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2011-07-23

Euro Zone “Armageddon” Avoided?

“We have been pulled back from the abyss. Euro- zone Armageddon does thankfully seem to have been avoided.”

Those were the words of Simon Ballard, a strategist at RBC Capital Markets in London, following yesterday’s European summit on Greece. At the meeting, policymakers pledged to provide the debt-strapped nation with additional bailout funds and expand the scope of measures used to prevent the sovereign debt crisis from spreading further to other members of the PIIGS.

At least in the short term, financial markets appear to agree with Ballard. Credit default swaps on Greek debt plummeted on Friday by 500 basis points to a six-week low 1,500, the largest single-day drop on record, according to a Bloomberg report. A move lower indicates less perceived risk of a default.

The report noted that “Europe’s leaders announced 159 billion euros ($229 billion) of new aid for Greece, including a pledge by banks to exchange and buy back the nation’s debt which may result in a short-term default. Even so, the International Swaps & Derivatives Association told Bloomberg News the plan ‘should not trigger’ insurance contracts on Greece because the exchange would be ‘expressly voluntary.’ ”

It went on to say that “Swaps on Greece are down from an all-time high of 2,568 basis points on that same day, and still signal a 72 percent chance the nation will default within five years, according to CMA. That was approaching a 90 percent probability earlier this month.”

David Geen, ISDA’s general counsel in London, stated in an e-mailed response to questions that “Since this is expressly voluntary, it should not trigger CDS. Also, since it is at this stage simply a proposal, there is nothing yet to raise to the determinations committee — though that may not stop someone trying.”

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