The first domino is Greece. It owes nearly $10 billion to Portuguese banks, and with Portugal already falling two notches in S. & P.’s ratings and facing higher borrowing costs, a default by Greece would be a staggering blow. Portugal, in turn, owes $86 billion to banks in Spain; Spain’s debt was downgraded one notch last week.
The numbers quickly mount. Ireland is heavily indebted to Germany and Britain. The exposure of German banks to Spanish debt totals $238 billion, according to the Bank for International Settlements, while French banks hold another $220 billion. And Italy, whose finances are perennially shaky, is owed $31 billion by Spain and owes France $511 billion, or nearly 20 percent of the French gross domestic product.
“This is not a bailout of Greece,” said Eric Fine, who manages Van Eck G-175 Strategies, a hedge fund specializing in currencies and emerging market debt. “This is a bailout of the euro system.”
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
The Threat of Euro Contagion
Nelson D. Schwartz had a great piece in the New York Times a few days ago that showed how susceptible the entire Eurozone would be to a Greek default. Here are the key paragraphs: