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Banking

Greece spirals out of control

Rating gets junked by S&P; EU and IMF likely to provide fully-funded support but market increasingly believes a future default is inevitable

Greece grabbed the headlines back from Goldman Sachs yesterday when its credit rating was cut to below investment grade by Standard & Poor’s. Stock and bond markets took fright at the news, with the contagion spreading fast to other troubled European countries such as Spain and Portugal.

The pace of events surrounding Greece’s financial situation has reached staggering levels for a developed market country. Only last Friday, the Greek government activated a €30 billion lifeline that it was still negotiating with the EU, which was set to grow to €45 billion after a contribution from the IMF.

It was supposed to bring some calm to the market, but it had the opposite effect. The situation was further exacerbated yesterday when Standard & Poor’s cut their credit rating by three steps to BB+, and warned investors that should its debt need to be restructured, investors would likely recover between 30% and 50% of their initial investment.

That saw the Greek two-year yield rise to 23% today, from about 4.3% just a month ago, and Greece’s securities regulator today imposed a two-month ban on short sales on the Athens Stock Exchange.

With Greece now completely shut out of the bond markets, in reality the cut to junk status is redundant.

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