Greek Account Deficit 2011 9.9% of GDP
Greek Account Deficit 2008 14.7% of GDP
GDP estimate (3rd quarter):-7.2%
GDP estimate (2nd quarter):-6.3%
Population of Athens:
2012 estimates non-Greek immigrants at over 800,000 (legal) and 350,000+ (illegal) in Greece.
Rick Steves' Greece: Athens & the Peloponnese amazon.com
Nice interactive world map that shows the credit ratings for sovereign nations around the planet. That's right: Greece has a burning red "substantial risk" rating at present.
With national ratings and global banks all experiencing a phenomenon of credit rating 'adjustments', I don't know for how long this chart will be accurate.
Entire chart at chartbin.com
Bust: Greece, the Euro and the Sovereign Debt Crisis - By Matthew Lynn amazon.com
Greece's 'Odious' Debt: The Looting of the Hellenic Republic by the Euro, the Political Elite and the Investment Community - By Jason Manolopoulos amazon.com
Understanding the Crisis in Greece: From Boom to Bust - By Theodore Pelagidis amazon.com
The Imminent Crisis: Greek Debt and the Collapse of the European Monetary Union amazon.com
Eyewitness Greece - Athens and the Mainland - 352 Pages
"Simon O'Connor said the surplus of 1.5 billion euros ($2.1 billion), or 0.8 percent of its annual gross domestic product is "well ahead of the 2013 target which was for a balanced budget" and showing Greece is on the right track to heal its finances.
Greece's international creditors have said a primary surplus will entitle Greece to further debt relief. Discussions on those measures are set to be concluded in the second half of the year, O'Connor added.
Most governments in the 18-nation eurozone are opposed to outright forgiving any of Greece's debt and are instead though to be offering to further lower interest rates on the country's rescue loans and extend again the date by which they have to be repaid."
Good overview of the Greek situation, with a checklist of major areas of concern: banks, power, relations with the EU.
"After being locked out of private capital market for years, Greece's government has returned to private investors for bond sales. The nation tested the waters recently with a 3 billion euro bond issue with a 4.95% yield, below analyst forecasts.
Although Greece still has a long way to go, this small bond issue does show that the international markets are beginning to change their position on Greece. It will still be a long time before Greece can be free of loans from the ECB and IMF but the nation's ability to raise at least some capital from private markets could help its bargaining position in future negotiations."
"Economic turmoil in Athens has done nothing to deter foreign tourists from visiting Greece, and now property buyers, reassured that the country will keep the euro, are returning there to bag beachside bargains.
Tourist numbers in Greece are estimated to have hit a record 17.5 million during 2013, with foreign visitors attracted by the Greek sunshine, idyllic beaches, laid-back island lifestyle and affordability – all the more last season with tourist prices slashed to attract foreign money.
Things should get even better in 2014. In October, Europe’s largest holiday operator TUI, committed to further investment in Greek resorts and predicted to sell 10 per cent more holidays next summer."
"With Prime Minister Antonis Samaras saying small start-up companies can help Greece reduce the country’s record unemployment rate, the entrepreneurs he’s counting on say their businesses won’t produce enough jobs to make a difference.
The jobless rate is hovering around 27.6 percent, and as been as high as almost 65 percent for those under 25 percent, with many of the young giving up and fleeing to other countries for work and a new life as Greece endures a crushing economic crisis.
Samaras last year said he was going to unveil a program this January to put 75,000 young back to work but then never said anything else about it.
Greece needs small companies specializing in the “new economy” to help spark growth, Samaras said this month at a startup industry event in Athens he attended with German Chancellor Angela Merkel."
"In addition to the two planes slated for Athens, Ryanair also announced they’ll launch a dedicated Greek website by the end of April dedicated to Greek travelers.
One aspect of tourism that negatively affects Greece and the out islands is the cost and infrequency of flights to places like Crete and Rhodes. Ryanair’s recent Chania direct flights from the UK are already proving to be something of a boom for businesses in that western Crete city."
"Remaking the political landscape
Its first bond offering in four years, seen as a test of confidence, did much better than expected. Tourists are flocking in for Easter; hoteliers predict a record 19m visitors will come this year. One long-blocked resort project on Crete seems poised to go ahead, raising hopes that foreign investment may flow into other industries such as electricity and ports. Angela Merkel, the German chancellor and often one of Greece’s harshest critics, spoke encouragingly to young Greek entrepreneurs during a quick visit to Athens on April 11th.
Yet the new optimism does not seem to be trickling down to most voters. Unemployment fell slightly in January, but still stood at 26.7%. The social safety-net is stretched so thin that only one in ten of the unemployed gets any benefits. Private-sector workers complain of being paid months in arrears. An estimated 35% of Greeks now live in poverty, according to social workers and charities."
"National Bank of Greece (NBG) (NBGr.AT) was set to be the fourth Greek lender to tap international markets through a share offering on Wednesday after plans were approved for it to raise up to 2.5 billion euros ($3.5 billion) to boost its core capital.
The country's largest bank by assets got the go-ahead from bank bailout fund and 84 percent shareholder HFSF to seize a window of opportunity to raise funds as foreign investors warm to the debt-laden country's recovery prospects.
The bank has picked Goldman Sachs (GS.N) and Morgan Stanley (MS.N) as global coordinators for the issue, which will be offered to foreign institutional investors via a book-building next month."
"Shares of the Global X FTSE Greece 20 ETF (GREK) are off nearly 4% Tuesday on volume that is 83% above the daily average on news of a secondary offering from National Bank of Greece (NBG).
National Bank of Greece is GREK’s ninth-largest holding with a weight of 4.3%. The $222.3 million ETF allocates 19.5% of its weight to financial services stocks, the fund’s largest sector weight, according to Global X data."
"Greece’s full return to international market is highly improbable, according to a report submitted by economists to the German Ministry of Economics and Technology.
As reported, Greece will remain mired in recession in 2014, while the unemployment rate is not expected to start falling until 2016. The German economists estimate that Greece will need a new bailout package."
"Cementing its credentials as an unapologetic neo-Nazi force, Greece's increasingly combative Golden Dawn party has hailed Hitler as a "great personality" and denounced homosexuality as a "sickness".
In a rare interview with a foreign media outlet before May's European elections, the Golden Dawn MP Ilias Panagiotaros told the Australian current affairs show 60 Minutes the group was involved in an "extremely ugly [war]" and that "in every period of time, there must be, there are, some people who are doing the dirty work".
When asked about Hitler, Panagiotaros, who is widely seen as the organisation's chief overseas strategist, described him as a "great personality, like Stalin".
"Greece's successful return to bond markets is the most recent in a series of "positive messages" for the economy that included the country posting a record year for tourism and forecasting an even stronger 2014, Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni said.
"We have left the big difficulties behind us," Kefalogianni said in an interview on Monday. "The trend is now turning and we’ll see the Greek economy start recovering this year."
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has called the tourist industry, which accounts for about one sixth of gross domestic product, "the first locomotive that started and began to pull our economy out of a painful six-year recession."
"Greece’s successful return to bond markets is the most recent in a series of “positive messages” for the economy that included the country posting a record year for tourism and forecasting an even stronger 2014, Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni said.
“We have left the big difficulties behind us,” Kefalogianni said in an interview yesterday. “The trend is now turning and we’ll see the Greek economy start recovering this year.”
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has called the tourist industry, which accounts for about one sixth of gross domestic product, “the first locomotive that started and began to pull our economy out of a painful six-year recession.” Greece successfully tapped debt markets last week for the first time in four years, selling 3 billion euros ($4 billion) in five-year bonds."
"Most Greeks know the term vicious cycle — or favlos kyklos. But when you ask them the Greek phrase for virtuous cycle, they often struggle to find the term or even deny it exists.
After six years of recession, which have shrunk the Greek economy by a quarter and left the country with an unemployment rate of 27 percent, it is not surprising that vicious cycles loom large in the Greek psyche. But there is also a Greek expression for virtuous cycle — enaretos kyklos — and the country may be beginning to enjoy one.
...the big question is whether Mr. Samaras will implement fully the 300 actions he has agreed to with his euro zone partners and the International Monetary Fund. These are mainly to do with modernizing the country and liberalizing the economy."
"Greece’s GDP shrank by 40 billion euros between 2010 and 2013 to 182 billion euros, and public debt amounted to 175% of that figure, or 318.7 billion euros, according to a Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) report forwarded to Eurostat as notification of the excessive deficit procedure (EDP) for 2014."
"While the financial world is celebrating the Greek return to the bond markets, I am asking myself this question: is this a good time for Greece to default on its foreign debt? It is not a subject of polite conversion in Brussels or Athens. Nor does it appear to be a popular subject for investors’ conferences.
For the first time since the crisis Greece is in a position to default. It has a primary budget surplus – before interest payments. The European Commission has forecast the primary surplus to reach 2.7 per cent of gross domestic product this year, rising to 4.1 per cent in 2015. The Greek current account registered a first surplus. Greece is no longer dependent on foreign investors.
... If I can discern any strategy in the official eurozone policy towards Greece, I would describe it this way: let’s generate a massive financial investment bubble and hope some of the money trickles down into the real economy eventually."
"Eurobank will be the third Greek lender after Alpha Bank (ACBr.AT) and Piraeus (BOPr.AT) to tap capital markets to bolster it equity this year, as signs that Greece is starting to recover from its severe debt crisis are luring foreign investors back to battered Greek assets.
Athens returned to the bond market on Thursday after a four-year exile, raising 3.0 billion euros with a five-year bond that was snapped up by foreign investors.
Alpha Bank and Piraeus raised a combined 2.95 billion euros last month.
Eurobank, with a market value of 2.47 billion euros and 95 percent owned by the HFSF bank rescue fund, will proceed with a combined offering of new shares to international and domestic investors."
"The journey has been an epic one, but Greece has reached, if not the destination, at least a waymark. The last time that its government raised long-term funds was in March 2010, just weeks before the markets lost confidence in Greece altogether, forcing its first bail-out. This week the Greek government returned to the markets, raising €3 billion ($4.1 billion) in five-year bonds at a yield of just under 5% in a heavily oversubscribed issue.
...The scale of the rescue effort was made necessary by the delay in recognising that Greece was bust and needed a debt restructuring; much of the early official lending was used to repay private creditors as the bonds they held matured. In early 2012 Greece did carry out such a restructuring, wiping out over €100 billion of government debt. Despite this relief, the crisis intensified. In two nail-bitingly close elections held in the summer of 2012, the country came close to a catastrophic “Grexit” from the single currency."
"German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived in Athens for a brief visit on Friday, amid a wave of optimism among Greek and European officials over the country's successful return to bond markets this week.
But the German leader remains a contested figure in Greece, having been among the most vocal supporters of painful austerity policies — and security was tight. Police banned protests across most of central Athens, and deployed some 5,000 officers across the capital.
...During a visit in 2012, the German chancellor had been greeted by mass anti-austerity protests that turned violent. Security this time was also tightened further after a powerful car bomb exploded early Thursday outside the Bank of Greece, causing damage but no injuries. Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras in a newspaper article criticized the cordon, saying Merkel would not get a sense of the impact of the austerity measures she supported."
"Greece has made a faster return to the international bond market than many thought possible. Four years ago, self-appointed experts (and the markets) predicted the debt-ridden economy would crash out of the eurozone. Two years ago Athens undertook the biggest sovereign debt restructuring in history. Now it has successfully raised its own debt on very favourable terms.
