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Greek Debt Crisis

Greek bailout deal drags on

David Brancaccio Feb 17, 2012

A week ago, the $172 billion Greek bailout seemed signed, sealed and delivered. But it turns out there’s still some heavy lifting to do before this Sisyphusian chapter in European financial history is ready to be closed. The Greek saga’s starting to feel like reading a book on a Kindle — you’re never quite sure if you’re close to the end.

The indecision and inaction has had markets rising and falling with each missed deadline, and even the cool-headed experts are starting to get sick of the run-around.

Barry Ritholtz is head of Equity Research at Fusion IQ, a financial blogger and author of the book “Bailout Nation.” He’s starting to think the never-ending Greek bailout story is designed to inure us to the drama.

“I knew the Greeks invented tragedy and comedy, but I had no idea they had invented the filibuster. And that’s what this seems like,” says Ritholtz. “How many times have we heard, ‘The deal is imminent,’ or, ‘The deal has happened?’ Where I come from, when you tell your creditors, ‘We’re not going to pay you back completely or on time,’ that’s a default.”

Ritholtz sees a real chance of the Greeks exiting the eurozone or at least spending some time in the “penalty box” while they demonstrate they’re worthy of keeping the euro as their currency.

Back at home, Ritholtz is less pessimistic about the U.S.  economic outlook.

“There’s no doubt that the holiday spending was a little disappointing, but overall, whether we’re talking about industrial production or employment numbers or a lot of the secondary numbers, things are slowly getting better,” Ritholtz says, dragging out the word “slowly” for dramatic effect.

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