ECONOMY

Economy worries spread to bonds

The country’s ability to borrow is becoming an ever more complex proposition, with the interest rates Greece is required to pay increasing and the government considering the option of borrowing directly from citizens through so-called «popular» bonds. The spread between the benchmark Greek 10-year state bond and the German Bund exceeded 300 basis points (at 309 bps) for the first time in the last 11 months, causing further worries for the local market. Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou noted the profiteering taking place at the country’s expense, saying: «These things have always happened. Every country must handle such moves through a consistent policy, transparency in its finances and a borrowing program that tries when possible to cancel out such intentions.» He went on to estimate that «it is only a matter of time before markets are convinced and the spread starts shrinking.» Papaconstantinou did not rule out the issuance of a popular bond, though he noted that such a decision would not solve all the problems as it would also deprive the banking sector of funds. He also said a private placement during January is another option for the state. Reports in the last few days have suggested Greece may opt for a private placement through five-year bonds to garner some 5 billion euros. The minister intends to go on a road show in the USA and Asia next month in order to promote Greek bonds, some of which this year will be in US dollars. In the second quarter of the year, Greece will need to borrow about 26 billion euros, as the state’s expected obligations in April and May will amount to 22.6 billion euros. February is also considered a crucial month for the economy as this is when the European Commission will approve – or reject – Athens’s Stability and Growth Program and when the first results of the budget’s execution are set to emerge.