Europe unfazed by S&P slash

Standard & Poor’s cut Greece’s long-term ratings late on Monday to “selective default,” the second ratings agency after Fitch to proceed with a widely expected downgrade after Athens announced a bond swap plan to lighten its debt burden last week.

The SD rating is set to last for just a short period and is due to the collective action clauses (CACs) Greece has introduced, the agency specified. “It is a distinct possibility that this is a short-term default that will be corrected,” S&P analyst Moritz Kraemer stated.

The third major ratings agency, Moody’s, is set to follow suit. In this context, an Institute of International Finance (IIF) confidential report seen by Die Welt says that Greece is expected to take a long time to return to the markets following its bond haircut.

After suspending the eligibility of Greek bonds for use as collateral on Tuesday, the European Central Bank suggested that the Bank of Greece would have to help local lenders via the emergency liquidity assistance system (ELA) until the 35-billion-euro support package from the European Financial Stability Facility is activated, at which point Greek bonds would again be eligible in principle. “This is expected to take place by mid-March,” said the ECB.

Eurogroup chief Jean-Claude Juncker said that euro-area member states had taken measures to make instruments issued by the Greek government eligible for collateral in monetary policy operations. “I look forward to a high participation of private creditors in the PSI operation and take note of S&P’s intention to upgrade the lower ratings following the settlement of the bond exchange,” he said.

The International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA) will convene on Wednesday to decide whether the Greek bond swap and the CACs should trigger a credit default swap (CDS) payout.

One of its members has argued that Greece does not treat all bondholders in an equal fashion as the ECB and other national central banks are not taking part in the haircut. 

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