…the risks have not been eliminated. The margin for error for the major banks and other financial institutions is narrow. Because they are still not strongly capitalized, modest losses from direct defaults and indirect losses from companies with business in Greece can threaten bank equity, causing bankers to cut back on lending. A few miscalculations in a major institution could have substantial repercussions. Making matters worse, central bankers have only a limited capacity to buoy the economy, as interest rates are still near zero.
The second channel through which risk and loss can spread from Greece is other heavily indebted countries, like Spain and Italy. So far, the financial markets have not panicked over the ability of these countries to repay their bonds. But a shift in the political situation ”“ especially in Spain, where the left-wing Podemos party is doing well in the polls ”“ could change that in an instant.
Finally, a Greek default and exit from the eurozone could unleash unpredictable political forces with a knock-on effect on the European economy. After all, it was the first wave of austerity in Greece that led to the election of Syriza, a left-wing party that few had expected would ever govern.