ECONOMY

In Brief

IMF involvement not on the agenda for the time being Involvement by the International Monetary Fund in helping out debt-ridden Greece is not on the agenda at the moment, European Central Bank Governing Council member Jozef Makuch said yesterday. European Union leaders agreed last week that Greece could get funding from EU countries and the International Monetary Fund if it were unable to borrow on the markets. Details of an IMF role have been sketchy, and Makuch said it was not expected that its involvement would be needed. «Accepting Greek BBB- paper [as collateral for European Central Bank operations] helps the Greek situation even without the IMF,» he said. The ECB decided last week to extend accepting assets rated BBB- as collateral beyond the end of the year, reversing an earlier plan to reinstate the former threshold of A- in 2011, helping Greece whose sovereign debt is rated A2 by Moody’s and BBB+ by Fitch and Standard & Poor’s. «The [relief] plan itself is seen only as the last resort. Neither the ECB, nor Greece expect this plan will be realized,» Makuch, the National Bank of Slovakia governor, told journalists in Bratislava. (Reuters) Ireland’s bonds set for good run; country has left the ‘pigsty’ Ireland’s bonds are poised to outperform those of every other eurozone member except Austria this quarter, as investors bet it will be more successful than countries such as Greece in cutting its budget deficit. The nation’s debt returned 3.4 percent this year, according to Bloomberg/EFFAS indices. Yields on 10-year Irish bonds fell to within 128 basis points of those on benchmark German bunds on March 12, a 14-month low. Credit Agricole Corporate and Investment Bank and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc anticipate that spread may drop to about 65 basis points by the end of 2010 as the bonds keep rising. Prime Minister Brian Cowen’s plans to cut pay for teachers, nurses and police and set up a bank to purge lenders of toxic property loans have helped cut the yield premium investors demand to hold Irish debt over Bunds by more than 50 percent from a 16-year high. A year ago, credit downgrades and concern the nation would be unable to curb its budget gap prompted investors to include the country in a group they called PIGS, for Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain. «Ireland has left the pigsty for the time being and it has come out smelling of roses,» said Stuart Thomson, who helps oversee more than $100 billion as chief market economist at Ignis Asset Management in Glasgow, Scotland. (Bloomberg) Fish figures Nireus Aquaculture, Greece’s largest fish-farming company, expects last year’s cost-cutting measures to pay off in 2010 after ending the year nearly 3 million euros in the red. The company said yesterday that sustainable capital expenditures were reduced to 6.9 million euros from 14.8 million via cost cuts and reduced investments. «During the first months of 2010, we have noted a significant improvement in fish sales. We are anticipating the new year with relative optimism given that current economic conditions are expected to affect fish farming less than other sectors,» said Aristides Belles, Nireus chairman. Nireus showed a 2.98-million-euro loss versus earnings after tax of 1.13 million in 2008.