In Brief

Current account deficit doubles in February Greece’s current account deficit more than doubled year-on-year in February to reach 3.253 billion euros ($4.39 billion), mainly due to sharply lower current account transfers to the government from the EU, the country’s central bank said yesterday. «The significant increase in the current account gap in February reflects the drop in current transfers from the EU, specifically from the EU agricultural guarantee fund,» said National Bank economist Nikos Magginas. «The trade deficit, excluding fuels and ships, remains on a downtrend. As regards the current account gap, we expect it will return to a declining course in the next months,» he added. (Reuters) Use of aid could break cycle of mistrust Greece’s use of an EU-led loan package could break the cycle of distrust markets are showing in Greece and restore confidence in the country, said Giorgos Provopoulos, the head of the country’s central bank. «It’s very significant that this support mechanism exists,» Provopoulos said in Athens yesterday, according to an e-mailed transcript of his statements. The use of the European Union and International Monetary Fund package «when this is deemed necessary, will be a restoration of confidence,» he said. (Bloomberg) More measures European Union aid for Greece may be linked to the Greek government meeting extra conditions as it bids to cut the bloc’s biggest budget deficit, German Deputy Finance Minister Joerg Asmussen said. A loan agreement can include «more precise and clearer conditions» that «link the payout of the tranches to the implementation of economic policy goals» Greece has to meet, Asmussen told reporters in Berlin yesterday. EU governments will offer Greece a «pooled loan» and won’t buy Greek bonds in the event that the debt-strapped nation requests financial help, he said. In Germany’s case, the state-owned KfW development bank would give Greece a loan backed by government guarantees. Buying Greek bonds «is off the table,» he said. (Bloomberg) Organized default The best outcome for Greece would be an «organized default» that prevents its fiscal crisis from spreading to other euro-area countries such as Spain, IHS Global Insight chief economist Nariman Behravesh said. «The issue is, in fact, how the default occurs,» he told Bloomberg Television in Rome yesterday. «The best scenario is an organized default, if you will, one that’s done in a careful way, in a negotiated way, rather than a situation in which Greece says, ‘We’re not going to pay our debts.’» (Bloomberg) OPAP strike? OPAP SA’s agents’ union is considering strikes during major sporting events to protest the government’s taxation policies and to call for a tougher stance on online betting. The government must crack down on competition from illegal Internet betting and re-evaluate its plans to increase taxes on agents’ sales, union president Kyriakos Toptsidis said in a letter published on the agents’ website. (Bloomberg)

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