Wednesday 10th February 2016
NEWS TICKER: KPMG has appointed Adrian Stone as its UK head of audit with immediate effect, succeeding Tony Cates who now leads KPMG's international markets and government practice. Stone joined KPMG's Sheffield office in 1984 and has been an audit partner since 1997. He previously held several senior roles in KPMG's audit practice including head of audit for the north of England and Scotland, chief operating officer for the UK audit practice, head of internal audit and head of KPMG's department of professional practice. He has been KPMG's interim head of audit since November last year - Bridge Bank says it has provided faith based Spark Networks with a $10m revolving credit facility - BNP Paribas Securities Services has been appointed by Sampo Group, the Finnish financial services group, to provide global custody and settlement services for Sampo’s €25bn of insurance assets held globally - Saudi Arabia is reportedly reconsidering the requirement for foreign companies setting up in the country to have a local partner. A committee led by the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and the Ministry of Labour, will look at ways to spur additional inward investment into the realm, according to newspaper Asharq Al Awsat. The committee is expected to ease the bureaucratic barriers for foreign firms that want access to the Saudi Arabian economy. Foreign direct investment is vital as the kingdom looks to make up foreign exchange losses and balance its $98bn budget deficit – European president Donald Tusk met with Georgian premier Giorgi Kvirikashvili today. Discussion focused on continued reforms of the Georgian judiciary, rule of law and human rights are important priorities and I underlined the EU's readiness to assist. It is crucial that criminal investigations and prosecutions be evidence-based, transparent and impartial, in line with the commitments of the Association Agreement. “I share Georgia's concerns about the continued implementation of the so-called “treaties" between Russia and Abkhazia and South Ossetia. I saw for myself the situation at the administrative boundary line, including the "borderisation" [sic] process, during my last visit to Georgia,” said Tusk following the meeting. The European Union will continue to give its firm support for the territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognised borders.” - February 9th 2016: The Polish Financial Supervision Authority (KNF) at its meeting today confirmed the appointment of Małgorzata Zaleska as President of the Management Board of the Warsaw Stock Exchange, following her appointment as president on January 12th. Zaleska is the director of the Institute of Banking, Warsaw School of Economics; the Chairperson of the Committee of Finance Sciences of the Polish Academy of Sciences; a member of the NBP Economic Research Committee; a member of the Central Commission for Degrees in Finance – Today’s equity markets tell a tale of fears of a global slowdown with even the US considered a candidate for recession. The US session yesterday was not pretty, with the S&P500 down 1.42%. The index has lost around 9% of its value this year and is now 13% below the nominal high that it reached last year. The DJIA was down 1.1% and Nasdaq100 fell 1.59%. The Nasdaq100 is now 17.92% below the nominal high that it reached last year. Swissquote says: “The sentiment is risk-off at the moment, with gold reaching $1,200 for the first time since June. Gold’s bullish momentum continues yet commodity linked currencies such as the AUD and NZD failed to gain the advantage as outside precious metals and other commodities broadly fell. In particular, WTI Crude is now back around below $30 a barrel over continued oversupply concerns. Markets are now fearing that this period of lingering low oil prices could last a long time”. – In the Asian session Japanese stocks fell more than 5% and the yield on the benchmark government bond dropped into negative territory for the first time. The decision by the Bank of Japan to introduce negative interest rates looks to have pushed down yields for both short and longer termed bonds. In afternoon trading in the Asian session, the benchmark 10-year government bond was yielding minus 0.025; in other words, investors were willing to lend the over-indebted Japanese government money for 10 years and get back less than they put in. Remember that Japanese sovereign debt is more than double the country’s GDP. The question is now, how far down can yields go? Moreover, when will central banks stop flirting with negative interest rates. It is a dangerous policy. The stock market took the brunt of investor fears today, as the Nikkei Stock Average closed y down 5.4%, falling 918.86 points to finish at 16,085.44. This is a sizeable drop and the largest one-day fall for about two and a half years. Yet again, the yen did well, rising against the US dollar to 114.80. Financial shares took the brunt of today’s pain with Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. (MTU) shares closing down 8.7%, and Nomura Holdings losing 9.1%. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 ended the session 2.9% lower, and New Zealand's S&P/NZX 50 was down 1.3%. India's Sensex was 1.2% lower. Chinese, Singapore and Korean markets are closed today. In Europe, equity futures are mixed. The CAC40 has dropped 0.22%, the DAX is down 0.21% while the FTSE100 is unchanged, but there’s still half a day’s trading to go.

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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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