Greek Week

A banker friend vacationing in Greece this week reports asking a fifty-something customer in an Athens coffee shop what he did for a living. The man responds he’s been unemployed for the last four years. “The Greeks invented everything,” he said, “and now I’m taking a rest.”

Certainly seems like déjà EU all over again: Greece on the precipice of default, on and off negotiations with the European Union, and both sides playing a governmental game of chicken. Meanwhile, global capital and currency markets seesaw in response, and the world waits to see where it all shakes out.

Even Puerto Rico’s governor got into the act, jumping onto the bailout bandwagon and declaring Monday its $72 billion debt was “unpayable.” Compared to Greece’s $390 billion, the obligations of the 51st state seem a drop in the bucket. (The state and local debt of Massachusetts is $90 billion.) But the news added to general unease.

Back in the US, investors pondered whether these latest kerfuffles would derail the Fed’s plan to raise interest rates later this year. Economists had predicted September as the most likely month for a hike, but some now say that may be pushed out.