Greek default?

So European politicians have more or less agreed a deal which may, more or less, push some of their problems to one side for a period. Yes, I’m not madly optimistic about this as a cure-all. ┬áThis is not the end of the Euro problems.

Part of the deal is a “50% loss for private investors”. Which is part true and part nonsense but will be an effective Greek default when enacted / agreed. (I don’t care how “voluntary” it may be, it’s a default and almost all definitions of default include restructuring of debt in any way that isn’t what was originally promised.)

Why is it only partly true? Well it’s not necessarily a “loss” for private investors. The probability of default on Greek bonds has been just about 100% for a while now. This probability of default is derived from market prices for Greek bonds and market spreads on Greek Credit Default Swaps (CDS) and an assumed Loss Given Default or Recovery Rate for investors when the bonds do default. Actual Recovery Rates vary widely, but often analysts plug in the average Recovery Rate over most of this century on unsecured debt which is around 40%.

So if market prices for Greek bonds assumed 100% default probability and a 40% recovery, then a 50% recovery doesn’t sound so bad. The potential downside is that Greece may still (need to) default on these written-down bonds at some point in the next two decades.

So the real question is what will the new probability of default be?┬áThen we will know whether investors “took a loss” and perhaps gain the market’s view on how successful the deal really will be.