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

Target 2 accounts: The equivalent of currency interventions, and a very good indicator of the risk that the euro may break up

Wednesday, 20 June 2012 Written by 
Target 2 accounts: The equivalent of currency interventions, and a very good indicator of the risk that the euro may break up When the Bundesbank’s (Germany's) Target 2 account (which is positive) increases while another euro-zone country’s Target 2 account becomes more negative, this is equivalent to a German currency intervention aimed at stabilising the exchange rate between Germany and this other country, and therefore at preventing a break-up of the euro. In a completely similar manner, when China accumulates foreign exchange reserves in dollars to prevent an appreciation of the RMB, the People's Bank of China accumulates an asset and the United States a liability, and there is monetary creation (in RMB). So the size of the Target 2 accounts of the national central banks in the euro zone corresponds to the size of the foreign exchange reserves that the euro-zone countries with a strong currency have to accumulate to prevent a break-up of the euro; it is therefore a very good indicator of the risk of a break-up. http://www.ftseglobalmarkets.com/

When the Bundesbank’s (Germany's) Target 2 account (which is positive) increases while another euro-zone country’s Target 2 account becomes more negative, this is equivalent to a German currency intervention aimed at stabilising the exchange rate between Germany and this other country, and therefore at preventing a break-up of the euro. In a completely similar manner, when China accumulates foreign exchange reserves in dollars to prevent an appreciation of the RMB, the People's Bank of China accumulates an asset and the United States a liability, and there is monetary creation (in RMB). So the size of the Target 2 accounts of the national central banks in the euro zone corresponds to the size of the foreign exchange reserves that the euro-zone countries with a "strong currency" have to accumulate to prevent a break-up of the euro; it is therefore a very good indicator of the risk of a break-up.

The size of the Target 2 accounts held by national central banks in the euro zone

Germany and the Netherlands hold substantial Target 2 assets (respectively EUR 650bn and EUR 140bn), while Greece, Spain, Italy and Ireland have substantial Target 2 debts (respectively EUR 98bn, EUR 285bn, EUR 280bn and EUR 117bn).

Fundamentally, these are currency interventions

Let us take, for example, the Germany/Spain pair. If the Bundesbank lends to the Bank of Spain, there is an increase in Germany's positive Target 2 account and in Spain’s negative Target 2 account. This corresponds to a loan from Germany to Spain, or to a purchase of Spanish assets by the German central bank.

If this purchase had not taken place, Spain would be unable to finance its external deficit, and would be forced to pull out of the euro and let its currency depreciate to the point where capital inflows covered its external borrowing requirement.

Therefore, this is the exact equivalent of a currency intervention aimed at ensuring the stability of the exchange rate between Germany and Spain: the country with a "strong currency" buys assets of the country with a "weak currency" to stabilise the exchange rate.

Similarity with the China/United States pair

When China accumulates foreign exchange reserves in dollars to prevent an excessive appreciation of the RMB against the dollar, the People's Bank of China holds US assets and the United States, conversely, has a debt to China.

This operation increases the size of the balance sheet of the People's Bank of China, and therefore leads to monetary creation.

Likewise, when the Bundesbank lends to central banks in the Southern euro-zone countries, and these central banks subsequently lend these funds to the banks in their own countries, there is a creation of monetary base in euros.

Target 2 accounts measure the risk of a break-up of the euro

The size (positive or negative according to the country) of the Target 2 accounts held by the central banks in the euro zone therefore represents the size of the foreign exchange reserves that the euro zone countries with a "strong currency" have to accumulate to ensure the euro’s sustainability ("exchange-rate stability" between euro zone countries). The more the size of these accounts increases, the higher the risk that the euro may break-up.

Positive Target 2 accounts surged from the summer of 2011, and this went hand in hand with a period of pressure on the interest rates on peripheral government bonds and on risk premia on banks.

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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