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Europe’s ‘Lehman Moment’ Looms as Greek Debt Unravels Markets: Euro Credit

Bloomberg - June 16, 2011 - By Mark Gilbert and Liz Capo McCormick

The European Union’s failure to contain the Greek debt crisis is sending fresh shockwaves through currencies, money markets, equities and derivatives.

The euro lost more than 2 percent against the dollar in the past two days and the cost of protecting corporate bonds soared to the highest level since January, with credit-default swaps anticipating about a 78 percent chance that Greece won’t pay its debts. Equities declined around the world, while a measure of fear in fixed-income markets jumped the most since November.

Market moves suggest heightened concern that authorities won’t be able to keep Greece’s debt troubles from spreading after Moody’s Investors Service said it may downgrade BNP Paribas SA and two other big French banks because of their investments in the southern European nation. The collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. in September 2008 caused credit markets worldwide to freeze as investors fled all but the safest government debt.

“The probability of a eurozone Lehman moment is increasing,” said Neil Mackinnon, an economist at VTB Capital in London and a former U.K. Treasury official. “The markets have moved from simply pricing in a high probability of a Greek debt default to looking at a scenario of it becoming disorderly and of contagion spreading to other economies like Portugal, like Ireland, and maybe Spain, Italy and Belgium.”

New Government

Lehman’s collapse contributed to $2 trillion in writedowns and losses at the world’s biggest financial institutions, data compiled by Bloomberg show, and central banks cut interest rates to record lows as economies slipped into recession.

Markets were roiled yesterday as Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou said he would name a new government and call a vote of confidence in Parliament as he seeks to pressure rebel lawmakers to back an austerity plan that would secure a new bailout. The MSCI World (MXWO) Index fell a further 1.1 percent today, while the Swiss franc rose to a record against the euro.

For the complete article.
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