....Greece currently pays just under 2 per cent interest on official loans. One way to look at this week’s bond issue is that Athens chose to pay a 3 per cent premium to recover some sovereignty from the troika. A big question for bondholders is therefore what the motivation is for incurring this cost.
An optimistic explanation is that the coalition simply wishes to use the market’s approbation to secure public support for completing the necessary tough policies. The patient is resigned to taking the medicine, troika or no troika."
"The country's desire to issue the bond, its first longer-term debt sale since its international bailout in 2010, was well known. But details of the planned offering and indications of healthy investor appetite spurred a rally Wednesday in Greece's existing securities. The yield on the 10-year Greek bond fell 0.26 percentage point, to close at 5.837%, according to Tradeweb. Yields fall as prices rise.
The new sale is expected to close Thursday, the day before German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives for a visit. Bankers working on the transaction said investors intended to place more than €11 billion ($15.2 billion) of orders. The banks themselves account for €1.3 billion of that. People familiar with the matter said Greece could raise €2.5 billion from the sale.
The bond, which will mature in five years, is likely to pay investors a return close to 5%, bankers said."
"An anniversary approaches: Nearly four years ago, Greece was bailed out.
It was never meant to happen. Under the treaty setting up the eurozone, countries were protected from having to take on the debts of others.
...So the Greek experiment - to save the single currency - is unprecedented in modern times.
The improving statistics should not be ignored or discounted but neither should the new poor, a lost generation, the thousands of Greeks who have left for Australia and Canada. That, too, is part of the Greek story."
"Klaus Regling, head of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), told the weekly newspaper To Vima it was «natural» that Greece wanted to test the markets, but warned it to not pay too steep a yield, to avoid increasing its debt load.
...Athens aims to raise about 2 billion euros' worth of five-year bonds, according to banking and government sources.
Greece initially planned to return to bond markets with a small test issue in the second half of the year, after more tangible evidence that its ongoing, six-year recession is over."
"The Getty Museum has announced that it is voluntarily returning a 12th-century Byzantine illuminated New Testament to a monastery in Greece after learning that the item had been illegally removed from the Monastery of Dionysiou more than 50 years ago.
Officials at the Getty said in a release on Monday that the museum acquired the manuscript in 1983 as part of a "large, well-documented" collection."
"Almost four years exactly since Greece became the first euro zone country to seek an EU-IMF bailout, there is nonetheless a tentative sense that its economy might just be turning a corner.
Last Sunday’s vote – which covered everything from the liberalisation of the dairy industry to anti-corruption clauses – unlocked the final major tranche of bailout loans under the second Greek bailout after six months of negotiation between the troika and the government. Some €6.3 billion of the €8.3 billion tranche will be released before May in time for a €9.3 billion debt repayment cliff, with a further set of smaller tranches scheduled in the summer.
The government has said it hopes to avoid a third bailout when the EU’s portion of the money comes to an end in December, though euro group head Jeroen Dijsselbloem was cautious on Tuesday, saying a decision would not be made until later in the year."
"Having finally struck a deal with the EU and IMF to keep bailout loans flowing, Athens is preparing to dip its toe back into the bond market with a five-year bond for up to 2 billion euros.
The government has not said when the syndicated issue might be launched but having mandated banks for the sale the likelihood is sooner rather than later. It’s a remarkably quick return two years after a debt restructuring which was essentially a default.
Today, there could be more good news. Moody’s will review its credit rating of Greece and it is possible that an upgrade – or a signal of future intention to do so – could be forthcoming. Moody’s upped Greece two notches to Caa3 late last year but it remains deep, deep in junk territory. It also has some catching up to do. Both S&P and Fitch already rate Greece three notches higher.
