ECONOMY

Market pressure keeps mounting

Greece may activate a European Union-led emergency aid package before talks on the plan in Athens conclude, said Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou, as the premium investors demand to hold Greek government bonds over German paper soared above 500 basis points. «I’m not saying that the government will ask for it,» Papaconstantinou told reporters yesterday after the first day of talks with officials from the euro region, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank. The Greek/German 10-year bond yield spread widened to 532 basis points, the widest in 12 years and almost five times as wide as the equivalent Spanish spread. Five-year credit default swaps (CDS) on Greek government debt climbed to 489 basis points, the highest level ever seen for Greece, approaching that of Ukraine, which has the highest CDS in Europe at 538.8 basis points, according to monitor CMA DataVision. The minister said the talks would probably last two weeks and a final text on the outcome would be presented by May 15. The talks are focusing on additional deficit-cutting measures Greece would have to accept as a condition for a rescue plan of up to 45 billion euros for the first year. The sell-off spilled over into other higher-yielding eurozone states, with equivalent spreads and CDS in Portugal rising, causing the yield on a T-bill sale to creep higher. Spanish and Irish spreads were also wider yesterday. Meanwhile, a leading business group called on the Greek government to turn to the rescue plan «without further delay,» saying that any other options would be disastrous for the country. «[Not using the aid package] will lead to national bankruptcy and the country exiting the eurozone,» Dimitris Daskalopoulos, the president of the Federation of Greek Industries (SEV), said in a statement.