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ETF Periscope: Oil May Slide onto Center Stage Right Next to a Slick Greece Agreement

Posted on the 21 February 2012 by Phil's Stock World @philstockworld

“Public opinion is no more than this: what people think that other people think.”Alfred Austin

ETF Periscope: Oil May Slide onto Center Stage Right Next to a Slick Greece Agreement
For those of you who haven’t had a Playbill handy, the latest revival of the drama known as the Greek sovereign debt crisis played out into the wee hours of Tuesday morning, as euro-zone finance ministers and the related cadre of state officials crossed the T’s and dotted the I’s of an agreement that will once again provide bailout funds to the struggling Mediterranean country.

In exchange for the lofty sum of slightly over $170 billion to be provided by the euro-group, consisting of the euro-zone members’ financial leaders, Greece has pledged to yet another round of austerity measures that are targeted to create a steep reduction in its debt-to-GDP ratio. The ratio currently sits at around 160%, and the stated intention by both the Athens government and its once and future lenders is to lower it to 120%.

Never mind that there seems to be a dearth of actual investors, economists, and political leaders that believe Greece will be able to attain such a stunning turnaround in a mere seven years. To a large extent, that’s not really the point. What it does accomplish is to allow both Greece and the rest of the euro-zone to continue to stare across the card table and see who will call the bluff as to whether a default will actually occur.

Will it be the Greek government, who has, up until the moment the new agreement was signed, protested extremely loudly that its citizens would not tolerate being squeezed beyond the point they already have been? Perhaps it will be Germany, who has insisted that greater accountability in the form of increased belt-tightening is the necessary cost of remaining in the euro-zone, although the countries are so entangled that it would be hard to say who would suffer greater economic hardship should a default actually occur.

In any event, the latest bailout is simply a stopgap measure, in the sense that the new agreement is only the first of a series of steps that requires a quarterly review process, one put in place to assure that the terms of the loan are being followed. It is possible that, as soon as Greece holds its next elections in April, the conditions required in exchange for the current bailout funds will be called into question.

Though part of the new agreement focused on having Athens stay the course regardless of who the ruling party turns out to be, eventually it will be up to the Greek populace to either honor the terms or to ultimately default.

For the moment, at least, it won’t be a surprise to see Wall Street respond with a subdued cheer as it puts to temporary rest the high level of concern investors have rightly held as the Greek drama has unfolded. The equity market’s current Bullish trend shall likely continue, though it will likely be timid until more certainty is restored around the euro and its Union, if indeed it ever shall be.

In the meantime, the matter of oil and the Middle East has returned to the radar of traders and investors in a big way, courtesy of Iran.

Tehran has reacted to further threats of embargo by the European Union by returning the favor and threatening to immediately withhold shipments of crude to both Britain and France. In addition, Iran promised to halt future shipments to any other European country that participates in the embargo.

The result of all this economic saber rattling was that oil futures hit their highest price level in over nine months. As of Tuesday morning, the spot market showed bids above $105 per barrel.

As far as the U.S. domestic economy goes, the coming week’s round of economic data, including existing home sales, new home sales, and the latest consumer sentiment report will give investors a chance to show how they are weighing the players on the playing field, and if domestic positives, should they indeed be in place, trump international concerns.

ETF Periscope

Full disclosure:  The author does not personally hold any of the ETFs mentioned in this week’s “What the Periscope Sees.”

Disclaimer: This newsletter is published solely for informational purposes and is not to be construed as advice or a recommendation to specific individuals. Individuals should take into account their personal financial circumstances in acting on any rankings or stock selections provided by Sabrient. Sabrient makes no representations that the techniques used in its rankings or selections will result in or guarantee profits in trading. Trading involves risk, including possible loss of principal and other losses, and past performance is no indication of future results.

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