sachs)估计欧元区外围成员国银行受到的冲击将最为严重,其结果是38家银行需要300亿到920亿欧元的注资。花旗集团测算希腊、爱尔兰、葡萄牙和西班牙的直接和间接经济损失将达到4,800亿美元。

    届时,欧洲中央银行不得不作出艰难的决定。到底是继续等待欧洲各国政府的集体行动,还是自己担当整个欧洲的最终贷款人?最近一次欧元债务危机爆发是在今年夏初,威胁到意大利1.9万亿欧元的债务市场,欧洲中央银行出手干预,开始购买意大利和西班牙债券。截止目前购买额度较小,不足以把意大利债券收益率降低到上一次危机爆发前的水平。接下来的乱局将迫使欧洲中央银行购买巨额债券以稳定市场,将外围国家与较富裕的核心国的命运绑在一起。

    欧盟核心国自然一直都不愿看到这种情况。但欧元要挺过这场危机,显然需要更一致的经济政策。欧盟进一步强化联系的成本大部分要落在德国头上,但是德国现任政府并不太情愿出手。可是如果德国政府想要给这久拖不决的主权债务危机作个了结,推动欧盟继续向前发展的话,就必须改变立场。

    译者:winter

    A Greek default has already occurred in the eyes of investors, even though it technically hasn't happened yet. The market is now forcing European leaders to quickly decide how they want the rest of the sovereign debt crisis to play out. While the technical default of Greece -- inevitable as it is -- took around 18 months, similar defaults in other peripheral eurozone members will probably come much faster.

    A lack of leadership on the part of the core members of the eurozone, namely Germany, could very well bring a swift end to the common currency, setting off an economic meltdown that few would want to imagine. The time has now come for Europeans to either move much closer or break apart.

    Tomorrow is the deadline for owners of Greek debt to agree to a haircut on their debt by extending the repayment schedule out a few years. The plan required 90% of existing bondholders to sign on to the plan. But traders say that only 50% to 70% have signed on, complicating Greece's attempts to head off a default.

    The restructuring of Greek debt may still occur by the deadline, but the market seems to be fed up with all the dancing around. Even if Greece is able to convince debt holders to effectively take a large haircut on their debt, the country would still ultimately have to pay back, or refinance, 135 billion euro by 2020. To do that, Greece needs to take in more money than it spends – a lot more money.

    That will be a problem, considering that all the austerity cuts the government has been forced to make have decimated Greece's fragile economy. The country's GDP contracted 7.3% in the second quarter of the year, far worse than expected. The resulting decrease in tax revenue caused the country's budget deficit to widen to around 10% of GDP. Greece would need to run a primary surplus of around 5% of GDP to stabilize its debt burden at 180% of GDP by 2014 and would have to run almost a 9% primary surplus to reduce its debt to 90% by 2031, according to Citigroup.

    Running those kinds of surpluses is almost impossible for Greece given its economic outlook. So instead of waiting for Greece to miss a payment in the coming years, the market took matters into its own hands over the last few days. Credit default swaps on five-year Greek bonds this morning were trading at rates implying a nearly 100% chance of default by the government. French banks that hold Greek debt have seen their market values fall in the last few days, which imply a total loss on all their Greek debt holdings.

Panic selling

    Score one for the market. Unfortunately, the market has a habit of going overboard. Panic is spreading across trading desks at speeds not seen since the dark days of 2008. The European slow motion crisis has now moved into overdrive, threatening to take down banks, businesses, nations and the European common currency. This is the contagion the media has warned about for months – it is already here.

    While the technical Greek default isn't causing fireworks like the fall of Lehman Brothers in 2008, the flames are growing. To be sure, this crisis was never really all about Greece's current debt woes anyway. The amount it owed was always too small to move the needle, accounting for just 3% of eurozone's total debt load. The real trouble comes after the default, when Greece has to make a choice about whether it stays in the euro or it takes its chances and moves back to the drachma.

    Moving back to its former currency would allow Greek exports to be competitive again with its neighbors, especially those that cater to tourists. Across the Aegean in Turkey, GDP grew by 8.8% in the second quarter. There is no reason why Greece couldn't capture some of that tourist market if it returns to a cheap currency.

    But leaving the common currency would also lead to some nasty results. It would force Greece to raise cash to plug its budget shortfall and potentially pay yields that could run as high as 25% over German bonds, something that would probably be impossible. That would force Greece to make even larger cuts in government spending, further exacerbating its economic woes. The Greek banking system would almost certainly collapse in the changeover as the ECB would stop payments currently keeping them afloat. Without that cash infusion from the ECB, the Greek banks would be left with a massive funding gap equal to around 20% of their assets or 100 billion euros, according to an analysis by Citigroup.

    A run on the Greek banking sector would result bringing economic activity in the country to a grinding halt. Imported products would be in short supply, creating serious political and social unrest throughout the country. The ensuing collapse in the Greek banking system would send shockwaves throughout Europe. Goldman Sachs (GS) estimates that banks in the peripheral eurozone would be hit the hardest, resulting in 38 banks requiring between 30 billion and 92 billion euros. Citigroup (C) estimates that losses in Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain would trigger direct and indirect losses of $480 billion.

    By then, the ECB would need to make a hard decision. Would it wait for the politicians to get their act together or would it be the lender of last resort to all of Europe? The last time the euro debt crisis flared up earlier in the summer, threatening Italy's 1.9 trillion euro debt market, the ECB stepped in and started buying Italian and Spanish bonds. So far the purchases have been moderate, not enough to bring Italian bond yields down to where they were before the latest crisis. The ensuing melee will force the ECB to buy a massive amount of bonds to stabilize the market, tying the fate of the peripheral countries with that of the richer core members.

    This is, of course, what the core members were hoping to avoid all along. But if the euro is to survive it is clear that it needs to have a more unified economic policy. Much of the cost of this closer union will be borne by Germany, where the current government seems reluctant to take charge. That will need to change if it hopes to finally put a lid on this long-running sovereign debt crisis and move forward.

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