There has been a lot of speculation about just what the JPMorgan note that claims the Portuguese government can fall as soon as tomorrow, says. The speculation can now end. “The likelihood that the Portuguese government will fall this week looks high. This suggests that the sovereign will likely access the EFSF in the near term, despite the current government’s efforts to avoid this outcome.” Incidentally if JPM is right, the market better have priced in the next insolvent domino to drop in Europe, although judging by where the EURUSD is these days, the market decided to take a long hard sabbatical about 2 weeks ago.
Portuguese government could fall tomorrow: EFSF access increasingly likely
Faced with increasing market pressure, the Portuguese government a couple of weeks ago announced a new set of fiscal measures aimed at achieving its ambitious plan to push the deficit to 2% of GDP by 2013. The new plan included additional tightening measures worth 0.8%-pts of GDP for 2011, and detailed spending cuts and revenue-boosting measures worth a total of 2.5%-pts of GDP for 2012 and 1.2%-pts of GDP in 2013. The plan was spelled out more clearly yesterday, when the finance ministry published its latest update of the Stability and Growth Program (see table below). According to the program, the government will achieve a rapid deficit reduction thanks to front-loaded tightening, which will push down the primary balance by 3.4%-pts of GDP this year and 2.4%-pts next year. Partly in response to the new measures, the government lowered its growth projections, and now sees GDP contracting 0.9% this year and growing at a modest rate over the following two years.
The announcement of the new measures received the blessing of the EC, the ECB and the European Council, but was not welcomed by the main opposition party in Portugal, the centre-right Social Democrats, which have blamed the government for acting without informing them in time. This poses a clear challenge as the current Socialist government led by prime minister José Sócrates is a minority government.
It looks like the Portuguese parliament will vote on the new fiscal plan tomorrow. Prime minister Sócrates has already announced that, if the plan is rejected, he will resign, something that will lead to a general election. The prime minister has been attempting to find a compromise with the opposition, saying that the current plan could be discussed and amended as needed, but the opposition does not seem to buy into this. The head of the Social Democrats Passos Coelho, who enjoys a lead in opinion polls, has been critical of the measures, despite mentioning that he fully supports Portugal’s deficit-reduction targets. This seems to suggest that his party would likely implement an equally austere plan, but in a new government structure.
The likelihood that the Portuguese government will fall this week looks high. This suggests that the sovereign will likely access the EFSF in the near term, despite the current government’s efforts to avoid this outcome.