Wednesday 17th December 2014
NEWS TICKER: WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 16TH 2014: GEA Group Aktiengesellschaft is one of the largest suppliers for the food processing industry, following the sale of the Heat Exchangers Segment at the end of October this year, Klaus Hunger, chairman of the General Works Council of the former GEA Heat Exchangers Segment, has announced his retirement from the GEA Group Supervisory Board. By order of the local court of Düsseldorf, Brigitte Krönchen, deputy chair of the GEA Farm Technologies Works Council, was appointed to the as the new employee representative. - On a seasonally adjusted basis, the US Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers declined 0.3% in November after being unchanged in October, according to the Bureau of Labor. The index for all items less food and energy increased 0.1% last month after rising 0.2%in October - Methorios Capital, an Italian based independent financial services company, has listed on the Alternext market in Paris, with the direct listing of the existing 133,436,181 shares. The admission price of Methorios Capital shares was set at €0.63 per share. Market capitalisation was €84.1mon on its debut. Fabio Palumbo, Chairman of Methorios Capital, says “This listing allows the company to increase its international visibility, the share liquidity and guarantee new capital raising opportunities to finance its growth.” - Nasdaq today announced that LifeSci Index Partners, LLC, will list two new exchange-traded funds, the BioSharesTM Biotechnology Clinical Trials Fund (Symbol: BBC) and the BioSharesTM Biotechnology Products Fund (Symbol: BBP), on The Nasdaq Stock Market. BBC and BBP will begin trading today. "The landscape of the biotechnology sector has experienced dramatic shifts since the initial public offerings of Cetus and Genentech in the early 1980s," says Paul Yook, co-founder of LifeSci Index Partners. "Our BioShares funds are designed with the current biotechnology market in mind and offer investors unique and diversified portfolios of entrepreneurial biotechnology stocks by applying our rules-based index methodology." Both funds employ an equal weighting approach that allows each security's performance to affect the ETF equally, regardless of the size of the company. In this way, a relatively small firm enjoying a major breakthrough can have a meaningful impact on the ETF. An equal weighting also serves to minimize the outsize impact that a handful of mega-cap biotech companies can have on more traditional, market-cap weighted indexes. - According to Platon Monokroussos, head of research at Eurobank, “Taking their cue from the negative tone in Asia earlier today, major European stock markets stood in a negative territory in early trade on Wednesday pressured by persisting Russia jitters and the continued downtrend in oil prices amid oversupply concerns. The FOMC holds its final meeting of the year today. The policy announcement is scheduled for 20:00 CET and market focus is on whether the FOMC will drop its commitment “to maintain the 0 to ¼% target range for the federal funds rate for a considerable time following the end of its asset purchase program” - The first round of voting for the election of the new President of the Hellenic Republic in the 300-seat Parliament is scheduled to take place this evening at 19:00 Athens time (EET). As per Article 32 of the Constitution of Greece, a 2/3rd majority of the number of seats is required for the election of the new President i.e., 200 in-favour votes. Recall that Greece’s two-party coalition government currently enjoys the support of 155 lawmakers; center-right New Democracy controls 127 seats and PASOK 28. The coalition government has nominated former EU Commissioner Stavros Dimas for the presidential post – The UK’s Water Services Regulation Authority's (Ofwat’s) final determination on price limits for UK water companies over the forthcoming five-year control period 2015-20, which was announced on December 12th, remains challenging but in line with expectations, says Moody's in a report published today. The main difference is a further 10 basis-point reduction in the allowed wholesale return, resulting in an overall allowed return for the business as a whole (including wholesale and retail activities) of 3.74%, compared with 3.85% in the draft determination and 5.1% in the current period. However, the ratings agency says negative implications of the additional 10 basis-point reduction are somewhat offset by other positive changes from the draft determination stage, including an adjustment for cost inflation on retail cost allowances from 2012-13 to 2013-14. Moody's