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How Oscar Wilde Sees the Euro

Oscar Wilde
W. and D. Downey | Hulton Archive | Getty Images
Oscar Wilde

The odds are rising of a Greek exit from the euro- but what happens next is another question.

Think Greece will remain in the euro zone? Chance are, you're not a Citigroup client.

"Our economists think there is a 50-75% chance" that Greece exits the euro zone," wrote Steven Englander, global head of G10 FX strategy at Citigroup, in a note to clients. "Many clients think the risk is higher."

The big question, though, is whether any other countries will follow. As Englander paraphrased Oscar Wilde, "to lose one country may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness."

Englander argues that if Greece is the only departing country, that could actually be bullish for the euro because investors may view the euro zone as stronger.

"Oscar Wilde would argue that the euro downside would emerge from investor fears that other peripheral countries in the euro zone would drop out, raising the risk premium on their debt, and making it even less possible to hit fiscal and economic growth targets," he wrote.

If the European Central Bank may be able to quash the skepticism if it provides some sort of ironclad guarantee that no other countries will drop out, Englander says. But even that might not work.

"Whether the euro goes up or down depends on whether the euro zone policymakers can bring themselves to make the needed open-ended commitment and convince the market that they will stick to it thick and thin even if the price tag rises," Englander wrote. And that, he says, is a long shot.

"Given their inability to achieve timely consensus on policies that would have averted the pressures and been much cheaper, investors are likely to sell euros until fully convinced of policymaker resolve."

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