Business World

Wednesday 21 February 2018

Greece crisis: Stocks reverse losses as investors keep faith in deal

A man walks by anti-International Monetary Fund graffiti in central Athens yesterday.
A man walks by anti-International Monetary Fund graffiti in central Athens yesterday.

European stocks reversed early losses on Tuesday and yields on lower-rated euro zone bonds fell as investors reassessed the collapse of Greek debt talks and focused on the prospects of a deal.

The euro also recovered from early losses to rise against the dollar after Monday's breakdown of talks between Greece and euro zone finance ministers. Initial declines on equity markets were modest.

"For now, we assume that logic will prevail and this movie won't end in disaster," said Paul O’Connor, co-head of the multi-asset desk at Henderson Global Investors.

Both sides raised the possibility of another attempt to find common ground before the end of this week. The European Central Bank is set to decide on Wednesday whether to maintain emergency lending to Greek banks, and the Greek state faces some heavy loan repayments in March.

Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who chairs the group of euro zone ministers, gave Athens until Friday to request an extension of its current bailout, which would otherwise expire at the end of the month.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 .FTEU3 equity index opened lower but was last up just under 0.1 percent.

Greek stocks underperformed. The volatile ATG main Athens share index .ATG was down 2.8 percent, after earlier dropping more than 4 percent and then briefly turning positive.

Yields on three-year Greek government bonds GR0029312=TWEB rose 130 basis points to 19.04 percent and 10-year yields GR10YT=TWEB rose 66 bps to 10.58 percent.

"The risk of a collapse is more elevated now because time is running out," said Patrick Jacq, rate strategist at BNP Paribas. "This is putting Greek government bonds under pressure, but contagion effects will remain relatively limited ... Eventually a deal is likely to be reached."

Yields on lower-rated euro zone debt edged lower, suggesting no fear of an imminent break-up of the bloc. Italian 10-year bonds IT10YT=TWEB yielded 1.62 percent, down 1.8 basis points.

Without support from creditors, the Greek government and banks face a funding crunch. That might lead to Greece's becoming the first country to ditch the euro and re-introduce its own currency.

The MSCI all-country world stocks index .MIWD00000PUS was down 0.1 percent, after touching its highest since September on Monday.

Japan's Nikkei share average .N225 and MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS both dipped 0.1 percent.

The euro EUR= traded weaker against the dollar in early European trade but later picked up to $1.1388, up 0.3 percent on the day but well shy of Monday's high of $1.1429.

"The market has witnessed this before -- it remembers the brinkmanship during the Greek debt negotiations of 2011," said Kyosuke Suzuki, director of forex at Societe Generale in Tokyo. "There are only nine trading days left until the Feb. 28 deadline, but some see that as enough time. Thus we are not seeing the euro sold in panic."

In commodities markets, Brent crude LCOc1 extended its recent rally and last traded at $61.97 a barrel as the International Energy Agency warned of supply risks in the Middle East, although some analysts said that prices had risen too far from the six-year lows hit in January.

The crude rally helped support the Russian rouble RUB=, which also benefited from political efforts to make a ceasefire hold in eastern Ukraine, although gains were capped by doubts about whether the ceasefire would hold.


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