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Cyprus: Bank Deposit Levy - How Important?

Stock-Markets / Credit Crisis 2013 Mar 17, 2013 - 04:58 PM GMT

By: Ian_R_Campbell


As you almost certainly know, Cyprus is all over the news today in light of its announcement yesterday that it proposed a 'bank savings levy' on Cyprus bank depositors. In one sense, the following is more 'grist for your mill', but at the same time

■may include thoughts you hadn't considered; and,

■as a minimum provides you with immediate access to articles that you may not as yet have read.

I have frequently said over the past 18 months that I have a continuing concern about contagion issues originating in the Eurozone that could either ignite or exacerbate a further financial crisis.

Query: Could Cyprus be the last snowflake, following which the avalanche begins to start and subsequently gains momentum?

While I am some distance from believing that will prove to be the case, I am rather taken by a picture in one of the referenced articles of bank customers at what I take to be a Cyprus ATM machine.

Saturday morning Cyprus reached a bailout assistance agreement with international lenders that include a provision that Cyprus bank depositors would face a levy on their bank deposits of either 6.75% or 9.9% depending on whether their balance was less or more than 100,000 euros. Monday is a bank holiday in Cyprus, and it will interesting to see what happens there on Tuesday morning, irrespective of the results of a Cyprus Parliamentary vote on this levy currently scheduled for tomorrow morning.

There also are reports that some bailout lenders had been calling for seizure of all deposits over 100,000 euros, but that 'draconian demand' was not met. However, that such a measure may have been suggested has to raise red flags (no matter how tiny those red flags are on a country-specific basis) with those who hold cash deposits irrespective of country, including yours.

You might want to read Why today's Cyprus bailout could be the start of the next financial crisis which, among other things, suggests that the European Central Bank "will now be on high alert, monitoring activity in Greece, Spain" and elsewhere for evidence that "the Cyprus precedent will result in new runs on banks in other European Union countries".

Prior to the heightened flury of news on the proposed levy, early Saturday a smart friend of mine sent me an email with a link to an article titled Cyprus eurozone bailout prompts anger as savers hand over possible 10% levy. His accompanying note was brief and to the point: "Think having lots of cash in the bank is a good idea? Hmm... Have never head of this technique before, but what happens today (and it did) is possibly likely to happen tomorrow too."

That is a point that almost certainly will not be lost on those holding bank deposits in France, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain and elsewhere. It is also likely to play on the minds of those who hold physical gold and are concerned about 'gold confiscation' by governments.

I suggest you take the time to read a thoughtful article published yesterday in Athens based Ekathimerini titled After Cyprus, eurozone risks transmission failure and running out of road. If you read my Newsletters, you know that I am a great believer in paying attention to those whose 'feet are on the relevant street'.

As previously noted, the Cyprus Parliament plans to hold an emergency session tomorrow morning to vote on the 'savings levy'. I suggest that even if the Cyprus Parliament votes this measure down, the proverbial cat is 'now out of the bag' with respect to the possibility of such measures being introduced going forward, with a wave of 'depositor fear' likely to sweep through at least the Eurozone countries currently in - or headed toward - economic difficulty.

The important questions are:

■how high is that wave, and how fast will it move when banks open not only in Cyprus, but in France, Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Spain for starters; and,

■what meaningful consequences, if any, will arise from the existence of that wave.

For financial markets participants it will be important to look for answers to those questions in the coming days, beginning tomorrow morning.

Ian R. Campbell, FCA, FCBV, is a recognized Canadian business valuation authority who shares his perspective about the economy, mining and the oil & gas industry on each trading day. Ian is also the founder of Stock Research Portal, which provides stock market data, analysis and research on over 1,600 Mining and Oil & Gas Companies listed on the Toronto and Venture Exchanges. Ian can be contacted at

© 2013 Copyright Ian R. Campbell - All Rights Reserved

Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.

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