Tuesday 21st April 2015
NEWS TICKER MONDAY APRIL 20TH 2015: European President Donald Tusk has called an extraordinary European Council on migratory pressures in the Mediterranean for Thursday this week to discuss how to tackle the growing tragedy of hundreds of would-be immigrants dying at sea on the way to trying to build a better life. “The situation in the Mediterranean is dramatic,” says Tusk. “It cannot continue like this. We cannot accept that hundreds of people die when trying to cross the sea to Europe. The objective of the summit is to discuss, at the highest level, what we, the Member States and the EU institutions together, can and must do to alleviate the situation now. I do not expect any quick-fix solutions to the root causes of migration - because there are none. Had they existed, we would have used them long ago. But I do expect that the Commission and the European External Action Service will present options for immediate action. And I do expect Member States will contribute immediately.” – The Nasdaq Stock Market says trading was halted today in ForceField Energy Inc (Nasdaq:FNRG) at 10:21:37 Eastern Time for "additional information requested" from the company at a last price of $3.11. Trading will remain halted until ForceField Energy Inc. has fully satisfied Nasdaq's request for additional information. For news and additional information about the company, please contact the company directly or check under the company's symbol using InfoQuotes on the Nasdaq web site - PEGAS, the pan-European gas trading platform operated by Powernext, successfully launched physically settled Spot and Futures contracts, quoted in pence per therms, for the Belgian Zeebrugge Beach (ZEE) gas hub on April 17th 2015. On the same day, a Daily Average Price index for the Zeebrugge Trading Point (ZTP) in Euros per Megawatt-Hour was introduced. The first transaction was completed on the first trading day at 08:49 AM CET on ZEE May 2015 contract at 45.025 pence per therm with a volume of 25,000 therms. This represented the first cleared futures trade ever made on the Zeebrugge hub. 14 trading members are set up for trading of the new products, with more members currently in the process of being admitted. “With the addition of the new ZEE contracts and with the ZTP and ZTPL (ZTP L-gas) products launched in July 2014, PEGAS is offering new trading opportunities through the widest range of products in two of the most important European hubs”, comments Dr Egbert Laege, chief executive officer of Powernext. Moreover, PEGAS is now providing a new ZTP Daily Average Price (DAP) index which is the weighted average of all transactions during a trading day - The value of real estate trades in Kuwait fell by 27% to KWD956m and the number of transactions fell by 28% to 692 in the first quarter this year according to statistics from the real estate registration department at the Ministry of Justice - The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Arab Monetary Fund (AMF) have pledged to enhance cooperation to respond more effectively to the needs of their common membership in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The AMF and the IMF share common objectives of maintaining macroeconomic and financial stability, and accelerating broad-based and inclusive economic growth and job creation in the Arab region, in addition to strengthening capacity building. Under the MOU, the AMF and the IMF will continue to provide training opportunities to Arab officials, support the development of domestic capital markets in the Arab countries, and strengthen their collaboration on the Arabstat initiative, which aims at the development of efficient statistical systems in the region. The two parties also intend to carry out joint analytical work to inform Arab finance ministers and central bank governors, and to organise high level events on topics of mutual interests and priority for the region – The Kuwait Turk Bank will open in Frankfurt in July offering Shari’a compliant retail banking services having just received a licence from German market authorities. The bank already has a branch in Mannheim, but this new licence will allow it to operate as a fully functional bank in the country - The Joint Committee of the European Supervisory Authorities (ESAs) is organising the third Joint ESAs Consumer Protection Day on 3 June 2015 in Frankfurt am Main. The event will bring together, from all over Europe, thought leaders of consumer/investor organisations, national regulators, EU institutions, academics and key market participants. The keynote speech will be delivered by Jonathan Hill, European Commissioner for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union. The focus will be on conduct risk; the next decade in the banking, insurance, pensions and securities sectors and the growing digitalisation of financial services. The Joint Committee of the European Supervisory Authorities consists of the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA), the European Banking Authority (EBA), and the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA). The Straits Times Index (STI) ended 21.94 points or 0.62% lower to 3503.25, taking the year-to-date performance to +4.10%. The top active stocks today were SingTel, which declined 1.12%, DBS, which declined 0.80%, Keppel Corp, which closed unchanged, CapitaLand, which declined 1.09% and UOB, with a 0.29% fall. The FTSE ST Mid Cap Index fell 0.32%, while the FTSE ST Small Cap Index fell 0.57%. The outperforming sectors today were represented by the FTSE ST Health Care Index, which rose 1.77%. The two biggest stocks of the Index - Raffles Medical Group and Biosensors International Group – ended 1.02% higher and 5.03% higher respectively. The underperforming sector was the FTSE ST Utilities Index, which slipped 1.65%. United Envirotech shares rose 3.15% and Hyflux declined 1.07% - The performance of the UK buy-to-let (BTL) residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) market remained steady in the three months ended February 2015, according to the latest indices published by Moody's Investors Service. The 90+ day delinquency rate and outstanding repossessions stood at 0.7% and 0.1% respectively in February 2015, unchanged from November 2014. Moody's annualised total redemption rate decreased to 9.3% in February 2015 from 11.2% in November 2014, representing a 17.5% drop - Proserv and hazardous environment specialist JCE Group (UK) Limited have announced a strategic working partnership in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region. The agreement will see Proserv supporting JCE Group by offering its products and services whilst also delivering in-country engineering and technical support. Together, the companies aim to further build on their industry-leading standards of quality, service and reliability, and help cultivate a world-class QHSE culture - Deutsche Asset & Wealth Management (Deutsche AWM) has launched a physical replication exchange-traded fund (ETF) tracking the JPX-Nikkei 400 Index of Japanese stocks. At the same time, three new currency-hedged share classes of existing db X-trackers ETFs have also been listed. db x-trackers JPX-Nikkei 400 UCITS ETF (DR)1 tracks an index of 400 Japanese stocks selected on the basis of quantitative and qualitative screening. As the underlying index is not a standard capitalisation-weighted benchmark the ETF falls into the strategic beta – also known as ‘smart beta’ – category of investments.

