The Greek "Bank Jog" Is Back: Bank Deposits Tumble To Lowest Since 2001

It didn't take much for the Greek bank run jog to return: with Greece once again stuck between an IMF rock and a Schauble hard case, and whispers that another bailout may be on the horizon, the local population took advantage of whatever capital controls loopholes they could find, and withdrew money from the local banking sector, which to this day remains on ECB life support, almost two years after the 3rd Greek bailout in the summer of 2015.

According to Greece central bank data, Greek private sector bank deposits declined in January for the second month in a row, driven by renewed concerns over the country's neverending bailout. Business and household deposits fell by €1.63 billion, or 1.34% month-on-month to €119.75 billion ($126.8 billion), the lowest level since November 2001. The January outflow follows a "jog" of €3.4 billion in December, making the two-month drop the worst since the latest Greek bailout panic in July of 2015.

And as concerns about the Greek fate only grew in February, it is likely that the next month's data will show another acceleration in outflows, especially since Greek non-performing loans remain at a staggering 70% of total bank assets and continue to grow.

As Reuters further notes, starting in December, the Bank of Greece stopped counting deposits of 4.2 billion euros held in the Loans & Consignment Fund and another 2.1 billion euros in the Deposit Guarantee Fund (TEKE) as private sector deposits. The move followed a reclassification by the country's statistics service ELSTAT, which groups the two institutions under the general government sector.

The latest two months of outflows put an end to a period of relative stability during which Greek banks had seen small deposit inflows in more than a year after the country clinched a third bailout to stay in the euro zone. Local banks, for the most part insolvent, remain dependent on central bank borrowing to plug their funding gaps. The gap between outstanding loans and deposits has forced banks to rely on borrowing from the European Central Bank and the Bank of Greece to plug their funding holes.

Greece's banking sector saw a 42 billion euro deposit outflow from December 2015 to July last year. Capital controls imposed on June 2015 helped contain the flight but sharply increased banks' dependence on emergency liquidity assistance (ELA) from the Bank of Greece.

Prior to the latest outflows, to signal confidence in the banking system the government has eased capital restrictions after making headway on bailout-mandated reforms and improved confidence in the banking system. Following the latest deposit outflow data, that may soon change.

As part of the relaxation of controls, "mattress" cash that are returned to banks are not subject to the restrictions, meaning amounts deposited can be fully withdrawn. That is, of course, assuming the upcoming showdown between the members of the Troika ends amicably. Should the outflows persist as this rate, Greece will be back on the front pages, and demanding a 4th bailout by mid-Spring, and certainly ahead of the looming July 2017 debt maturities.