- Eurozone Suspends Short-Term Debt Relief for Greece Amid Growing Friction
Greece’s European creditors suspended proposed debt-relief measures for the country after the Greek government surprised them by announcing it would boost welfare benefits for low-income pensioners, a sign of escalating tensions over the country’s bailout.
The moves come as Athens and its international creditors—which include the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund—are struggling to conclude their latest review of the country’s rescue plan of as much as €86 billion ($92 billion) in loans.
“The institutions have concluded that the actions of the Greek government appear to not be in line with our agreements,” a spokesman for Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch finance minister who presides over the group of his eurozone counterparts, said in a statement on Twitter.
“No unanimity now for implementing short-term debt measures,” he added.
The step puts further pressure on Greece’s government, which is considering calling snap elections in 2017 as it grapples with slumping popularity and is losing hope of winning concessions on deeper debt relief or austerity from the eurozone and the IMF.
Greece’s embattled Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras surprised Greeks and the country’s creditors last week with handouts that his government hadn’t previously discussed with bailout supervisors, which represent eurozone governments and the IMF.
Mr. Tsipras promised 1.6 million pensioners a Christmas bonus of between €300 and €800. He also suspended a planned increase in sales tax for Aegean islands that have received large numbers of refugees from the Middle East and elsewhere.
Eurozone officials expressed frustration that the country’s creditors were not told in advance by Greece of its plans—widely seen as a lure to voters ahead of elections—and said the new measures would have to be assessed to determine whether they were in line with the country’s bailout commitments.
“We will adhere to the [bailout] program to the letter, but whatever outperformance in revenue arises by following to the program, we will not ask anyone in order to give this money to those most in need,” Mr. Tsipras said Tuesday from the small island of Nisyros.
He stressed that the Greek government wouldn’t ask for permission to support those in need and spoke of “fool technocrats…who can’t even get their numbers right.”
Greece registered a primary budget surplus of €7.4 billion in the year to November, data from the finance ministry showed Wednesday, beating its target by nearly €4 billion because of lower spending and higher revenues.
Greek officials resumed talks with officials representing the country’s creditors earlier this week. The two sides remain apart on key overhauls, including a revamping of the labor market, as well as on further austerity aimed at reaching the country’s primary surplus target—its budget balance excluding interest payments—from 2018 onward.
But eurozone officials cautioned that the recent escalation would likely lead to further delays in the negotiations, which are already expected to go into the new year.
The situation has been further complicated by disagreements among Greece’s creditors over the level of the surplus that Greece must sustain and the economic overhauls it should be required to undertake.
The IMF has pressed Europe to reduce Greece’s budget target to a primary surplus of 1.5% of gross domestic product, instead of the current goal of 3.5%. But European governments, led by Germany, are unwilling to agree, partly because Greece would then need even more debt relief.
This month, eurozone finance ministers agreed on a package of debt-relief measures to be implemented in the short term that could ease the country’s debt load by around a fifth by 2060.
Germany’s finance ministry criticized Greece for the unexpected new spending earlier on Wednesday, indicating that it supported putting the agreed-upon debt relief on hold.
“In order to turn the bailout program into a success, it is imperative that measures should not be unilaterally decided or reversed without notice,” the ministry said.
Gold Gained Ahead of Joe Biden Inauguration 2021
Gold price rose from one and a half month low on Tuesday ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday.
The precious metal, largely regarded as a haven asset by investors, edged up by 0.2 percent to $1,844.52 per ounce on Tuesday, up from $1,802.61 on Monday.
He said, “The key factor appears to be the (U.S.) currency.”
As expected, a change in administration comes with the change in economic policies, especially taking into consideration the peculiarities of the present situation. In fact, even though Biden, Janet Yellen and the rest of the new cabinet are expected to go all out on additional stimulus with the support of Democrats controlled Houses, economic uncertainties with rising COVID-19 cases and slow vaccine distribution remained a huge concern.
Also, the effectiveness of the vaccines can not be ascertained until wider rollout.
Still, which policy would be halted or sustained by the incoming administration remained a concern that has forced many investors to once again flee other assets for Gold ahead of tomorrow’s inauguration.
Crude Oil Holds Steady Above $55 Per Barrel on Tuesday
Brent Crude oil, against which Nigerian crude oil is priced, rose from $54.46 per barrel on Monday to $55.27 per barrel as of 9:03 am Nigerian time on Tuesday.
Last week, Brent crude oil rose to 11 months high of $57.38 per barrel before pulling back on rising COVID-19 cases and lockdowns in key global economies like the United Kingdom, Euro-Area, China, etc.
While OPEC has left 2021 oil demand unchanged and President-elect Joe Biden has announced a $1.9 trillion stimulus package, experts are saying the rising number of new cases of COVID-19 amid poor vaccine distribution could drag on growth and demand for oil in 2021.
On Friday, Dan Yergin, vice-chairman at IHS Markit, said in addition to the stimulus package “There are two other things that are going with it … one is of course, vaccinations — in the sense that eventually this crisis is going to end, and maybe by the spring, lockdowns will be over.”
“The other thing is what Saudi Arabia did. This is the third time Saudi Arabia has made a sudden change in policy in less than a year, and this one was to announce (the) 1 million barrel a day cut — partly because they are worried about the impact of the surge in virus that’s occurring,” he said.
Also, the stimulus being injected into the United States economy could spur huge Shale production and disrupt OPEC and allies’ efforts at balancing the global oil market in 2021.
Crude Oil Pulled Back Despite Joe Biden Stimulus
Crude oil pulled back on Friday despite the $1.9 trillion stimulus package announced by U.S President-elect, Joe Biden.
Brent crude oil, against which Nigeria’s oil is priced, pulled back from $57.38 per barrel on Wednesday to $55.52 per barrel on Friday in spite of the huge stimulus package announced on Thursday.
On Thursday, OPEC, in its latest outlook for the year, said uncertainties remain high in 2021 with the number of COVID-19 new cases on the rise.
OPEC said, “Uncertainties remain high going forward with the main downside risks being issues related to COVID-19 containment measures and the impact of the pandemic on consumer behavior.”
“These will also include how many countries are adapting lockdown measures, and for how long. At the same time, quicker vaccination plans and a recovery in consumer confidence provide some upside optimism.”
Governments across Europe have announced tighter and longer coronavirus lockdowns, with vaccinations not expected to have a significant impact for the next few months.
“The complex remains in pause mode, a development that should not be surprising given the magnitude of the oil price gains that have been developing for some 2-1/2 months,” Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch and Associates, said.
Still, OPEC left its crude oil projections unchanged for the year. The oil cartel expected global oil demand to increase by 5.9 million barrels per day year on year to an average of 95.9 million per day in 2020.
But also OPEC expects a recent rally and stimulus to boost U.S. Shale crude oil production in the year, a projection Investors King experts expect to hurt OPEC strategy in 2021.
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