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Greeks emptying bank accounts and buying silver/gold

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06/22/2011 11:45 AM
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Greeks emptying bank accounts and buying silver/gold
Greek citizens are emptying savings accounts and buying gold as they brace themselves for the possibility of a sovereign default and a run on the banks.

Pledges by socialist prime minister George Papandreou that his government would “save the country” have been widely discounted by the public. However, parliament gave him a vote of confidence late on Tuesday night. The socialists have a six-seat majority in the 300-member house.

Sales of gold coins have soared as savers seek a safer and fungible source of value.

“When the global financial crisis started, our sales of coins to investors overtook bullion for the first time,” said Harry Krinakis, at Sepheriades, a Greek precious metals trader. “Now the sales ratio has reached five to one.”

Tomas, a computer technician, has exchanged his euro savings for gold coins: “I keep them at home just like my grandmother did in the second world war.”

Monthly bank withdrawals were running at €1.5bn-€2bn (£1.3bn-£1.8bn) in the first quarter. Last year, depositors withdrew €30bn, equivalent to 12.3 per cent of total savings, according to the central bank. Greek deposits worth an estimated €8bn were transferred to banks in Cyprus in 2010. But the flow has dried up this year amid fears that Cypriot banks could suffer contagion.

Andreas, a supermarket manager, transferred the family savings to Munich earlier this year: “The Swiss banks aren’t interested unless you’ve got several hundred thousand euros.”