The ECB turns the screw on Greece, proposing to increase haircuts for Greek banks accessing ELA funds

Post originally appeared on Zerohedge.

Things for insolvent, cashless Greece are – not unexpectedly – getting worse by the day.

Following yesterday’s shocking decree that the government will confiscate local government reserves and “sweep” them into the central bank to provide the country more funds as it approaches another month of heavy IMF repayments, earlier today Bloomberg reported that the ECB would add insult to injury and may increase haircuts for Greek banks accessing Emergency Liquidity Assistance, thus “reining in” the very critical emergency liquidity which has kept Greek banks operating in recent weeks as the bank run sweeping the domestic banking sector has gotten worse by the day.

ECB staff have proposed increasing the discounts imposed on the securities banks post as collateral when borrowing from the Bank of Greece, the people said, asking not to be named as the matter is private. While adjusting these so-called haircuts hasn’t been formally discussed by the Governing Council, it may be considered if Greece’s leaders fail to quickly convince euro-area finance ministers they can reform their economy and secure bailout funds, one of the people said. Greek bank stocks slid.

According to Bloomberg, the ECB staff proposal lays out three options to reduce central-bank risk: “the scenarios envisage returning haircuts to the level before late last year, when the ECB eased its collateral requirements for Greece; to set them at 75 percent; or to set them at 90 percent. The latter two options could be applied if Greece is in an “orderly default” under a formal ECB program or a “disorderly default,” CNBC said, without further elaborating on those terms.

Any reduction in ELA availability would be devastating to Greece, where depositors continue to pull cash from banks accounts to the tune of several hundred million euro every week, and the central bank “seeks to match the outflow with ELA. The Bank of Greece keeps a buffer of around 3 billion euros of ELA allowance in reserve, to give it time to react to a possible bank run, one of the officials said.”

Any reduction in this buffer would lead to a self-fulfilling bank run prophecy and accelerate the deposit flight to the point where the local banks are forced to halt operations, and Greece is forced to replace the “soft” capital controls already rolled out with “hard” ones.

To restrict or veto ELA funding, which is provided at the Greek central bank’s own risk with consent from Frankfurt, a two-thirds majority of the Governing Council is necessary. A growing minority is opposed to continuing to provide the assistance indefinitely, one of the people said.

And while the date of the next ECB governing council is May 6, the locals aren’t waiting around: as the following chart shows, the prices on Greek government bonds just tumbled to a record low.


The Greek sovereign debt isn’t doing any better:


Meanwhile, the reality is that for a majority of the Greek population, none of this really matters because as Greek Ta Nea reports, citing Labor Ministry data, about one million Greek workers see delays of up to 5 months in salaries payment by their employers. The Greek media adds that about 45% of salaried workers in Greece make no more than €751 per month, country’s old minimum wage; which also includes part-time workers.

So will the Greeks just ignore macro developments as their country slides into insolvency oblivion? Perhaps not: according to the latest Skai TV poll, fewer than half of Greeks, or 45.5%, said that the government’s strategy in negotiations with creditors is correct, down from 55.5% in late March, and a plunge from the 72% in early February.  Also notable: the number of Greeks who say the strategy is outright wrong rose to 39.5% vs 27.5% in late March, and 22.5% in early February.

If and when wages are withheld long enough, and the bank capital controls are officially enforced, and when the majority of the population finally turns soure on its idealized image of the new “radical left” regime, and demands a new government, only then will the Troika succeed. Or rather it will succeed only if the Syriza government is replaced with another one made up of former Goldman employees and various Troika-friendly technocrats.

If the replacements come from the neo-nazi Golden Dawn then all bets are off.


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