One week later it's still hard to find a reason to really, truly, deep down in our heart of hearts care very much about Cyprus and its banking system. The best explanations revolve around the disproportionate size of the banking system to the economy of the country.
Jon Najarian, co-founder of OptionMonster.com, says the Cyprus solution matters because of the precedent it could set. Taking assets from depositors is not a tax. It's an outright confiscation of private assets by government authorities. It's the act of a dictatorship, not a democracy. The EU can withstand different tax rates, government aid, philosophies, and cultures throughout its member nations. What the EU can't be is an incubator of tyranny.
It is that relative size of the banks that convinced the Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades to propose a taxation of 9.9% on deposits, which would go toward satisfying demands made by the EU.
It was a plan so ill-conceived, so staggeringly asinine, that it was immediately met with outrage and runs on Cypriot banks. The banks in Cyprus remain closed, but the size of the bailout on the table — about $13 billion USD — is small enough to suggest the matter could be decided over a few beers and a game of darts.
The problem is the proposed solution says about the thought process of the EU. "This was a trial balloon floated up by the ECB," Najarian offers in the attached video. The country itself is little more than a "banking center that has no impact on the ECB or the European Union."
If the Cypriot asset grab was a trial balloon, it popped. If it was a test tube, it broke. Peeling off 10% of every ruble deposited was a Cypridiotic idea that seems on the cusp of dying from natural causes. Cyprus is, at this point, a Wild West banking center with a casual attitude toward incoming deposits.
Should the EU come under meaningful strain because of a $13 billion bailout, then it was never a real Union in the first place. For the time being, Cyprus is a camera opportunity. The real victims are lined up in front of ATMs trying to extract their deposits, while the truly well-heeled make alternate plans.
Cyprus isn't a catalyst for a sell-off. It's a an excuse for a tired rally to take a breather. Most investors would be well-served by making a dream list of stocks to buy should a real drop in the market materialize.