Imminent Greek default fears ease in markets

By Pan Pylas

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, June 16 2011 10:10 a.m. MDT

A man strolls outside a securities firm in Tokyo Thursday, June 16, 2011. Japan's Nikkei 225 stock fell 1.7 percent to end at 9,411.28 Thursday as world stocks tumbled, hammered by continuing fears that Europe's debt crisis could spiral out of control and worries over China's economy.

Junji Kurokawa, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

LONDON — Concerns over an imminent Greek debt default eased Thursday, helping stocks in Europe clamber off lows and relieving pressure on the euro, but fears over the country's predicament are likely to keep investors on edge for a while to come.

Some of the near-term pressure on Greece was lifted by comments from Olli Rehn, the EU's Monetary Affairs Commissioner, who said Greece was likely to get the next batch of money from a €110 billion ($155 billion) international bailout package even without Greek parliamentary approval for new austerity measures. That money — €12 billion ($17 billion) — should be enough for Greece to pay creditors up through September.

Rehn's comments were echoed by the International Monetary Fund.

For now, that was enough to help European markets recover most of their earlier losses and Wall Street even edged higher.

In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares closed down 0.8 percent to 5,698.81 while Germany's DAX fell 0.1 percent to 7,110.20. The CAC-40 in France ended 0.4 percent lower at 3,792.31.

In the U.S., the Dow Jones industrial average was up 0.6 percent at 11,972 while the broader Standard & Poor's 500 index rose an equivalent rate to 1,274.

On Wednesday, stocks tumbled due to violent protests on the streets of Athens and a failed deal to form a Greek coalition government to pass the spending cuts and tax hikes.

Prime Minister George Papandreou on Thursday tamped down a revolt in his governing Socialist party and confirmed he would undertake a Cabinet reshuffle in an effort to get the austerity measures passed through Parliament.

Hopes that Greece will avoid a quick default also alleviated the selling pressure on the euro, which had earlier fallen below $1.41 for the first time in three weeks. By late afternoon London time, the euro was down around 0.2 percent at $1.4143.

Analysts said the mood in the markets still remains at the mercy of developments in Greece.

The big worry centers on the prospects for a second Greek bailout — and the yield on Greece's two-year bonds spiked above 30 percent for the first time ever Thursday while the 10-year equivalent remained near to all-time highs around 18 percent.

Rehn said discussions over a second bailout for Greece will be delayed until July as key European policymakers are at loggerheads over how to get private creditors to share the pain, a move experts say could be considered a default.

The European Central Bank warns that forcing losses on private creditors could pummel banks in Greece and throughout Europe, triggering a financial chain reaction. Investors could become convinced that other bailout recipients Ireland and Portugal will be next to default.

Even if a second bailout is granted to Greece, many analysts think the road will still end in default, and some even wonder if Greece will stay in the 17-nation eurozone.

"While an additional bailout package may stave off near-term disaster, a major debt restructuring seems inevitable at some point and Greece's future in the currency union is looking ever more doubtful," said Jonathan Loynes, chief international economist at Capital Economics.

Earlier in Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 stock fell 1.7 percent to end at 9,411.28 while South Korea's Kospi fell 1.9 percent to close at 2,046.63. Hong Kong's Hang Seng dropped 1.5 percent to 21,953.11.

Mainland Chinese shares slipped as liquidity was constrained by the central government's latest order to banks to raise the level of deposits they must hold as reserves, to a record 21.5 percent, as of June 20.

The Shanghai Composite Index fell 1.5 percent to close at 2,664.28 while the Shenzhen Composite Index fell 1.9 percent to end at 1,097.17. Shares in expressways and coal miners weakened.

Benchmark crude for July delivery was up 5 cents to $94.88 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Wednesday. The contract slid $4.56 as jitters over Greece's debt crisis ratcheted higher.

Kelvin Chan in Hong Kong contributed to this report.

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