Greece will be thrust back into the spotlight this week as the country faces a series of tests that could put further pressure on eurozone bond markets already under strain from banking problems in Ireland.
The first hurdle comes on Monday as Eurostat, the Commission’s audit unit, is set to revise upwards Greece’s 2009 budget deficit figure to about 15.3 per cent of gross domestic product from the current estimate of 13.6 per cent of GDP.
This could spark a sell-off in the Greek and other peripheral bond markets as investors are increasingly nervous about the ability of the weaker eurozone economies to turn round their economies and restore growth.
David Owen, chief European financial economist at Jefferies, the investment bank, said: “We may be in for another rocky ride this week. The lack of growth and the problem of contagion, or worries that the crisis in the peripheral economies will spread to other economies, are very serious concerns for investors and the markets.
“If investors start to sell bonds of Spain and Italy in the way they have been selling Greek, Irish and Portuguese bonds, then the crisis will take on a whole new dimension.”
After last week’s turbulence, which was mainly centred on Ireland, investors are increasingly unsure about how the crisis will unfold, in spite of reassurances from policymakers that eurozone bondholders would not be hit by losses from potential sovereign defaults until at least 2013.
The “troika” – representatives from the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund – are also in Greece on Monday to start a monetary mission to assess progress with fiscal and structural reforms agreed in return for a €110bn bail-out last May.
The EU-IMF mission will examine unsettling statistics on the budget deficit and public debt, which is expected to rise as a result of revisions from 115 per cent to 127 per cent of GDP.
The 2011 budget, due to be presented to parliament on Thursday, will include an extra €4.5bn ($6.2bn) of “catch-up” spending cuts to keep fiscal consolidation on track.
George Papandreou, prime minister, on Saturday reiterated that reductions would be achieved without sacking public sector workers, reducing wages and pensions or further increasing taxes.
Finance ministry officials said the bulk of the savings, which amount to 2 percentage points of GDP, would come from cost-cutting at public sector corporations, state hospitals and local government.
Greece will also auction €300m of 13-week bonds on Tuesday to complete its borrowing programme for the year, the country’s debt managers said on Friday.
Another jump in yields is expected amid concerns over Ireland’s debt crisis and a spate of negative news on the Greek economy, analysts said.
Yields rose 0.28 percentage points to 4.82 per cent at last week’s auction of six-month paper. Domestic investors bought 75 per cent of the €390m issue.
Greece has raised almost €6bn – outperforming its €4bn fourth-quarter target – since launching monthly auctions of three- and six-month debt last September.
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