International inspectors from the European Union and International Monetary Fund are continuing their talks with Greece.
A report obtained by Reuters shows that they want Athens to push through more budget cuts and implement long-planned austerity reforms before they agree on the second 130 billion euro bailout that Greece needs in order to avoid going bankrupt in March.
For weeks, the markets have focused on Greece’s lengthy talks with its private creditors. And the EU’s Economic and Monetary Affairs Chief, Olli Rehn, told an audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Friday that an agreement was close:
“We’re just about to close a deal on a private sector involvement between the Greek government and the private creditor community, if not today, maybe over the weekend. But in any case, preferably still in January rather than in February.”
Once the private sector deal is sealed, Greece still has to convince its eurozone partners and the IMF that it’s doing enough – especially in reforming the labor market – to receive the next installment of aid that’s needed to avoid a chaotic default.
Athens’ partners have grown tired of its delaying of reforms, but the country’s opposition parties – and the people – are opposed to more austerity.
Analysts don’t expect the EU to leave Greece in the lurch, says Tobias Blattner from Daiwa Capital Markets:
“We all know that the costs of a disorderly Greek default, or even a forced restructuring would be very, very high, so I think it’s probably up to the euro area governments now to eventually fill any gap that might arise if the private bondholders cannot come to the same kind of agreement that the IMF would want it to. So I think the chances of a second bailout package are very, very high.”
But investors aren’t feeling quite so optimistic.
The length of time taken for talks between Greece and its private sector bondholders has weighed on the markets.
While news that a deal is close has helped Italian and Spanish bond yields, Portugal has bucked the trend.
Portuguese government bond yields hit new euro-era highs and the ECB has stepped in to buy the country’s debt, as worries grow Lisbon that could follow Athens into requiring a second bailout.