As European officials work at a snail's pace and, at times, very grudgingly toward a restructuring of Greece's debt, U.S. readers and investors may be wondering, 'What impact does all this Greece stuff have on me?'
Below, we answer your most pressing questions:
Q: Will interest rates rise if Greece defaults on its debt or has to restructure its debt?
A: To answer part one: yes. Regarding part two: probably. Although Greece is a small country with an equally-modest economy, 2010 GDP of $305 billion, Greece is not an insignificant credit market participant. Germany and France have a loan exposure of more than $400 billion to Greece, hence if their banks are hurt by losses on Greek bonds/loans, that would almost certainly lead to an increase in interest rates in Europe, and the United States, including home mortgage rates. The average 30-fixed rate, currently 4.55%, would rise to about 4.75-5%, and probably higher in a few months.
Q: What about auto loan rates?
A: They would rise, as well. The average 48-month, new car loan rate of 3.76% would probably to about 4%, and probably higher in few months.
Q: But everyone is saying Greece is such a small country. Why will interest rates rise so much, if Greece is so small, in economic terms?
A: Although small, a Greek default would represent another wave of the financial crisis. In company terms, Greece is about one-third as big as Lehman Bros., and if you recall, the Lehman bankruptcy triggered the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
What's more, the U.S. and global credit markets have improved, but that still haven't fully recovered from the first wave of the financial crisis, ushered in by Lehman. As a result, although Greece is small, even a minor shock wave would rattle credit and bond markets. And that would push up interest rates, in the U.S., Europe, and in other regions.