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Vanguard Exec Warns of 'Contagion' From Looming Greek Default

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Advisors may want to take steps now to protect their clients’ portfolio’s from a “contagion” should the Greek government default, because, as Ken Volpert, head of Vanguard's Taxable bond Group sees it, default by Greece is a development that appears to be more and more likely by the day.

That’s the word from Ken Volpert, the head of Vanguard’s Taxable Bond Group, who spoke on the issue Friday at the Morningstar ETF Invest Conference in Chicago.

Volpert said that a default by Greece is likely and he warns that such an event could lead to a “domino effect” that could spread the default crisis to much larger nations like Spain and Italy, which also have large debt loads relative to their GDP.

He said that the European nations and the European central bank are for now “feeding Greece the money it needs” and are pushing austerity measures there but, in the end, the country is “probably going to default, or restructure as they call it.”

The big problem facing the Eurozone, he said, is that there is no good governance model, “no central group that makes the decisions.” Any major decision relating to something like a Greek financial rescue has to be okayed by every member state in the currency union. “If one country doesn’t agree, things fall apart,” he said.

Volpert argued that issuance of Eurobonds would not be a solution to the crisis because absent any way to compel governments that aren’t managing their fiscal affairs well to shape up, “Eurobonds just push all the debt onto Germany and France,” he said.

He warned that there was a risk that the contagion from any Greek default could, like the Lehman default that sparked the 2008 fiscal crisis, spread beyond Europe.

“If countries pull out of the Euro, it’s a very difficult problem in terms of economic growth in the Eurozone, and that is going to filter into the banking system and create de-leveraging going on in the European banks that are going to affect assets that are in the U.S.,” he said.

“We also do a lot of export business to Europe so there are other kinds of impacts on our GDP,” he added.



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