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The European Review

By Patrick Artus, chief economist at Natixis

ECB bond purchases: the case for Spain and Italy

Monday, 13 August 2012 Written by 
ECB bond purchases: the case for Spain and Italy The European Central Bank (ECB) is feeling the pressure to add to its balance sheet massive amounts of sovereign debt from eurozone countries that are in distress. Assuming that the bank was to do so, with the clear objective of sharply reducing those countries' long-term interest rates, it begs the question, would the eurozone crisis then be solved? If we were to consider this in the context of Spain and Italy, we would argue that it could only happen if the bank’s intervention not only restored the fiscal and external solvency of the countries in distress, but also revived growth. While these objectives would be fairly easily achieved in Italy, they would not rescue Spain. In fact, even a massive intervention by the ECB in government bond markets would not pull Spain out of its crisis. http://www.ftseglobalmarkets.com/

The European Central Bank (ECB) is feeling the pressure to add to its balance sheet massive amounts of sovereign debt from eurozone countries that are in distress. Assuming that the bank was to do so, with the clear objective of sharply reducing those countries' long-term interest rates, it begs the question, would the eurozone crisis then be solved?

If we were to consider this in the context of Spain and Italy, we would argue that it could only happen if the bank’s intervention not only restored the fiscal and external solvency of the countries in distress, but also revived growth. While these objectives would be fairly easily achieved in Italy, they would not rescue Spain. In fact, even a massive intervention by the ECB in government bond markets would not pull Spain out of its crisis.

Strong pressure on the ECB

The high level of long-term interest rates in Spain and Italy is stifling their economies. Strong pressure is therefore being put on the ECB to buy large quantities of government bonds issued by these countries, in the hope it will sharply reduce their long-term interest rates. This could be done directly or indirectly, perhaps by transforming the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) into a bank with funding provided by the ECB.



Massive purchases of government bonds by the ECB: Would the eurozone crisis be ended?

If massive purchases of government bonds by the ECB were to resolve the debt situation in Spain and Italy, the consequential fall in interest rates would need to restore fiscal solvency, restore external solvency and bring back acceptable growth.

Let’s look at these three points now:

1. Fiscal solvency

Fiscal solvency is ensured if the primary budget surplus is greater than the public debt multiplied by the differential between the long-term interest rate and nominal long-run growth.

If long-term interest rates were lowered by ECB interventions to close to the eurozone average, a primary surplus of 4.2 percentage points of GDP would be needed in Italy and 2.8 percentage points of GDP in Spain to ensure fiscal solvency. Italy’s primary surplus is forecast to meet 4% of GDP next year, while Spain’s primary deficit is due to exceed 3%.With lower interest rates Italy would be fiscally solvent in 2013, but by no means would Spain be.

2. External solvency

External solvency is ensured if the primary surplus (excluding interest on external debt) of the current-account balance is greater than the external debt multiplied by the differential between the long-term interest rate and nominal growth.

If the ECB moved long-term interest rates closer to the eurozone average, a primary current-account surplus of 0.8 percentage point of GDP would be needed in Italy, and 3.1 percentage points of GDP in Spain. At present, Italy has a deficit of 1.8 percentage points of GDP, and Spain has a deficit of 2.5 percentage points. As such, with lower interest rates, external solvency would not be guaranteed in Italy, while in Spain, again, the situation is far worse – external solvency would be very far from guaranteed.

3. Growth

The growth prospects are dramatic for Spain and Italy. A fall in long-term interest rates would significantly impact growth in a positive way, but only if the contraction in activity was predominately due to the high level of long-term interest rates. This would be the case if the contraction itself occurred because there was a decline in investment, rather than anything else such as job losses or deleveraging.

While consumption is declining in both countries, the decline in investment is far more dramatic in Spain than in Italy. The sharp decline in investment in Spain can be attributed to the collapse of the construction sector and the need for deleveraging, a problem which is far more acute in Spain than in Italy. As a result, a fall in interest rates would not be sufficient to revive growth in Spain, but would help in Italy.

Conclusion: Would massive purchases of Spanish and Italian government bonds by the ECB stop the eurozone crisis?

In conclusion, if the ECB were to purchase massive amounts of government bonds issued by struggling eurozone countries, a sharp fall in long-term interest rates in Spain and Italy would:

  • restore fiscal solvency in Italy but not in Spain;
  • restore external solvency in neither of the two countries, though the problem is far more serious in Spain than in Italy;
  • revive growth in Italy, but not in Spain where the decline in activity does not stem mostly from high interest rates.

Massive intervention by the ECB in government bond markets would therefore be decisive for Italy, but much less so for Spain.

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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