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World Week Ahead: Last roll of dice for Greece

Monday 13th February 2012

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Investors are once again reminded they shouldn't count their chickens until they're hatched.

The fate of Greece within the euro zone appears set to be decided within days. Time has run out. The Greeks have no one to blame but themselves, seemingly unable to agree on the measures demanded by their partners to avoid a costly default for the debt-laden nation.

Prime Minister Lucas Papademos has made it clear that failure of the Greek parliament to approve the bailout, as is, will result in a catastrophe. A vote is expected today or tomorrow. 

With pessimism rising and volatility too, financial markets on both sides of the Atlantic on Friday suffered, ending the positive start for the year.

In the past five days, Europe's Stoxx 600 Index shed 1.3 percent. The Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 0.5 percent, while the Standard & Poor's 500 Index dropped 0.2 percent—its first weekly fall this year, according to Bloomberg.

Wednesday marks the final EU deadline for the Greeks to secure approval from EU finance ministers for the bailout funds which they desperately need to repay debt due in March.   

"We have a very stretched timetable, so if there's no agreement on Wednesday any Greek deal would be in dangerous territory," Thomas Costerg, European Economist at Standard Chartered Bank, told Reuters.

Per Hansen, senior equity strategist at Silkeborg, Denmark-based Jyske Bank, agreed.

"If Greece comes out now and says it will no longer play along and chooses to default, that may trigger a drop in European equities,” Hansen told Bloomberg News. “The ECB intervention, providing a flush of liquidity in December, insulated Italy and Spain from a Greek default, so the Greeks will go down on their own and the decline will be around 5 percent.”

Investors will also scrutinise the latest data on the euro zone's economy due on Wednesday.

The first estimate of fourth-quarter economic performance in the euro zone is expected to show a contraction of 0.4 percent after an increase of 0.2 percent in the previous quarter. Even so, the German ZEW sentiment index for February, also due this week, is likely to show another monthly increase.

In the US, 51 S&P 500 companies including MetLife and Goodyear are expected to report results this week. The earnings growth rate for the S&P 500 for the fourth quarter of 2011 is now at 8.9 percent, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S, though it is at 5.8 percent if Apple is excluded.

While US corporate earnings have been mixed in the fourth-quarter, investors are looking ahead.

"The market is sort of overlooking the weak 2011 earnings and looking forward to an improved 2012 earnings season - it's like a green light to investors to get into risky assets," Brian Lazorishak, portfolio manager at Chase Investment Counsel in Charlottesville, Virginia, told Reuters. 

The latest clues on the pace of recovery in the US economy will come from data on retail sales on Tuesday and industrial production on Wednesday, followed by housing starts, jobless claims and the producer price index on Thursday.

The consumer price index will be released on Friday. On Thursday, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke speaks to the FDIC's "Future of Community Banking Conference" in Arlington, Virginia.

The latest numbers on Japan's economy are due on Monday, expected to show a contraction in the fourth quarter, before the Bank of Japan announces a monetary policy decision the next day.


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