Greece—who cares?

There is so much to consider when talking about Greece and the potential fallout that could result — but is any of this enough to cause investors to exit the markets? Hardly.



Alexis Tsipras, Greece's prime minister, reacts as he delivers a statement at the end of an emergency meeting of European leaders in Brussels, Belgium, on Tuesday, June 23, 2015.
Jasper Julinen | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Alexis Tsipras, Greece's prime minister, reacts as he delivers a statement at the end of an emergency meeting of European leaders in Brussels, Belgium, on Tuesday, June 23, 2015.

As we have been told, Greece is but a pimple on the European back — no real impact to euro-zone GDP, euro-zone manufacturing, growth, or investor sentiment about European equities, yet we seem to be held hostage as the drama continues to play out across the global stage.

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Investors are exhausted over just hearing the word Greece, which causes so many to disregard the conversation. But that is a bit premature, because the implications for longer-term political and shorter-term financial instability are high. Investors need to understand the risks and then decide what the implications are for the other weaker euro-zone nations and if a "Grexit" causes Italy, Spain or Portugal to consider leaving the zone (something I think is highly improbable).

So, are traders trading more or less because of all this uncertainty?

A quick look at the volume charts over the past month or so reveals a much lower pace of trading activity — that's indicative of less institutional money being moved around. The trading that has been taking place is much more opportunistic and that is the trademark of day traders, prop traders and automated high-frequency traders. It is the very uncertainty of the Greece situation (or of Federal Reserve policy) that creates a fertile environment for the trader. Opportunity created by any uncertainty is much more short-term oriented, allowing the trader to commit money to a trade intraday and go home flat at night — not wanting to risk capital in such a volatile environment.

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We've seen the market rally 100+ points in recent days on the very idea that Greece and her creditors were inches away from a deal, then give back half of that in minutes as the news began to look "not so good." Traders reversed course, getting out quickly when uncertainty emerged.

Remember: This is not the kind of environment that would deter a trader. In fact, traders love the chaos — it is how they make their money. But it is this kind of environment that causes the trader to be a bit more cautious as the news can turn on a dime and what was a positive day can turn negative on a moment's notice.

In the end, as usual, the answer lies somewhere in the middle of the argument. What really matters to U.S. investors is how will all of this affect the U.S. economy, U.S. companies (domestic and multinational)? Besides the issue of contagion across the euro zone, investors need to understand what unforeseen fallout could be created upon a default. Do we really know all of the risks? Do we really know who owns what debt? If Greece hits the "delete" button — who really gets hit with the bill? And what about the political rumors: Is Putin standing in the wings ready to swoop in if Greece defaults and exits the euro zone? That should not be much of a concern yet because the sense is that Europe is not going to let Greece go.

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Investors and the market just want clarity — no matter what that clarity is. Until there is a solution, the market will be held hostage. If the solution is to stay, I think we see a blow-off rally. If the solution is to exit, the immediate response would be for some investors to sell, causing traders to sit back and take advantage of the nervousness. Any pullback will create a longer-term opportunity and global investors will benefit.

Commentary by Kenny Polcari, director of NYSE floor operations at O'Neil Securities. He is also a CNBC contributor, often appearing on "Power Lunch." Follow Kenny on Twitter @kennypolcari and visit him at kennypolcari.com.

Disclosure: The market commentary is the opinion of the author and is based on decades of industry and market experience; however no guarantee is made or implied with respect to these opinions. This commentary is not nor is it intended to be relied upon as authoritative or taken in substitution for the exercise of judgment. The comments noted herein should not be construed as an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to buy or sell any financial product, or an official statement or endorsement of O'Neil Securities or its affiliates.