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Violating the Norm

Violating the Norm Violating the Norm

For the third straight trading session on Wall Street, investors nervously track developments in Cyprus. To have a government make a decision to attach savings of depositors that were to be secure, is shocking. The decision to attach ordinary people's savings violates the 'norm', 'expectations' and 'values' guiding Western democracies for a very long time. Investors sidelined are worried about ramifications from upcoming developments in Cyprus.

Banks in Cyprus, the smallest eurozone country to be bailed out, will remain closed until Thursday to prevent a bank run, before the 56-member Parliament votes on a demand from lenders, to seize a percentage of bank depositors' accounts to pay for a bailout of the country's banks and government. Plan details sent shockwaves throughout the euro area as it was the first time bank accounts of depositors have been directly targeted. Security of savings in any bank is certainly to be questioned. Cyprus's low-tax regime is a reason depositors are expected to share the cost of the bailout of the banks, which have been hit hard by their over-exposure to bad Greek debt. Reportedly, nearly a third of all deposits in Cypriot banks are believed to be held by Russians. Parliament's finance committee proposed that deposits below 20,000 euros ($25,900) would not be touched; deposits between 20,000 euros and 100,000 euros ($129,290) would face a 6.75% charge and deposits above 100,000 euros would see 9.9% of their deposits taken over by the government. Cypriots confidence in the banking system will be shaken, should the plan take effect. Additionally, European policymakers will have set a new precedent that could be repeated in the future, keeping depositors on edge as to the safety of their money. Panicos Demetriades, Cyprus central bank governor recommended that no accounts below 100,000 euros ($129,290) be touched since that level represents amount of savings that are supposed to be insured, if a bank collapses. "The credibility of, and trust in the banking sector depends on this," said Demetriades, who conceded that he expects at least 10% of deposits to be withdrawn when the banks eventually re-open. Andreas Charalambous, a senior official at the ministry said, "Because of the size of the estimated bailout needs, the burden on those above 100,000 euros would be such that it would again impact small people because it would destroy the ability of the country to attract foreign investment." Failure to pass the bill could mean no bailout money from the eurozone or the IMF which would lead to bankrupting Cyprus resulting in reignited concerns in financial markets over the single currency's future thus, putting deposits in the country's banks under even more threat. On Tuesday, the parliament in Cyprus rejected a proposed tax on bank deposits, 36 parliament members voted against the controversial tax and 19 parliament members abstained.

The U.S. Department of Commerce on Tuesday reported new U.S. home construction rose by 0.8% during February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 917,000. The reports showed modest gains for single-family homes and apartments, as longer-term trends also signaled a housing market that continues to strengthen. From the same period in 2012, new U.S. home construction in February was higher by 28%. New U.S. home construction for single-family homes rose 0.5% to a rate of 618,000 in February for the highest level since June 2008. Starts for structures with at least five units increased 0.7% to a rate of 285,000. A sign of future demand in building permits, rose 4.6% in February to a rate of 946,000.
 

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Mar 19, 2013


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