notes that United Utilities Water Limited (A3 stable) and Thames Water Utilities Ltd (Baa1 negative) benefitted from significant changes to their overall total expenditure allowances between draft and final determination, and, in the case of Thames Water, a company-specific uncertainty mechanism related to the Thames Tideway Tunnel project. Similarly, Moody’s says Southern Water Services Limited (Baa2 negative) achieved a significant improvement in the legacy adjustment related to its performance in the current regulatory period. Conversely, Bristol Water plc (Baa1 stable) remains the relative loser of the final determination, as it faces the largest relative reduction in wholesale total expenditure allowance compared with the company's plan. The gap between Bristol Water's proposed wholesale total expenditure versus Ofwat's final determination allowances is 32%, making a referral to the Competition and Markets Authority likely – Bloomberg reports that Jefferies Group is moving to shed the commodities and financial-derivatives business that it bought from Prudential Bache in 2011. Jefferies says it's getting out of the business because of high costs and dwindling fees – California’s SunEdison, Inc says it has closed its second fund for distributed solar photovoltaic (PV) generation projects in the United States with Barclays and Citi. The lease pass-through fund is valued at $117m, and follows on the Barclays and Citi fund closed earlier this year. This brings the aggregate value of funds closed this year with Barclays and Citi for SunEdison and TerraForm Power's distributed generation projects to $290m. The fund will provide financing for a portfolio of distributed generation PV projects in 12 states across the West Coast, mid-Atlantic, New England, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. The projects are expected to be operational in the fourth quarter of 2014 through the first half of 2015. Upon mechanical completion, the projects will be sold to TerraForm Power – Emolument.com, the salary benchmarking site has examined bonus data from 322 VPs working in front office in Asset Management in Europe. It finds London’s salaries are the highest –with a strong culture of incentivising staff, “bonuses in London are the chunkiest in Europe” says the firm. However, salaries are higher in Geneva (at a 23% premium to London). VPs in Amsterdam earn as much as those in Paris says the firm - According Sino news service Red Pulse, Baidu will invest $600m in the taxi start-up, marking the tech giant’s official entry into the taxi app space, a year after Tencent and Alibaba announced their investments in taxi apps DidiTaxi and Kuaidi Taxi respectively. This recent acquisition marks yet another push from Baidu to compete in the mobile payment and O2O market sectors. Baidu launched its third-party payment platform, Baidu Wallet, in April 2014, competing with Alibaba’s Alipay and Tencent’s Tenpay platforms. Baidu also has an investment in the travel website Qunar, which in addition to Baidu Wallet, also offers the option for payment through other platforms. Some industry sources believe that this new investment will be no different and that Uber will likely remain open to other payment channels. Even if this is not the case, Baidu Wallet will continue to face considerable hurdles. While the company has grown a strong client base through its mapping app, it has yet to prove that it can transform passive consumers to active ones, willing to make a purchase through its platform - Russia continues to take a beating in the FX trading markets. The depreciation of the Ruble this year is unprecedented and while it has also put pressure on other emerging market currencies, Russia is the fall guy in today’s markets, while the USD and JPY are both benefactors of safe haven investment flows. The euro found its footing as it attempted to rally back above 1.2500 following better than expected PMI readings and a huge jump in the German ZEW economic sentiment survey, though it is looking toppy and selling is now expected - UK economic news flow has tended to be better than analysts expect over the last couple of months and aside from a very downbeat inflation report and inflation expectations, the rest of the economy is maintaining a firm pace of growth. The issue however is the role inflation plays in the BOE’s policy outlook, currently inflation at 1% is well below the BOE’s target of 2%, and concerns are inflation will decline further before recovering, this is likely to impact the BOE’s progression to raising interest rates and as such will have ongoing implication on the value of GBP. For now GBP is marginally firmer on the morning.

