Friday 28th November 2014
NEWS TICKER: FRIDAY NOVEMBER 27TH 2014: BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research’s latest report shows that investment flows this week starkly highlight the impact of negative interest rates in Europe. Money is moving up the value chain in search of substitute asset classes with suitable yield. Investment grade credit looks to be the greatest beneficiary of this at present, with inflows reaching $2-$3bn a week over the last month, a historic high. With around €450bn European govies trading at negative yields, investors have started shifting their attention to high-grade bond funds. The bank’s research team expects the recent strong trend of inflows to continue next year, with inflows to increase to $100bn into the asset class. So far this year high-grade credit has seen $63bn of inflows, while government bond funds have seen only $17bn. The low or negative yielding asset classes are all seeing outflows, reports Bank of America Merrill Lynch in the report. Government bond funds saw their fifth week of outflows, while money market funds saw their largest outflow ($19.5bn) since May this year. Flows into equities managed to bounce back to the positive territory, after three weeks of outflows - According to SwissQuote, in Switzerland, traders will be watching Swiss Kof leading indicator, which is expected to rise from 99.8 to 100.0 in November. However, the real focus will be referenda results this Sunday. The outcome should be released around 4pm CET on Sunday. The latest polls suggest that the “no” votes have the majority indicating that spillover into EURCHF and Gold should be limited. Elsewhere, Euro area flash HICP inflation is expected to drop from 0.4% y/y in October to 0.3% y/y in November. Swedish GDP growth is anticipated to weaken from 0.7% q/q in Q2 to 0.2% q/q in Q3. While OPEC decision not to cut will clearly be disappointing to Canadian policy makers, today GDP is expected to ease from 3.6% y/y to 2.1% y/y in Q3 - New research conducted by independent financial researcher Defaqto on behalf of NOW:Pensions reveals that advisers are gearing themselves up for the business opportunity that auto enrolment presents. Nine out of ten (88%) advisers who are currently advising small and medium sized companies on auto enrolment plan to continue doing so in 2015 when micro businesses will begin staging. Over half of the advisers surveyed (51%) think that auto enrolment represents a good opportunity for them to grow their business over the long term, with three quarters (76%) seeing it as a chance to both advise existing clients as well as grow a new client base. Over two in three (68%) advisers expect to be providing employers with advice on selecting a pension provider, while 72% expect to be advising them for the staging date, and 78% expect their services to be required on an ongoing basis after the staging date has passed. Seven out of ten (73%) believe they will need to advise on other corporate issues such as business protection insurance. Neil Liversidge, managing director, West Riding Personal Finance Solutions explains: "The need for help and advice around auto enrolment naturally brings together business owners, their employees, and advisers. As such it probably represents the single greatest opportunity most firms will have to generate new clients this decade." Not all advisers are in agreement, as nearly one in five (17%) of the 244 advisers questioned, do not intend to advise small and micro businesses on auto enrolment next year. Of these advisers, over half (55%) say they don’t think it will offer profitable business, while 28% believe there is too much admin involved, and 25% are deterred by how much time it will take. One in ten (10%) don’t believe they have the right knowledge to advise on it. Additionally, two in three (66%) advisers say that from their experience so far, employers are either not that engaged or not engaged at all with auto enrolment, while the same can be said for 83% of employees - Germany’s KfW IPEX-Bank and Africa Finance Corporation (AFC) have signed a Framework Financing Agreement (Basic Agreement) amounting to $300m. The facility will be accessible to infrastructure projects in Africa, developed by AFC, by providing long-term financing of European equipment and services imported for such projects. The basic agreement helps to address Africa’s infrastructure development needs while also supporting German and European exporters. Projects that will be financed under the agreement will be covered by guarantees from European Export Credit Agencies (ECAs) - A new active ETF issued by PIMCO Fixed Income Source ETFS plc has begun trading in the XTF segment on Xetra today. The ETF is the PIMCO Low Duration Euro Corporate Bond Source UCITS ETF Asset class, an active bond index ETF (ISIN: IE00BP9F2J32), with a total expense ratio of 0.3%. According to PIMCO, at least 90% of the investment portfolio underlying the active ETF consists of investment grade corporate bonds issued in euro. Up to 20% of the fund assets can be invested in the emerging markets region. The currency risk may amount to up to 10% due to corporate bonds not denominated in euro. The average duration ranges from zero to four years - Legal & General (L&G) has announced a restructure across its L&G Assurance Society (LGAS) division following the announcement of the impending departure of chief executive John Pollock next year. L&G’s savings business will be split into two businesses; mature and digital. Jackie Noakes, chief operating officer for LGAS and group IT director will become the managing director of the mature savings division (including insured savings and with-profit businesses). Mike Bury, managing director of retail savings at L&G will manage the digital savings arm, Cofunds, IPS, Suffolk Life and L&G’s upcoming direct-to-consumer platform –Orangefield Group has purchased Guernsey-based Legis Fund Services, expanding its fund services division and increasing its total assets under administration to more than $50bn. Legis will change its name to Orangefield Fund Services but will continue to be led by managing director Patricia White. The acquisition is part of a trend in mergers and acquisitions in the offshore fund administration sector, and was advised by Carey Olson. Carey Olson also recently advised Anson Group on the sale of its fund administration business to JTC Group and First Names Group on its acquisition of fund management business Mercator - The Straits Times Index (STI) ended +9.54 points higher or +0.29% to 3350.50, taking the year-to-date performance to +5.86%. The FTSE ST Mid Cap Index gained +0.14% while the FTSE ST Small Cap Index declined -0.52%. The top active stocks were Keppel Corp (-2.17%), DBS (+0.66%), OCBC Bank (-0.10%), UOB (+0.71%) and SingTel (unchanged). Outperforming sectors today were represented by the FTSE ST Technology Index (+1.03%). The two biggest stocks of the FTSE ST Technology Index are Silverlake Axis (+1.97%) and STATS ChipPAC (unchanged). The underperforming sector was the FTSE ST Oil & Gas Index, which declined -2.84% with Keppel Corp’s share price declining -2.17% and Sembcorp Industries’ share price declining-1.08%. The three most active Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) by value today were the IS MSCI India (+0.38%), SPDR Gold Shares (-0.70%), STI ETF (unchanged). The three most active Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) by value were CapitaCom Trust (+0.30%), Suntec REIT (+1.29%), Ascendas REIT (+1.30%). The most active index warrants by value today were HSI24400MBeCW141230 (-6.67%), HSI23800MBeCW141230 (-5.13%), HSI23600MBePW141230 (+2.50%). The most active stock warrants by value today were DBS MB eCW150602 (+2.42%), KepCorp MBePW150330 (+13.85%), UOB MB eCW150415 (+1.24%).

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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