Saturday 6th February 2016
NEWS TICKER: Friday, February 5th: According to Reuters, Venezuela's central bank has begun negotiations with Deutsche Bank AG to carry out gold swaps to improve the liquidity of its foreign reserves as it faces debt payments of some $9.5bn this year. Around 64% of Venezuela's $15.4bn reserves are held in gold bars, which in this fluid market impedes the central bank's ability to mobilise hard currency for imports or debt service. We called the central bank to confirm the story, but press spokesmen would not comment - The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) says official foreign currency reserves stood at $357bn (equivalent to seven times the currency in circulation or 48% of Hong Kong M3) as at the end of January, down compared with reserve assets of $358.8bn in December. There were no unsettled foreign exchange contracts at month end (end-December: $0.1bn) - BNP Paribas today set out plans to cut investment banking costs by 12% by 2019 to bolster profitability and reassure investors about the quality of its capital buffers. The bank is the latest in a line of leading financial institutions, including Credit Suisse, Barclays and Deutsche Bank which look to be moving away from capital intensive activities. BNP Paribas has been selling non-core assets and cutting back on operations including oil and gas financing for the last few years as it looks to achieve a target of 10% return on equity. Last year the bank announced a €900m write-down on its BNL unit in Italy, which pushed down Q4 net income down 51.7% to €665m - Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE)-listed tech company, Huge Group, will move its listing from the Alternative Exchange (AltX) to the JSE main board on March 1st - Moody's says it has assigned Aaa backed senior unsecured local-currency ratings to a drawdown under export credit provider Oesterreichische Kontrollbank's (OKB) (P)Aaa-rated backed senior unsecured MTN program. The outlook is negative in line with the negative outlook assigned to the Aaa ratings of the Republic of Austria, which guarantees OKB’s liabilities under the Austrian Export Financing Guarantees Act – As the first phase of talks between Greece and its creditors draws to an end, International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde stressed to journalists in Greece that debt relief is as important as the reforms that creditors are demanding, notably of the pension system. "I have always said that the Greek program has to walk on two legs: one is significant reforms and one is debt relief. If the pension [system] cannot be as significantly and substantially reformed as needed, we could need more debt relief on the other side." Greece's pension system must become sustainable irrespective of any debt relief that creditors may decide to provide, Lagarde said, adding that 10% of gross domestic product into financing the pension system, compared to an average of 2.5% in the EU, is not sustainable. She called for "short-term measures that will make it sustainable in the long term,” but did not outline what those measures might be. According to Eurobank in Athens, IMF mission heads reportedly met this morning with the Minister of Labour, Social Insurance and Social Solidarity, Georgios Katrougalos, before the team is scheduled to leave Athens today. According to the local press, it appears that differences exist between the Greek government and official creditors on the planned overhaul of the social security pension system. Provided that things go as planned, the heads are reportedly expected to return by mid-February with a view to completing the review by month end, or at worst early March. In its Winter 2016 Economic Forecast published yesterday, the European Commission revised higher Greece’s GDP growth forecast for 2015 and 2016 to 0.0% and -0.7%, respectively, from -1.4% and 1.-3% previously - Fitch says that The Bank of Italy's (BoI) recent designation of three banks as 'other systemically important institutions' (O-SIIs) has no impact on its ratings of the relevant mortgage covered bond (Obbligazioni Bancarie Garantite or OBG) programmes. Last month, BoI identified UniCredit, Intesa Sanpaolo. and Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena as Italian O-SIIs. Banco Popolare and Mediobanca have not been designated O-SIIs. This status is the equivalent of domestic systemically important bank status under EU legislation. Fitch rates two OBG programmes issued by UC and one issued by BMPS, which incorporates a one-notch Issuer Default Rating (IDR) uplift above the banks' IDRs. The uplift can be assigned if covered bonds are exempt from bail-in, as is the case with OBG programmes under Italy's resolution regime and in this instance takes account of the issuers' importance in the Italian banking sector – Meantime, according to local press reports, Italian hotel group Bauer and special opportunity fund Blue Skye Investment Group report they have completed the rescheduling and refinancing of Bauer’s €110m debt through the issue of new bonds and the sale of non-core assets, such as the farming business Aziende Agricole Bennati, whose sale has already been agreed, the Palladio Hotel & Spa and a luxury residence Villa F in Venice’s Giudecca island – Meantime, Russian coal and steel producer Mechel has also agreed a restructuring of its debt with credits after two intense years of talks. The mining company, is controlled by businessman Igor Zyuzin - Asian markets had a mixed day, coming under pressure. Dollar strengthening worries investors in Asia; from today’s trading it looks like dollar weakening does as well. Actually, that’s not the issue, the dollar has appreciated steadily over the last year as buyers anticipated Fed tightening; but it has hurt US exports and that has contributed to investor nervousness over the past few weeks, which is why everyone is hanging on today’s The nonfarm payrolls report, a bellwether of change – good or bad in the American economic outlook. Back to Asia. The Nikkei 225 ended the day at 16819.15, down 225.40 points, or 1.32%; and as the stock market fell the yen continued to strengthen. The Nikkei has shed 5.85% this week. The dollar-yen pair fell to the 116-handle, at 116.82 in afternoon trade; earlier this week, the pair was trading above 120. It is a hard lesson for the central bank, whose efforts to take the heat out of the yen by introducing negative interest rates has done nothing of the sort. Australia's ASX 200 closed down 4.15 points, or 0.08% after something of a mixed week. The index closed at 4976.20, with the financial sector taking most of the heat today, with the sector down 0.7%. In contrast, energy and materials sectors finished in positive territory, buoyed by gains in commodities. The Hang Seng Index closed at 19288.17, up 105.08 points (or 0.55%) while the Shanghai Composite was down 0.61%. down 17.07 points to 2763.95. The Shenzhen composite dropped 20.36 points (1.15%) to 1750.70, while the Kospi rose marginally by 0.08% to 1917.79. Today is the last day of trading on the Chinese exchanges for a week.

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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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