Greece has secured an overwhelming acceptance of a bond swap offer to private creditors and beat its own most optimistic forecasts, according to a senior official.

The deadline expired tonight on a deal needed to avoid a chaotic debt default.

The government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said take-up on the offer was around 95% an hour before the offer closed at 8pm GMT with responses still coming in.

The biggest sovereign debt restructuring in history will see bond holders accept losses of some 74% on the value of their investments in a deal that will cut more than €100bn from Greece's crippling public debt.

Preliminary results from the offer are expected to be announced officially at 6am GMT tomorrow and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos will hold a news conference before a call with eurozone finance ministers in the afternoon.

The swap is designed to wipe more than €100 billion from Greece's near-term and mid-term debt and replace it with new maturities.

The exercise is meant to make repayment of the debt of over €350 billion more sustainable in the immediate future, thereby giving the struggling Greek economy more time to emerge from a five-year trough.

Creditors holding more than half of the total had already agreed to participate in what is essentially a controlled default aimed at calming a crisis that concerns the entire euro zone. Greek media reports today put the participation higher, at more than 70%.

The Greek government would like to have acceptances for 90% of private creditor debt, and has said it will not go through with the deal unless participation reaches at least 75%. The Greek government will make an announcement on the swap on Friday, a finance ministry source said, declining to comment on the take-up rate.

A half-dozen Greek pension funds with holdings of about €3.5 billion have declined to participate, a finance ministry source said, but could be forced to do so under so-called collective action clauses recently included in Greek law.

Under this legislation, the exchange becomes binding for bonds governed by Greek law if at least half of all bondholders make a decision and at least two-thirds of them approve the proposed amendments.

Greece and the IIF, which represents leading global banks, have painted a dark picture of what the possible consequences might be if the country was forced into a disorderly default on March 20, when it is due to repay €14.4 billion in debt.

An IIF report warned that if the debt swap deal failed, it could do serious damage to the euro zone and even the global economy, and lead to costs of €1 trillion.

A third of a million Greeks lost jobs in 2011

A third of a million Greeks lost their jobs last year, as the government enacted budget reforms to fight debt, official data showed today.

The number of people registered as unemployed remained above a million in December 2011, amounting to 21% of the workforce, the data showed.

The state statistics agency said that more than 1.033 million people were unemployed in December, with nearly 2,000 losing their jobs over the previous month and over 344,000 over a year as Greece neared completion on a historic debt wipeout.

More than half of those aged up to 24 - 51.1% - in addition to women are the hardest hit by a recession now in its fifth year.