Thursday was a critical day for Greece. European leaders announced an emergency framework in which the E.U., along with the IMF, can step in and help Greece roll over its debt if the country fails to issue new bonds in the global debt market. This is the support Greek leaders were seeking all along -- and Greek stocks and the euro rallied on the news.
If you'd asked us a week ago whether we thought such a deal was possible, our answer would have been an emphatic no. Based on what we'd read in the papers and what we'd estimated in the numbers, it looked as if the E.U. were unraveling. Greece had no bargaining power, and Germany, the E.U.'s most powerful economic force, had been explicit in its unwillingness to offer Greece any aid.
We change our minds
We started to change our minds on Tuesday, after several meetings with financial experts on the ground in Greece. These people told us they thought the E.U. would ultimately come to Greece's aid, with the IMF playing a small role to provide political cover. Turns out our contacts were exactly right!
Although it's fantastic that we've been talking to the right people, we're disappointed with the timing of the E.U.'s announcement -- effectively, we lost the informational advantage we had over the market.
However, the market still has a lot of questions about this plan. The terms and timeline are unknown. And investors don't know whether they can rely on E.U. member countries not to veto the plan (and every country has veto power). The upshot is that Greek stocks haven't risen as sharply as they will when investors are certain that Greece can reduce its debts and refinance its balance sheet. After a week of meetings and interviews with experts in Greece, we believe the country can indeed achieve those crucial requirements for success.
Time is not on our side
So we're hard at work analyzing all of our investment ideas from this trip. We want to share them with you before the market processes all of the information about Greece's financial situation -- information we think we already have a good handle on.
But even though we're optimistic about Greece's ability to handle its debt, the country doesn't have an easy path ahead. The government's austerity measures will result in slower GDP growth, and Europe's new willingness to share the burden of some member states' woeful balance sheets should further push the euro down.
That's why we're not simply investigating Greek stocks. We're looking for the best market opportunities, prudent margins of safety, and useful tools to hedge some of the political and currency risk we foresee in Europe. Stay tuned to your inbox and to FoolGreece2010.com for more information about our best investment ideas.
Until then ...
We'll be in touch about these ideas again soon, but I wanted to take a moment now to thank you for joining us on our research trip to Greece. I hope that you found it as informative as we did and that it helped you see through the headlines that were mischaracterizing the situation in Greece (check out this video for an example).
Successful investing is all about developing a reasoned, variant perspective and then being confident enough in your view to put money on the line. Our aim with these trips is to help you do that, so we hope our journey to Greece served you well in that regard.
Until next time,