New figures worsen credibility crisis

Greece’s credibility in international markets took another hit yesterday after Eurostat revised the 2009 budget deficit higher, sending bond yields soaring and pushing the government closer to an international rescue plan. Eurostat said in a review of countries’ deficits throughout the region that the Greek government’s budget deficit stood at 32.34 billion euros or 13.6 percent of gross domestic product in 2009, not the figure of 12.7 percent which it had reported earlier. However, the fiscal news could get worse, as the statistics agency is still not happy with the quality of Greek data due to «uncertainties» about the surplus of social security funds, the classification of some public entities and the recording of off-market swaps. «This could lead to a [further] revision for 2009 of up to 0.5 percentage points of GDP for the deficit and 5 to 7 percentage points of GDP for the debt,» it said in a statement. Greece’s shortfall last year was more than four times the EU limit, though it wasn’t the region’s biggest. Ireland’s budget gap was revised up to 14.3 percent, the largest for any country since the introduction of the euro in 1999. The Greek Finance Ministry responded by saying that the new numbers would not change its plans to cut the deficit by four percentage points this year. It said measures already taken would be enough to cut the deficit by six points. It attributed the latest revision to a deep recession, which reduced GDP more than expected, and a reassessment of the financial accounts of pension funds. The latest deficit news sent Greece’s two-year government bond yield soaring to 9.81 percent, from 8.26 percent on Tuesday and just 1.38 percent before the crisis last November. The Greek/German 10-year bond yield spread rose to 600 basis points, rising over 150 bps since Friday. The cost of insuring five-year Greek government debt against default shot up to the highest level in Europe, surpassing Ukraine. Greek credit default swaps hit 565 basis points, or 565,000 euros per 10 million euros of bonds, against 485 on Wednesday.

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