Is Greece irrelevant?

February 17, 2015 09:40 AM

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Stephen Kirkland is a reporter with Bloomberg News. 

The euro strengthened while declines in Greek bonds failed to push yields to record highs as markets showed little panic after talks between Greece and its creditors broke down. European stocks were little changed and the yen weakened.

“The market is clearly betting on a solution being found,” said Peter Kinsella, a senior foreign-exchange strategist at Commerzbank AG in London. “It’s complacent beyond belief.”

While the yield on Greece’s three-year notes rose for a second day to 18.34%, it’s below the 21.91% rate reached on Feb. 10, which was the highest since the nation’s debt was restructured in 2012. German investor confidence climbed to one-year high before the European Central Bank is scheduled to start its bond-buying program next month.

The euro gained 0.6% to $1.1419 at 8:40 a.m. in New York. The yen fell against all but one of its 16 major peers. Greek three-year note yields rose 76 basis points, while Portugal’s 10-year rate approached a record low. Ten-year Treasury yields slid three basis points to 2.02% after earlier falling as much as five basis points. The Stoxx Europe 600 Index slipped 0.1% and Standard & Poor’s 500 Index futures lost 0.2%. Oil advanced in London.

“Investors and analysts seem to be quite complacent and are still expecting a positive outcome,” said Christian Lenk, a fixed-income analyst at DZ Bank AG in Frankfurt. “The market seems to be confident in terms of the two parties finding a solution in upcoming days. What’s interesting is the quite relaxed attitude investors have to the periphery. The domino effect everybody had been fearing is much weaker now.”

In the U.S., economic data showed manufacturing in the New York area grew at a slower pace in February. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s general economic index fell to 7.78, below economist estimates for a level of 8. Positive readings signal expansion in New York, northern New Jersey and southern Connecticut.

Meeting Halted

Talks stopped in Brussels after Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis refused to meet demands that his country request an extension of its existing bailout program. Greece has until the end of this week to request an extension of its bailout program it it wants an agreement in place before the current financial backstop expires, Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem said.

With no deal, the government could run out of money by March and be forced to choose between breaking election promises or abandoning the euro.

Greece’s 10-year yield climbed 45 basis points to 10.11%. It reached 44.21% in 2012 in the run-up to the biggest debt restructuring in history.

Credit-default swaps insuring $10 million of Greek government debt for five years rose by $200,000 to $4.4 million upfront and $100,000 annually, signaling a 71% probability of default, according to CMA.

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