Sunday, May 09, 2010

greek debt woes ripple outward...,

Video - rioting in Athens.

NYTimes | In Spain Saturday, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. underscored the importance of the issue after meeting with Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. “We agreed on the importance of a resolute European action to strengthen the European economy and to build confidence in the markets,” Mr. Biden said. “And I conveyed the support of the United States of America toward those efforts.”

Beyond Europe, the crisis has sent waves of fear through global stock exchanges.

A decade ago, it took more than a year for the chain reaction that began with the devaluation of the Thai currency to spread beyond Asia to Russia, which defaulted on its debt, and eventually caused the near-collapse of a giant American hedge fund, Long-Term Capital Management.

This crisis, by contrast, seemed to ricochet from country to country in seconds, as traders simultaneously abandoned everything from Portuguese bonds to American blue chips. On Wall Street on Thursday afternoon, televised images of rioting in Athens to protest austerity measures only amplified the anxiety as the stock market briefly plunged nearly 1,000 points.

“Up until last week there was this confidence that nothing could upset the apple cart as long as the economy and jobs growth was positive,” said William H. Gross, managing director of Pimco, the bond manager. “Now, fear is back in play.”

While the immediate causes for worry are Greece’s ballooning budget deficit and the risk that other fragile countries like Spain and Portugal might default, the turmoil also exposed deeper fears that government borrowing in bigger nations like Britain, Germany and even the United States is unsustainable.

“Greece may just be an early warning signal,” said Byron Wien, a prominent Wall Street strategist who is vice chairman of Blackstone Advisory Partners. “The U.S. is a long way from being where Greece is, but the developed world has been living beyond its means and is now being called to account.”