European markets alarmed by Greek defiance

In mid-morning trading the FTSE 100 is 60 points lower, as a defiant stand by Alexis Tsipras unnerves investors.

Alexis Tsipras
Source: Bloomberg

It seems that Mr Tsipras picked up more than just duty free on his trip around Europe. He acquired a new resolution to oppose the settlement imposed on Greece since the eurozone crisis began. By rejecting any bailout extension he has put Greece firmly on a course that will see it clash with the Troika, the ECB and the eurozone. To add to the classical allusions going around this morning, only time will tell if this is Tsipras’ Marathon, or his Thermopylae. Eurozone stock markets, which seemed to take the Greek election in their stride, have reacted badly to this show of defiance, dropping back sharply as investors pull money from the eurozone in anticipation of long, drawn-out negotiations that may ultimately prove futile. Having looked overextended for some time, now is the ideal moment for a short-term pullback that will prepare the ground nicely for the first ECB QE injection in March.

Banks are down in London thanks to the fear of chaos in the eurozone, but it is HSBC that commands the most attention. The bank’s previously clean image has been tarnished by claims relating to its Swiss private bank, and the coming investigation by authorities means a cloud will hover over these shares for months to come.

Continuing a theme of recent weeks, the final part of Friday’s US session saw markets give back gains made over the previous 48 hours. These dips have still been viewed as buying opportunities, but with Greece exploding back onto the front pages that course of events may now be disrupted. US indices will be insulated to some degree from the crisis in the eurozone, but a potential Grexit is something that will make it more difficult for markets to build on Friday’s strong non-farm figures. Ahead of the open, we expect the Dow to start 70 points lower at 17,751.

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