- Associated Press - Thursday, October 27, 2011

BRUSSELS (AP) — The excruciating work of inking a deal to contain their two-year debt crisis over, European leaders turned Thursday to a potentially more difficult task: implementing the agreement that asks banks to take on bigger losses on Greece’s debts and hopes to boost the region’s arsenal against market turmoil.

World stock markets surged Thursday on the news that the leaders had clinched a deal that everyone hopes will prevent the crisis from pushing Europe and much of the developed world back into recession and keep the currency union from unraveling. But analysts were more cautious, noting that the deal remains vague and its success hangs on the details.

In the predawn hours of Thursday, after the deal was unveiled, leaders claimed victory, but by evening, they were cautioning that their work has only begun.

“I think that yesterday we found a good overall package for the next stage, but I think that we still have many more stages to go,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters in Berlin.

Part of that work began Thursday when French President Nicolas Sarkozy called his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao and pledged to cooperate to revive global growth. There was no word on whether Beijing might contribute to Europe’s bailout fund.

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou speaks to the media as he arrives for an European Union summit in Brussels on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2011. (AP Photo/Yves Logghe)
Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou speaks to the media as he arrives ... more >

The fund’s chief executive is due to visit Beijing on Friday to talk to potential investors. Beijing has expressed sympathy for the 27-nation European Union, its biggest trading partner, but has yet to commit any cash.

The strategy unveiled after 10 hours of negotiations focused on three key points. These included a significant reduction in Greece’s debts, a shoring up of the continent’s banks, partially so they could sustain deeper losses on Greek bonds, and a reinforcement of a European bailout fund so it can serve as a euro1 trillion ($1.39 trillion) firewall to prevent larger economies like Italy and Spain from being dragged into the crisis.

After several missed opportunities, hashing out a plan was a success for the 17-nation eurozone, but the strategy’s effectiveness will depend on the details, which will have to be finalized in the coming weeks.

“The finer details still appear somewhat sketchy … but the prospect of a contagion and a disorderly default appear to have been put to one side for the time being,” said Michael Hewson, market analyst at CMC Markets. “The only concern is that this post-deal euphoria could well leave investors with a nasty hangover when they start to look at the fine print and realize that this solution could well be another sticking plaster.”

President Barack Obama, who had been increasingly pressuring Europe to get its act together in recent weeks, welcomed the plan — but pointedly noted that the U.S. was looking forward to its “full development and rapid implementation.”

The most difficult piece of the puzzle proved to be Greece, whose debts the leaders vowed to bring down to 120 percent of its GDP by 2020. Under current conditions, they would have ballooned to 180 percent.

To achieve that massive reduction, private creditors like banks will be asked to accept 50 percent losses on the bonds they hold. The Institute of International Finance, which has been negotiating on behalf of the banks, said it was committed to working out an agreement based on that “haircut,” but the challenge now will be to ensure that all private bondholders fall in line.

It said the 50 percent cut equals a contribution of euro100 billion ($139 billion) to a second rescue for Greece, although the eurozone promised to spend some euro30 billion ($42 billion) on guaranteeing the remaining value of the new bonds.

The full program is expected to be finalized by early December and investors are supposed to swap their bonds in January, at which point Greece is likely to become the first euro country ever to be rated at default on its debt.

“We can claim that a new day has come for Greece, and not only for Greece but also for Europe,” said Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, whose country’s troubles touched off the crisis two years ago. “A burden from the past has gone, so that we can start a new era of development.”

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