• Greece may be heading for bond market test

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    ATHENS: Greece is expected to return to the bond markets in 2018, but having secured its third bailout program Athens may test the waters by issuing a new bond as early as Monday.

    Greek newspapers have been speculating that a bond market test could come in “a matter of days”.

    “Monday is probably the day even though nothing can be taken for granted,” Avgi, the ruling Syriza party newspaper said on Saturday.

    The conservative Kathimerini newspaper reported that Athens appears willing to “take advantage of the current positive conjecture in the markets”.

    It said that markets are in a mood for taking risks right now and there are high levels of liquidity.

    It seems to be a toss-up whether Athens will take the plunge or not.

    “It is being discussed… Preparations are made for both scenarios and whatever happens we will be ready,” a source with knowledge of the government’s plans told AFP.

    Greece has no immediate need to draw money from the bond markets. The European Stability Mechanism (ESM) will keep feeding the debt-ridden country with low rate loans until the end of the bailout programme in July 2018.

    This funding gives Athens the chance to test without major risks its credibility in the capital markets after a tumultuous period of Grexit scares, hard decisions and painful reforms.

    And last week eurozone finance ministers approved the latest 8.5 billion-euro disbursement, just in time for Athens to meet major debt repayments and avert a default.

    The Greek economy nearly collapsed in 2010 under a mountain of debt and it had to be bailed out by its eurozone partners three times to prevent it bringing down the single currency bloc.

    According to European Commission figures the tide is turning for Greece. It ran a budget deficit of 15.1 percent in 2009, which had been turned into a surplus of 0.7 percent last year, and it is expected to post further progress this year as more savings are found.

    The European Union, in a further boost for Athens, recommended Wednesday that Greece has made enough progress in balancing its budget to be removed from the EU “deficit blacklist”, the special oversight of government spending.

    Also, the Eurogroup’s statement last month paves the way for Greece to return to the markets by stressing that “future disbursements should cater not only for the need to clear arrears but also to further build up cash buffers to support investors’ confidence and facilitate market access”.

    ‘Rather early’
    Some creditors also seem to be supportive of an imminent market test for Greece.

    The ESM managing director Klaus Regling said on Monday that it was “a good moment” for Greece to consider how to return to capital markets, pointing out that Ireland, Portugal and Cyprus had done so “before the end of their [bailout]program”.

    “Greece’s return to the markets is the step that everyone is waiting for,”European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Pierre Moscovici said on Wednesday.

    But other voices are cautioning Athens not to jump into the capital waters too soon.

    Bank of Greece Governor Yannis Stournaras said on Tuesday that it was “rather early” for a return to the bond markets.

    In an interview with the Wall Street Journal he said “it would be even better, for instance, if Greece proceeds with two or three emblematic privatizations in the period to come. That would be more helpful to tap markets later.”

    Also market sentiment may become volatile from September given possible changes in ECB monetary policy or in Germany’s election results, the Katherine daily noted.

    Last time Greece issued bonds was in 2014 under the coalition government of Antonis Samaras with a yield of 4.95 percent. The goal of current Prime Minister Alexis Traship is a lesser yield, according to the conservative paper.

    AFP

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