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The European Review

By Patrick Artus, chief economist at Natixis

Are there available instruments to stimulate euro zone growth, and are they likely to be used?

Friday, 15 June 2012 Written by 
Are there available instruments to stimulate euro zone growth, and are they likely to be used? A consensus is emerging that euro zone growth must be boosted to prevent several countries from slipping into a depressive cycle where production declines and unemployment increases without the fiscal deficit or the external debt correcting. We have drawn up a list of available instruments to boost euro zone growth (wage increases, fiscal deficits, European investments, a range of actions by the ECB, weakening of the euro) and seek to determine which measures are most likely to be implemented. The risk is that agreement between European countries is only reached on policies that do not provide a substantial boost to growth in the euro zone – faster (spontaneous) wage increases in Germany, increase in investments by the EIB and structural funds, a third VLTRO, a cut in the euro repo rate – and not on policies that would have a much greater impact, such as fiscal stimulus in Germany, purchases of government bonds by the ECB, massive currency purchases (dollars) by the ECB. http://www.ftseglobalmarkets.com/

A consensus is emerging that euro zone growth must be boosted to prevent several countries from slipping into a depressive cycle where production declines and unemployment increases without the fiscal deficit or the external debt correcting.

We have drawn up a list of available instruments to boost euro zone growth (wage increases, fiscal deficits, European investments, a range of actions by the ECB, weakening of the euro) and seek to determine which measures are most likely to be implemented.

The risk is that agreement between European countries is only reached on policies that do not provide a substantial boost to growth in the euro zone – faster (spontaneous) wage increases in Germany, increase in investments by the EIB and structural funds, a third VLTRO, a cut in the euro repo rate – and not on policies that would have a much greater impact, such as fiscal stimulus in Germany, purchases of government bonds by the ECB, massive currency purchases (dollars) by the ECB.

There is a consensus over growth stimulus in the euro zone

There is a growing consensus that growth in the euro zone needs to be boosted. The recession is leading to a situation in an increasing number of countries where the fiscal deficit is no longer being reduced (Spain, Italy, Portugal, and Greece).



Meanwhile, despite the slowdown in domestic demand, the external deficit remains substantial in Portugal and is no longer being reduced in Spain, Greece and France due to the weakening of activity and exports in the euro zone. Indeed, rising unemployment is pushing down real wages in Italy, Spain, Greece and Portugal while companies everywhere remain cautious and are investing little.

So a depressive dynamic is emerging: declining activity and falling wages without any improvement in fiscal or external deficits. This has given rise to a growing view that action needs to be taken to boost growth in the euro zone. We will therefore draw up a list of policies that could stimulate growth in this region and gauge the likelihood of these being introduced.

The (possible/likely) policies to stimulate euro-zone growth

1. Faster wage growth in Germany

Rather than an explicit economic policy, this is more the effect that full employment and high corporate profitability have on wage growth in Germany. Indeed, wage agreements reached in Germany mean an annual four per cent rise in nominal wages in 2012, or around two per cent in real terms, is conceivable. Our research suggests that every percentage point annual increase in wages in Germany results in a EUR 14 bn income injection.

2. Fiscal stimulus in Germany

Whereas other euro zone countries are having difficulty reducing their fiscal deficits, Germany has virtually eliminated its deficit. A coordinated fiscal policy in the euro zone, therefore, could involve a more expansionary fiscal policy in Germany. Indeed, a one percentage point of GDP rise in Germany’s fiscal deficit would amount to an income injection of around EUR 30 bn – a bigger boost to euro zone growth.

3. European investments

It is often suggested that, since euro zone countries have no more leeway to boost their economy, stimulus needs to be carried out at the European level, either in the form of additional investments by the EIB or in the form of additional investments by European structural funds. A 10 per cent increase in investments both by the EIB and European structural funds (excluding agricultural policy) would mean an additional EUR 14 bn of investment per year.

