Friday 25th July 2014
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FRIDAY ANALYSTS TICKER: July 25th 2014 - According to Adam Cordery, global head of European fixed income, Santander Asset Management, and fund manager for the Santander Euro Corporate Short Term and Euro Corporate bond funds, “Pricing of risk assets doesn’t offer much of a margin for error at the moment. And now Europe is starting to go on holiday, market liquidity may get poorer than normal, and any buys today may well have to be holds until September. It is always interesting to note what yields are required to attract clients to financial products. Twenty years ago, bond funds offering yields of 10%+ could generally attract lots of client interest very quickly. However as rates have come down over the years, so the yields clients demand have fallen. Now 4% seems to be the new 10%, he say. Cordery thinks that unfortunately, investors often want today the yield/risk mix that was available last year, so the products that get launched, sold and bought in size may be more risky than people think. “Products with 4% yield will sell well today, but to get to a 4% yield in Euro you need to invest in a portfolio with an average rating of single-B, and that is far from being risk-free. I get the impression the conventional wisdom today is to think that interest rates must surely go up soon and the main risk to bond portfolios is an increase in bund yields. Because of this many investors are buying short-duration products and floating rate notes, perhaps viewing them as a safe choice, almost like cash. It is possible however that these products may yet prove to have a considerable sensitivity to changes in credit market spreads and/or bond market liquidity, and may prove to be no protection at all.” - Commenting on the RBS share price jump, Dr Pete Hahn of Cass Business School, says “It's hard to tell whether the RBS share price jump today is more about relief or optimism. The former is about fewer fines, fewer losses on loans, and fewer costs in a shrinking business and possibly dividends for shareholders. And there's the rub, owning shares (as opposed to interest bearing debt) should be about optimism and long-term growth in dividends. But from a shrinking business? Few would argue that RBS' retail and corporate bank had efficiencies to be gained and cash flow that might be converted to dividends; yet like most banks, RBS' cost of equity remains stubbornly and appropriately above its ability to provide a return on that equity. For shareholders, current improvements should mean dividends in the medium term but a recognition that RBS may lack any merit for new investment and delivering any long-term dividend growth - not good. While many large retail banks are getting safer, in some aspects, and we often speak of them in terms of moving toward utility type models, banks take risks, are cyclical, face competition, have new business challengers, and are simply are not utilities. Investors shouldn't get ahead of themselves here.” - According to the monthly survey held by the central bank of Turkey, the country’s capacity utilization (CU) rate declined slightly to 74.9% in July from 75.3% in June. Meanwhile, seasonally adjusted (SA) CU also declined to 74.3% from 74.7% in June, writes Mehmet Besimoglu at Oyak Yatirim Research. As for manufacturing confidence, the index declined to 109 from 110.7 in May. On SA basis, the index also edged down slightly to 106.4 from 107.2. SA capacity utilisation was broadly stable in 1H14, averaging at 74.7%. This is the same level with the 2013 average. Despite the political turmoil and volatility in financial markets, activity has been relatively resilient. Export recovery & government spending supported production in 1H. Following the elections, public spending relatively decelerated. The turmoil in Iraq also decelerated export recovery from June. Nevertheless, we still expect 3.5% GDP growth in 2014, writes Besimoglu.

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The European Review

By Patrick Artus, chief economist at Natixis

Avoid investing in German financial assets

Wednesday, 09 May 2012 Written by 
Avoid investing in German financial assets It may seem tempting to invest in German financial or property assets: Germany's economic and financial situation is at present far better than that of the other euro-zone countries, and German assets have outperformed those of the other euro-zone countries. http://www.ftseglobalmarkets.com/

It may seem tempting to invest in German financial or property assets: Germany's economic and financial situation is at present far better than that of the other euro-zone countries, and German assets have outperformed those of the other euro-zone countries.

But it should be realised that: German assets are overvalued because the euro zone's monetary policy is too expansionary for Germany and because German investors have a very significant domestic bias while the supply of assets is small and Germany risks economic and financial overheating which could lead to a correction in asset prices in the medium term.

German financial assets might seem attractive
German financial and property assets might seem attractive for two reasons. First, because the present economic and financial situation in Germany is far better than in other euro-zone countries. This is reflected in its public finances, current-account balance, the size of its industry and export capacity, its cost-competitiveness, corporate profitability and investment drive, and in its labour market - which is now experiencing rises in real wages, compared to falling real wages in the rest of the euro zone. All in all, given that Germany does not need to reduce its fiscal deficit, and given the rise in real wages, better export performance, increasing business investment and job creation, the growth outlook is at present far better in Germany than in the other euro-zone countries.

The second reason why German assets could seem attractive is that their recent performance has been strong. This is true for government bonds, equities, corporate bonds, bank debts and residential real estate (but not commercial real estate), since 2008.

But in reality, investment in German assets should be avoided, because they are too expensive and Germany could start overheating

German assets are too expensive
Since 2006, Germany has witnessed and will continue to maintain stronger growth than the euro zone as a whole. This means that the euro zone's current monetary policy is too expansionary for Germany, as it was for the rest of the euro zone from 2002 to 2007. This of course tends to cause a rise in asset prices.

Also, Germany has excess savings (by households and companies, as shown by its external surplus) with an increasing bias for investing domestically, while at the same time the supply of assets is small: meaning the fiscal deficit has almost disappeared, companies are self-financed and issue few bonds and residential construction is at a low level. There is therefore ex ante excess demand for German assets, which has driven up asset prices, especially for safe-haven government bonds.

Germany could start overheating in the medium term
Germany is practically in a situation of full employment, and since its companies are very profitable, wage growth is accelerating. In 2012-2013 an increase in the unit wage cost approaching 3% can be expected, with productivity gains that are fairly low. This will probably lead to a rise in underlying inflation towards 2%, and hence to even more abnormally low long-term interest rates, which will continue to push up the prices of other assets.

It is well known that such a situation of overheating (full employment and interest rates that are too low relative to growth) is potentially unstable and can lead to a downward correction in asset prices (as it occurred in Spain, Ireland and the United States, for example).

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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