Syriza’s victory in Greek elections yesterday, and the announcement this morning that they would rule in coalition with the right-wing Independent Greeks party, all but ensures a confrontation between Greece and its European creditors over austerity and debt. While Greek markets have continued their sell-off on the result, 10-year yields near 8.9 percent are still down from earlier this month and well below earlier crisis levels. In line with these numbers, most market analysts believe a deal is likely that would avoid a Greek exit from the eurozone, noting some moderation of Syriza’s rhetoric in recent days and upcoming meetings with creditors. But what would such a deal look like? Greece and its creditors are so far apart, their perceptions of their negotiating leverage so different, and time so short to reach an agreement, that the risk of failure seems higher than implied by market prices. A few points.
Over the past year, Europe has enjoyed calm financial markets. At the core of the market’s comfort were two assumptions about policy. First, that the European governments would do just enough to keep the process of European integration moving forward. Second, that the ECB would, in the words of Mario Draghi, do “whatever it takes” to save the euro. The centerpiece of the ECB’s subsequent efforts was expanded liquidity (through long-term repurchase operations and easier collateral requirements for banks to access ECB liquidity) and a commitment to purchase government bonds to support countries return to market (the OMT program). Even many pessimists who fear that Europe is trapped on a unsustainable, low-growth trajectory remain optimistic that Europe will do what it takes to navigate the near term risks. It may be time to question that optimism.