April 9, 2014

Via Kevin Drum, we find that Greece might have a successful debt auction:

Greece is undergoing an astonishing financial rebound. Two years ago, the country looked like it was set for a messy default and exit from the euro. Now it is on the verge of returning to the bond market with the issue of 2 billion euros of five-year paper.

There are still political risks, and the real economy is only now starting to turn. But the financial recovery is impressive. The 10-year bond yield, which hit 30 percent after the debt restructuring of two years ago, is now 6.2 percent....The changed mood in the markets is mainly down to external factors: the European Central Bank's promise to "do whatever it takes" to save the euro two years ago; and the more recent end of investors' love affair with emerging markets, meaning the liquidity sloshing around the global economy has been hunting for bargains in other places such as Greece.

That said, the center-right government of Antonis Samaras has surprised observers at home and abroad by its ability to continue with the fiscal and structural reforms started by his predecessors. The most important successes have been reform of the labor market, which has restored Greece's competitiveness, and the achievement last year of a "primary" budgetary surplus before interest payments. [Reuters]

But let's not get ahead of ourselves:


Given the kind of people who have been in charge of the thing, I guess it's sort of impressive that the European Central Bank has finally figured out how to use their infinite Euro-creation power to keep member nations from defaulting on Euro-denominated debt. But with unemployment still over 27 percent, I'd say let's hold off on talk of a recovery.

Indeed, I rather fear this could be the worst of all worlds. Moving off the Euro would have been awful, but at least held the prospect of returning to growth and full employment within a couple years (from a much lower base). By contrast, the bank Natixis recently estimated that, given very generous assumptions, it will take Spain (which is in similarly dire straits) 25 years to return to 2007-era employment. A nation can do a great deal of catch-up growth in that time.

Realistically, I'd guess this means that Spain, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Ireland, etc., will never recover fully, and instead we're witnessing the birth of a crummy, tattered Franco-German empire with a permanently depressed periphery. Ryan Cooper

8:44 p.m. ET
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Puerto Rico will default on $422 million in debt payments due Monday, Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla announced Sunday, adding the "decision not to pay has been a very difficult one, and one that frankly I would rather not take."

In a televised address, Garcia said Puerto Rico is "faced with the lack of liquidity to meet both the needs of our creditors and to provide services to our people. I had to choose. And I chose." Government officials spent the weekend attempting to negotiate with creditors, and some payments have been postponed for the time being. Another $700 million is due to creditors in early July.

Puerto Rico is home to 3.5 million people, and has an unemployment rate of 12.5 percent. White collar professionals and members of the middle class are moving away from the island, and with one doctor a day leaving, health care is in "crisis," Dr. Jaime Rivera, president of the Puerto Rico Hospital Association, told NBC News. Catherine Garcia

8:20 p.m. ET
Haidar Mohammed Ali/AFP/Getty Images

Hundreds of protesters who stormed Baghdad's fortified Green Zone on Saturday to demand an end to corruption left Sunday, following an order from the man who sent them there, Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr.

The influential cleric said he was asking them to leave out of "respect" for a Shiite pilgrimage underway, but said they would be back on Friday if their demands weren't met. In a statement, al-Sadr, who has demanded Parliament meet for a new cabinet soon or else he will call for the dissolution of the government and early elections, asked the protesters to leave peacefully, clean up after themselves, and chant for a unified Iraq, not sects. Many of the protesters blamed the United States for the political system in place and its sectarian quotas, The New York Times reports, and in a joint statement, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, President Fuad Masum, and Salim al-Jubouri, the speaker of Parliament, condemned the damage done to the Parliament building and said they will continue to meet to "assure progress in reforming the political process."

The Green Zone is usually off limits to ordinary citizens, and protesters gathered in Celebration Square, once Saddam Hussein's parade grounds, and swam in pools. "I used to hear about the Green Zone and used to ask myself and my friends, 'What does the Green Zone mean?'" Ali Mustafa, 21, told the Times. "Entering the Green Zone was like a dream for me." Catherine Garcia

1:00 p.m. ET

Princess Charlotte, the daughter of Prince William and Kate Middleton, is set to turn 1 on Monday. What would a royal birthday be without some formal photos to celebrate? Kensington Palace shared a few gems of the tyke Sunday:

Nice camera work, Kate.

Could she be any cuter?

Time flies. Julie Kliegman

12:01 p.m. ET
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders raised $25.8 million in April, the campaign said Sunday. That's a sharp drop from the $44 million he pulled in in March.

The campaign put a positive spin on the news, noting it surpasses the campaign's monthly average of $17 million.

Hillary Clinton holds a large delegate lead over Sanders in the Democratic presidential race. In April, the struggling Sanders campaign announced layoffs of hundreds of staff members. Julie Kliegman

11:21 a.m. ET
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Malia Obama will attend Harvard University in 2017 after taking a gap year, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama announced Sunday. The decision to take a year off will theoretically lessen the spotlight in college, as her father will be out of office well before she starts classes.

Harvard's acceptance rate this year was just 5.2 percent, the lowest in the institution's history, The New York Times reports. Obama will join a storied club of presidential children that have attended Harvard as undergraduate or graduate students, which includes figures ranging from Robert Lincoln to George W. Bush. Julie Kliegman

10:58 a.m. ET

In April, Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) made a seriously uncomfortable joke at a comedy show.

Here's a quick refresher: De Blasio, joking about his chronic lateness, said he was running on "CP Time." Colored People's Time has long been a reference to the racist stereotype that black people are frequently late. Clinton jumped in, jokingly claiming the acronym really means "Cautious Politician Time."

President Obama took Clinton and de Blasio to task Saturday during his speech at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. He apologized for being late and said he was running on CPT, which stands for "Jokes That White People Should Not Make." Watch the zinger below. Julie Kliegman

10:19 a.m. ET

Rev. Daniel Berrigan, a Jesuit priest influential in forming U.S. opposition to the Vietnam War, died Saturday at age 94, The New York Times reports.

In 1968, Berrigan and his brother led other activists in seizing hundreds of local draft records in Catonsville, Maryland, and setting them on fire with homemade napalm. Berrigan was imprisoned. His activism and subsequent arrests continued in his later years.

"The day after I'm embalmed, that's when I'll give it up," he said in 2001. Julie Kliegman

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