4. Driving down long-term interest rates through ECB government bond purchases

Spain and Italy are faced with considerably higher long-term interest rates than their growth rates, which is crippling their economies. Direct purchases of Spanish and Italian government bonds by the ECB would help to drive down their interest rates, so the Securities Markets Programme (SMP) should be reactivated for substantial amounts. Indeed, this has proved successful in the United Kingdom where massive purchases of Gilts by the Bank of England have kept long-term interest rates very low despite the magnitude of the country’s fiscal deficit. Central banks can control long-term interest rates if they are willing to buy the necessary quantity of government bonds.

5. A third VLTRO

The three-year repos in December 2011 and February 2012 enabled Spanish and Italian banks to obtain cheap funding at one per cent and finance massive purchases of domestic government bonds, which resulted in a temporary fall in interest rates on these bonds.

A fresh long-term repo would have two positive effects. It would help to finance the external deficits of Spain and Italy (and also those of other countries) as well as contribute to the financing of the fiscal deficits in Spain and Italy.

6. A cut in the euro repo rate

There is still some room for manoeuvre for a cut in the euro repo rate while maintaining a big enough margin between the repo rate and the deposit rate at the ECB. A 25 or 50 basis point cut in the repo rate would be justified in light of the euro zone’s growth outlook and the muted rise in unit wage costs. The cut would likely lead to a depreciation of the euro and bolster growth. We have projected that a 100 basis point cut in the repo rate would increase euro zone growth by 0.2 percentage point per year for two years with a 50 basis point cut by 0.1 percentage point per year.

7. Sharp depreciation of the euro

Even after its recent fall, the euro is still overvalued by around 10 per cent.

Despite the lack of buyers, the euro is depreciating only slightly because the euro zone has no external borrowing requirement. In order to obtain a sharp depreciation of the euro, the ECB would have to accumulate substantial foreign exchange reserves (mainly in dollars) without sterilising these reserves, i.e. adopting the same policy as emerging countries, Japan and Switzerland.

While a depreciation of the euro would increase activity in the euro zone as a whole, it would do little to benefit the least industrialised euro zone countries (Greece, Spain, and even France).

So which measures are likely to be implemented?

Faster wage growth in Germany is already taking place and an increase in European investments is very likely. Moreover, considering the growth outlook and the rise in long-term interest rates, a third very-long-term repo (VLTRO 3) and a cut (25 to 50 bp) in the refi rate are also likely.

However, we do not believe Germany will introduce a fiscal stimulus package (due to the refusal by the Germans to “pay for the others”), nor will there be a reactivation of the SMP (the monetisation of public debts jars with the ECB and Germany), nor foreign-exchange interventions to drive down the euro (due to the resulting monetary creation, since it would not be sterilised).

Meanwhile, the effectiveness of a VLTRO 3 is questionable: do the banks want to buy more government bonds at a time when interest-rate risk is still high and there will be other stress tests on government bond portfolios in the future?

We are therefore  left with a stimulus consisting in EUR 14 bn in wages in Germany, EUR 14 bn in European investments and a 25 to 50 bp cut in the repo rate, which could add 0.2 percentage points per year to euro zone growth at best.

Patrick Artus

A graduate of Ecole Polytechnique, of Ecole Nationale de la Statistique et de l'Adminstration Economique and of Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris, Patrick Artus is today the Chief Economist at Natixis. He began his career in 1975 where his work included economic forecasting and modelisation. He then worked at the Economics Department of the OECD (1980), before becoming Head of Research at the ENSAE. Thereafter, Patrick taught seminars on research at Paris Dauphine (1982) and was Professor at a number of Universities (including Dauphine, ENSAE, Centre des Hautes Etudes de l'Armement, Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées and HEC Lausanne).

Patrick is now Professor of Economics at University Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne. He combines these responsibilities with his research work at Natixis. Patrick was awarded "Best Economist of the year 1996" by the "Nouvel Economiste", and today is a member of the council of economic advisors to the French Prime Minister. He is also a board member at Total and Ipsos.

Website: cib.natixis.com/research/economic.aspx

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