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ECB fires a shot across Greek bows

CMC Markets

European markets look set for a lower open today after the European Central Bank decided to send a rather sharp message to the Greek government that they were in no mood to accept any renegotiations of their obligations with respect to the current Greek bailout program. The central bank decided to change the rules on the eligibility of Greek bonds as collateral for its liquidity operations, in the process cutting Greek banks off from direct access to their liquidity. The reason given was on the basis that the current bailout program could well end this month. What this means is that Greek banks will now have to go to the Greek Central Bank for their only conduit of emergency funding, but this particular tap can be shut off very quickly. As for how this will affect the tone for today’s meeting between Greek finance minister Varoufakis and German finance minister Schaeuble is anyone’s guess, but it should make for a very interesting conversation, given that the timing of the ECB’s action could be construed as political in nature. It will certainly make for a different tone from the rest of this week, where by and large Mr Varoufakis has been granted a fairly sympathetic ear in his attempts to drum up support for a change to the current strategy being employed by the EU, IMF and ECB towards his beleaguered country, as he makes his tour of European capitals. Today this strategy faces its biggest test, as well as its biggest obstacle in the form of German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble who, despite some of the mixed messages being given out by other EU leaders has been remarkably consistent in his tone towards the new government in Athens. Mr Schaeuble is expected to insist that the Greek government sticks to the current austerity and bailout plan, which doesn’t really leave an awful lot of wiggle room. Mr Varoufakis is expected to put the same case he put to ECB President Mario Draghi yesterday when he stated that it cannot be “business as usual” in Greece, and that the EU needs to rethink its current approach, to not just Greece but the whole crisis in general. The ECB’s action last night doesn’t bode well in that regard in terms of its timing, given that there remains quite a few days to go until the end of the bailout program, and could be construed to be akin to putting a gun on the table in the middle of a complex set of negotiations. Hardly the sign of someone negotiating in good faith, whether it be the EU or anyone else for that matter. While Syriza may have rowed back from its pledge to get a debt write down, which may not go down that well back home in Greece, there still remains the idea of the bond swap, as well as access to the ECB’s ELA program for Greek banks, which is still just about intact after last night’s decision by the ECB to remove the waiver on Greek bonds as collateral. Last night’s ECB action is clearly designed to increase the pressure on the Greek government but they really need to be careful in this regard as the end result could well be unfold in a way that is difficult to predict. It also brings to mind an unfortunate truism. If you owe the bank a few million you have a problem but if you owe the bank billions then the bank has a problem. The EU would do well to remember that. We hear an awful lot about Syriza’s politicians being forced to accept the economic reality of their situation, and there is certainly some truth in that, but if politicians had been forced to confront the economic reality in the 1990’s of what they face now, then by rights the euro would never had been launched. Ultimately it won’t be by economics that this crisis will get resolved, but by politics and politics takes time, which means markets are likely to have to get used to further volatility in the coming weeks and months. Also on the agenda today we have the latest Bank of England rate decision and we’re not expecting any surprises here. This week’s UK economic data did surprise to the upside, but given the inflation outlook, and the recent change of the two policy hawks of Martin Weale and Ian McCafferty to the no change side, we can expect a unanimous vote to keep policy unchanged. EURUSD – having stalled at 1.1533 earlier this week the euro has slid back sharply below trend line support from the lows at 1.1098. We need to break above the 1.1530 level to argue for a test towards 1.1700. The key support remains down at the 1.1205 level. GBPUSD – yesterday’s rebound was unable to push beyond the highs of two weeks ago at 1.5270 and as such we remain susceptible to a slide back towards the lows this week, just below 1.5000. For now support comes in around 1.5160 and while this holds we could well see another attempt at a move higher towards 1.5400. For a move towards 1.4810 to unfold we would need to see a close below the 1.5000 level. EURGBP – after being rebuffed at the 0.7590 level we’ve slid back below 0.7485 trend line support from the lows at 0.7400. Only a move below 0.7400 suggests a move towards 0.7255, which had originally been the peaks seen in 2003. USDJPY – continues to trade in a broad range between 117.00 and 119.00, despite a brief dip to 116.55 earlier this week, with the odds suggesting we could see a retest of the recent lows. The key support remains just above the 115.60 level as well as 116.10, which is also potential neckline support for a forming head and shoulders pattern. A break of 115.60 could well see a sharp fall towards 110.00. CMC Markets is an execution only service provider. The material (whether or not it states any opinions) is for general information purposes only, and does not take into account your personal circumstances or objectives. Nothing in this material is (or should be considered to be) financial, investment or other advice on which reliance should be placed. No opinion given in the material constitutes a recommendation by CMC Markets or the author that any particular investment, security, transaction or investment strategy is suitable for any specific person.

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