January 14, 2012 at 16:21 PM EST
Bad Signs for Greece
Greece default GreekThe latest days’ news wire has been full of bad signs for Greece. While you have to infer a bit and see implications to developments in order to say so, it’s not too far a reach to see what could be stewing for Greece this winter is not a warming trend.

Greek financial crisisOur founder earned clients a 23% average annual return over five years as a stock analyst on Wall Street. "The Greek" has written for institutional newsletters, Businessweek, Real Money, Seeking Alpha and others, while also appearing across TV and radio. While writing for Wall Street Greek, Mr. Kaminis presciently warned of the financial crisis.

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Greece May Yet Default

The latest omen came last week, when negotiations broke off between the Greek government and private bondholders. The effort is geared to liquidate about half of Greece’s private debt or 100 billion euros worth at the cost of the bondholders. It’s a lesser evil choice for the bondholders, which is only acceptable because it may help preserve the remaining portion of their investment in or loans to Greece.

This very important effort for Greece’s recovery is now also a critical step for its short-term survival. This is because it must be accomplished in order for Greece to qualify for its next tranche of aid funding from the international community. Representatives of the bondholders stated that they were stepping away in order to “pause for reflection.” The quandary is created because of math and capital markets, as the Greeks are really seeking more than the 50% cut discussed, because the effective market value of the bonds will likely drop immediately when the bond swap takes place. That said, if Greece recovers, the contract value should be approximated by market interest.

Clearly, if Greece defaults, bondholders will be left with empty hands, so Greece does have some negotiating power. However, the bondholders also know that Greece wants to avoid default and that they are needed for that process. It seems to me that whatever will satisfy the IMF is what should be adopted at this point.

Compounding the problem, Greece just reported that its budget deficit expanded in 2011 by 0.8%, to 21.64 billion euros. It was a bit better than the government’s revised forecast, but its details reflect fundamental obstacles to Greece’s economic and fiscal recovery. Despite all the government’s new taxes to lift revenues, and its expense reduction efforts, the budget still widened. That was because personal income tax collection actually softened and its ordinary budget revenue generation fell by 1.7%. Meanwhile, despite its cost cutting efforts, spending rose by 2.8% on the significantly increased debt service costs that plague the embattled nation. There should be no surprise here for readers of my column, as I’ve argued readily against the logic of harsh short-sighted austerity.

The budget deficit is supposed to have shrunk to a smaller portion of Greece’s gross domestic product. How you get there with GDP declining and the deficit rising defies my understanding. Maybe it’s European math. In any event, there’s very little here to reassure the troika nor the capital markets that Greece is making progress, and so the pressure remains.

It seems to me, given Standard & Poor’s sovereign debt slashing of much of the euro zone Friday, that it is hedging if not forecasting Greek default or some sort of unsavory result. Nine countries were downgraded in total, with the most damage done to France and Austria, which lost their top grades. Germany was spared, with its constitutional construct cited as a safety against its government’s potential for making poor decisions.

This coming week, the IMF resumes debt talks with Greece, sending a “mission team” to Athens as part of the review process. All the above discussed matters will be reviewed. Perhaps the presence of the IMF and renewed understanding of the criticality of “private sector involvement” will bring a conciliatory and cooperative tone and progress for Greece. However, the signs are bad.

Editor's Note: This article should interest investors in National Bank of Greece (NYSE: NBG), Hellenic Telecommunications (NYSE: OTE), Coca-Cola HBC (NYSE: CCH), Teekay Corp. (NYSE: TK), Navios Maritime Holdings (NYSE: NM), Navios Maritime Acquisition (NYSE: NNA), Navios Maritime Partners L.P. (NYSE: NMM), Tsakos Energy Navigation Ltd. (NYSE: TNP), Overseas Shipholding Group (NYSE: OSG), International Shipholding (NYSE: ISH), Excel Maritime Carriers (NYSE: EXM), Safe Bulkers (NYSE: SB), Claymore/Delta Global Shipping ETF (NYSE: SEA), Genco Shipping & Trading (NYSE: GNK), Diana Shipping (NYSE: DSX), Danaos (NYSE: DAC), Tsakos Energy Navigation (NYSE: TNP), Ship Finance Int'l (NYSE: SFL), Nordic American Tanker (NYSE: NAT), Seaspan (NYSE: SSW), General Maritime (NYSE: GMR), DHT Maritime (NYSE: DHT), Brunswick (NYSE: BC), Marine Products Corp. (NYSE: MPX), DryShips (Nasdaq: DRYS), Top Ships (Nasdaq: TOPS), Eagle Bulk Shipping (Nasdaq: EGLE), Sino-Global Shipping (Nasdaq: SINO), Paragon Shipping (Nasdaq: PRGN), K-SEA Transportation Partners (NYSE: KSP), Euroseas (Nasdaq: ESEA), Star Bulk Carriers (Nasdaq: SBLK), Omega Navigation (Nasdaq: ONAV), Knightsbridge Tankers Ltd. (Nasdaq: VLCCF), TBS Int'l (Nasdaq: TBSI), Golar LNG (Nasdaq: GLNG), Claymore/Delta Global Shipping (Nasdaq: XSEAX), American Commercial Lines (Nasdaq: ACLI), Deutsche Bank (NYSE: DB), ITA (Nasdaq: ITUB), Banco Santander (NYSE: STD), Westpac Banking (NYSE: WBK), UBS (NYSE: UBS), Lloyd’s Banking Group (NYSE: LYG), Barclay’s (NYSE: BCS), Credit Suisse (NYSE: CS), Allied Irish Banks (NYSE: AIB), Banco Latinamerican (NYSE: BLX), Bank of America (NYSE: BAC), Citigroup (NYSE: C), Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS), JP Morgan (NYSE: JPM), Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS), European Equity Fund (NYSE: EEA), Vanguard European Stock Index (Nasdaq: VEURX), Powershares FTSE RAFI Europe (NYSE: PEF), Europe 2001 (NYSE: EKH), S&P Emerging Europe (NYSE: GUR), Ultrashort MSCI Europe (NYSE: EPV), Vanguard Europe Pacific (NYSE: VEA), Wisdomtree Europe SmallCap (NYSE: DFE), Wisdom Tree Europe Total Div (NYSE: DEB), iShares S&P Europe 350 (NYSE: IEV), Morgan Stanley Eastern Europe (NYSE: RNE), DWS Europe Equity A (Nasdaq: SERAX), DWS Europe Equity B (Nasdaq: SERBX), Fidelity Europe (Nasdaq: FEUFX), Fidelity Europe (Nasdaq: FIEUX), ICON Europe A (Nasdaq: IERAX), Pioneer Europe Fund (Nasdaq: PBEUX), ProFunds Europe 30 (Nasdaq: UEPIX), Putnam Europe A (Nasdaq: PEUGX), Rydex Europe 1.25x (Nasdaq: RYAEX).

Please see our disclosures at the Wall Street Greek website and author bio pages found there. This article and website in no way offers or represents financial or investment advice. Information is provided for entertainment purposes only.

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