When Will Euro-PIGS Fly?

Wall Street has more than bulls and bears. Trading desk banter often refers to the presence of ‘pigs’ in the market. Years removed, I can still hear traders saying, “this market’s a pig,” “this bond’s a pig,” and “that account is a pig.” Well, with my morning coffee I saw a new utilization of this famed reference. I chuckled but also realized the seriousness of the new pig reference in regard to the increasingly dire fiscal situation in the European Union.

What are the PIGS across the pond? Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain.

The Wall Street Journal highlights the disastrous fiscal situation in these countries in writing, Sovereign Risk Meets Sovereign Reality:

After months of shrugging off debt problems in Dubai, Greece and other smaller economies, markets yesterday seemed suddenly aware of the risks of sovereign default.

Back in November, when the question of Dubai’s solvency came to a head, it was ultimately bailed out by its rich older brother, Abu Dhabi. Now, the European Union is doing its best to avoid promising a similar bailout to Greece, though in the end few believe Brussels will allow Athens to go under.

The current crisis in Greece is only the worst example inside the EU. The PIGS—Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain—all boast public debt above or headed for 100% of GDP. Though the PIGS acronym was apparently coined by British bankers, Britain, Ireland and Iceland also smell distinctly of bacon.

The problem isn’t confined to Europe. Japan and the United States, by most reckonings the world’s largest economies, also face pressing questions about their sovereign debt levels. To be sure, the U.S. and Japan can sustain such deficits more comfortably than small countries like Greece or Portugal where the government’s ability to curb public-sector spending is rightly suspect. Yet even in economic giants, bad policy could cause investors to move out of debt they have long considered a safe haven. The moment is approaching when the artificial line separating the wealthy from emerging markets will lose much of its relevance.

What does this all mean? Let’s reduce this to very simple terms. The overall debt relative to GDP within all the aforementioned countries is off the charts. We should make a point of adding the U.K, Ireland, Iceland, and eastern European nations as well. Government backstops are useful for a while but those are akin to putting a finger in a dike. Ultimately the wave of debt keeps coming and must be addressed. What has to happen?

  1. Increased taxes
  2. Cuts in services
  3. Cuts in entitlements
  4. Higher interest rates

Unless and until these medicines are applied, you can rest assured, these PIGS will not fly.

About Larry Doyle 522 Articles

Larry Doyle embarked on his Wall Street career in 1983 as a mortgage-backed securities trader for The First Boston Corporation. He was involved in the growth and development of the secondary mortgage market from its near infancy.

After close to 7 years at First Boston, Larry joined Bear Stearns in early 1990 as a mortgage trader. In 1993, Larry was named a Senior Managing Director at the firm. He left Bear to join Union Bank of Switzerland in late 1996 as Head of Mortgage Trading.

In 1998, after 15 years of trading and precipitated by Swiss Bank’s takeover of UBS, Larry moved from trading to sales as a senior salesperson at Bank of America. His move into sales led him to the role as National Sales Manager for Securitized Products at JP Morgan Chase in 2000. He was integrally involved in developing the department, hiring 40 salespeople, and generating $300 million in sales revenue. He left JP Morgan in 2006.

Throughout his career, Larry eagerly engaged clients and colleagues. He has mentored dozens of junior colleagues, recruited at a number of colleges and universities, and interviewed hundreds. He has also had extensive public speaking experience. Additionally, Larry served as Chair of the Mortgage Trading Committee for the Public Securities Association (PSA) in the mid-90s.

Larry graduated Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa in 1983 from the College of the Holy Cross.

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