Watch out: Greece’s ‘endgame’ is in sight

As Greece enters a new week with no imminent signs of securing a deal with creditors to unlock much-needed aid, talk that a debt default is “inevitable” has grown.
News emerged on Monday that Greece came so close to defaulting on a 750-million-euro ($855-million) repayment to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) last week that Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, warned that the repayment could not be made without help from the European Union.

“A default event by Greece is inevitable,” Carl B. Weinberg, chief economist at High Frequency Economics, wrote in a note published Monday.

Euro zone governments are willing to lend Athens cash but only in return for strict reforms such as pension cuts, which the anti-austerity government says is a “red-line” that cannot be crossed. The stalemate has dragged on for weeks, hurting the country’s economy, business sentiment and raising the prospect of a debt default and Greece’s possible withdrawal from the single currency club.

“The only way this can end is that Greece will run out of cash,” Weinberg added. “Neither side seems prepared to turn.”

Greece has relied on cash from the European Union and IMF to pay its bills since 2010. Current negotiations focus on unlocking the last tranche of aid, worth 7.2 billion euros, before a deadline expires at the end of June.

And with further loan repayments due to the IMF next month, as well as the need for cash to pay pensions and wages, the clock is ticking for Athens.

Under pressure

Germany meanwhile maintained pressure on Greece to adopt reforms, with Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel warning that further aid would be unlikely unless Greece made some changes, Reuters reported on Monday.

“It (a default event) is on the cards, it’s been on the cards for ages but the key is this: Greece is like a horse with three broken legs. The only discussion is about who is going to shoot it,” Philippa Malmgren, founder of consultancy DRPM Group, told CNBC Europe’s “Squawk Box” Monday.

“The Germans don’t want to be seen pulling the trigger on this. Greece could commit suicide in a number of ways — they could go back to the electorate; so this issue of elections comes back on the table. They could announce they are broke but governments usually don’t like to do this.”

In recent weeks, talk of a referendum in Greece has emerged, although the idea has been ruled out by Tsipras. Analysts said that allowing the electorate to make the decision on further austerity in return for aid would take political pressure off a government elected on an anti-austerity mandate.


Craig Erlam
Based in London, England, Craig Erlam joined OANDA in 2015 as a Market Analyst. With more than five years' experience as a financial market analyst and trader, he focuses on both fundamental and technical analysis while conducting macroeconomic commentary. He has been published by The Financial Times, Reuters, the BBC and The Telegraph, and he also appears regularly as a guest commentator on Bloomberg TV, CNBC, FOX Business and BNN. Craig holds a full membership to the Society of Technical Analysts and he is recognized as a Certified Financial Technician by the International Federation of Technical Analysts.