The finance minister told us this week that Greece expects to fund itself unaided in 2016 and return to economic growth this year. Yannis Stournaras said Athens did not need additional financing beyond its current bailout for the next year and hoped it would not need fresh aid for the year after that. But by running a primary budget surplus it could be eligible for further debt relief from its euro zone partners which may take the form of extending repayment terms on existing bailout loans and lowering interest rates rather than injecting fresh funds."
"Euro zone finance ministers, meeting in Athens under tight security on Tuesday, approved the release of 8.3 billion euros in rescue loans to Greece, pointing to signs that the country is emerging from its economic crisis.
“It has been an arduous process, but now we have a positive outcome,” Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch finance minister and head of the Eurogroup of finance ministers, said at a news conference in Athens announcing loans worth $11.5 billion.
In light of recent street demonstrations by Greeks protesting the belt-tightening measures that have been necessary to keep the bailout money flowing, security in Athens was stepped up for the event. The police banned demonstrations in much of the city center, and helicopters circled the site where foreign dignitaries were gathered."
"Greece could be on the verge of making one of the fastest market comebacks of a defaulted sovereign ever recorded.
To the surprise of doomsayers who just two years ago reckoned its debts were so big that only a return to a devalued drachma could save it from decades of ruin, Greece is now mulling a five-year bond sale within the next three months, according to a finance ministry official.
The plan to return to capital markets just over 24 months after its debt restructuring amounted to default appears to make little sense on paper.
Estimates of Greece's potential market borrowing costs over five years range from 3.25 percent to 6.5 percent - indicating that even the most optimistic scenario is more than double the roughly 1.5 percent cost of borrowing from the European Union."
"U.S. investors are adding money into European equity markets that suffered the most in the 2011 debt crisis, helping propel stocks from Greece to Italy to this year’s biggest gains.
Benchmarks indexes in Greece, Portugal and Italy have surged at least 14 percent this year, posting the best performances by developed markets. Assets increased $18 million to $21 million for a U.S.-listed exchange-traded fund tracking the FTSE Portugal 20 Index in the first quarter, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Traders added $102 million to a security that follows Greece’s ASE Index, while piling in to ETFs tracking indexes in Italy and Spain. Money held in funds that replicate German and French equity gauges dropped."
"Greece's parliament stripped legal immunities from five lawmakers from the far-right Golden Dawn party on Wednesday, clearing the way for another round of criminal charges against its members."
"Migrants and asylum-seekers detained in Greece are being forced to endure deplorable conditions, often with devastating effects on their health, according to a report from aid agency Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).
Doctors who have attended internment camps, police stations and coastguard facilities around the country described "a living hell" for thousands of immigrants denied fresh air, natural light and basic sanitation."
Image appeared on the google.com websites December 2, 2013 to mark the birthday of famed Greek soprano opera singer Maria Callas.
Greece, said Artistotle, is geographically intermediate, between Europe, apparently incapable of civilisation, and south-west Asia, where where only the King of Persia was fully a free man; and the Mean, or medium, to him was the best. Modern geologists add that the Aegean basin is a slab of the earth's crust which has sunk and tipped, leaving only a rim (the Greek peninsula and Crete) and mountain tops (the other islands) above sea-level.
Greece can therefore support a population, on its small though fertile plains, only much smaller than that of the adjacent slab of Asia Minor; a fact which affects the whole of Greek history. Greater wealth must be found overseas, by trade of colonization; and when adjacent powers in Italy or Asia are strong, Greece is threatened. Persia attempted conquest; Rome, the Franks and Turkey achieved it.
On the other hand, Greece enjoys, with its variety of scenery, clear air and summer heat tempered by north winds, an intensely stimulating environment; and when free, three times it has produced great art: the bronze-age Minoan-Mycenaean, the Classical and the Byzantine; all completely different, all unique."
From The Living Past of Greece: A Time-traveller's tour of historic and prehistoric places, by A. R. and Mary Burn. Published by Little, Brown and Company. 1980. Quote from page 9.