Friday 28th November 2014
NEWS TICKER: FRIDAY NOVEMBER 27TH 2014: BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research’s latest report shows that investment flows this week starkly highlight the impact of negative interest rates in Europe. Money is moving up the value chain in search of substitute asset classes with suitable yield. Investment grade credit looks to be the greatest beneficiary of this at present, with inflows reaching $2-$3bn a week over the last month, a historic high. With around €450bn European govies trading at negative yields, investors have started shifting their attention to high-grade bond funds. The bank’s research team expects the recent strong trend of inflows to continue next year, with inflows to increase to $100bn into the asset class. So far this year high-grade credit has seen $63bn of inflows, while government bond funds have seen only $17bn. The low or negative yielding asset classes are all seeing outflows, reports Bank of America Merrill Lynch in the report. Government bond funds saw their fifth week of outflows, while money market funds saw their largest outflow ($19.5bn) since May this year. Flows into equities managed to bounce back to the positive territory, after three weeks of outflows - According to SwissQuote, in Switzerland, traders will be watching Swiss Kof leading indicator, which is expected to rise from 99.8 to 100.0 in November. However, the real focus will be referenda results this Sunday. The outcome should be released around 4pm CET on Sunday. The latest polls suggest that the “no” votes have the majority indicating that spillover into EURCHF and Gold should be limited. Elsewhere, Euro area flash HICP inflation is expected to drop from 0.4% y/y in October to 0.3% y/y in November. Swedish GDP growth is anticipated to weaken from 0.7% q/q in Q2 to 0.2% q/q in Q3. While OPEC decision not to cut will clearly be disappointing to Canadian policy makers, today GDP is expected to ease from 3.6% y/y to 2.1% y/y in Q3 - New research conducted by independent financial researcher Defaqto on behalf of NOW:Pensions reveals that advisers are gearing themselves up for the business opportunity that auto enrolment presents. Nine out of ten (88%) advisers who are currently advising small and medium sized companies on auto enrolment plan to continue doing so in 2015 when micro businesses will begin staging. Over half of the advisers surveyed (51%) think that auto enrolment represents a good opportunity for them to grow their business over the long term, with three quarters (76%) seeing it as a chance to both advise existing clients as well as grow a new client base. Over two in three (68%) advisers expect to be providing employers with advice on selecting a pension provider, while 72% expect to be advising them for the staging date, and 78% expect their services to be required on an ongoing basis after the staging date has passed. Seven out of ten (73%) believe they will need to advise on other corporate issues such as business protection insurance. Neil Liversidge, managing director, West Riding Personal Finance Solutions explains: "The need for help and advice around auto enrolment naturally brings together business owners, their employees, and advisers. As such it probably represents the single greatest opportunity most firms will have to generate new clients this decade." Not all advisers are in agreement, as nearly one in five (17%) of the 244 advisers questioned, do not intend to advise small and micro businesses on auto enrolment next year. Of these advisers, over half (55%) say they don’t think it will offer profitable business, while 28% believe there is too much admin involved, and 25% are deterred by how much time it will take. One in ten (10%) don’t believe they have the right knowledge to advise on it. Additionally, two in three (66%) advisers say that from their experience so far, employers are either not that engaged or not engaged at all with auto enrolment, while the same can be said for 83% of employees - Germany’s KfW IPEX-Bank and Africa Finance Corporation (AFC) have signed a Framework Financing Agreement (Basic Agreement) amounting to $300m. The facility will be accessible to infrastructure projects in Africa, developed by AFC, by providing long-term financing of European equipment and services imported for such projects. The basic agreement helps to address Africa’s infrastructure development needs while also supporting German and European exporters. Projects that will be financed under the agreement will be covered by guarantees from European Export Credit Agencies (ECAs) - A new active ETF issued by PIMCO Fixed Income Source ETFS plc has begun trading in the XTF segment on Xetra today. The ETF is the PIMCO Low Duration Euro Corporate Bond Source UCITS ETF Asset class, an active bond index ETF (ISIN: IE00BP9F2J32), with a total expense ratio of 0.3%. According to PIMCO, at least 90% of the investment portfolio underlying the active ETF consists of investment grade corporate bonds issued in euro. Up to 20% of the fund assets can be invested in the emerging markets region. The currency risk may amount to up to 10% due to corporate bonds not denominated in euro. The average duration ranges from zero to four years - Legal & General (L&G) has announced a restructure across its L&G Assurance Society (LGAS) division following the announcement of the impending departure of chief executive John Pollock next year. L&G’s savings business will be split into two businesses; mature and digital. Jackie Noakes, chief operating officer for LGAS and group IT director will become the managing director of the mature savings division (including insured savings and with-profit businesses). Mike Bury, managing director of retail savings at L&G will manage the digital savings arm, Cofunds, IPS, Suffolk Life and L&G’s upcoming direct-to-consumer platform –Orangefield Group has purchased Guernsey-based Legis Fund Services, expanding its fund services division and increasing its total assets under administration to more than $50bn. Legis will change its name to Orangefield Fund Services but will continue to be led by managing director Patricia White. The acquisition is part of a trend in mergers and acquisitions in the offshore fund administration sector, and was advised by Carey Olson. Carey Olson also recently advised Anson Group on the sale of its fund administration business to JTC Group and First Names Group on its acquisition of fund management business Mercator - The Straits Times Index (STI) ended +9.54 points higher or +0.29% to 3350.50, taking the year-to-date performance to +5.86%. The FTSE ST Mid Cap Index gained +0.14% while the FTSE ST Small Cap Index declined -0.52%. The top active stocks were Keppel Corp (-2.17%), DBS (+0.66%), OCBC Bank (-0.10%), UOB (+0.71%) and SingTel (unchanged). Outperforming sectors today were represented by the FTSE ST Technology Index (+1.03%). The two biggest stocks of the FTSE ST Technology Index are Silverlake Axis (+1.97%) and STATS ChipPAC (unchanged). The underperforming sector was the FTSE ST Oil & Gas Index, which declined -2.84% with Keppel Corp’s share price declining -2.17% and Sembcorp Industries’ share price declining-1.08%. The three most active Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) by value today were the IS MSCI India (+0.38%), SPDR Gold Shares (-0.70%), STI ETF (unchanged). The three most active Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) by value were CapitaCom Trust (+0.30%), Suntec REIT (+1.29%), Ascendas REIT (+1.30%). The most active index warrants by value today were HSI24400MBeCW141230 (-6.67%), HSI23800MBeCW141230 (-5.13%), HSI23600MBePW141230 (+2.50%). The most active stock warrants by value today were DBS MB eCW150602 (+2.42%), KepCorp MBePW150330 (+13.85%), UOB MB eCW150415 (+1.24%).

France needs supply-side policies to stimulate growth

Tuesday, 14 February 2012 Written by 
France needs supply-side policies to stimulate growth France’s ailing economy urgently requires stimulation – and this must come from supply-side policies. Previously buoyed by borrowing, the strength of real estate and an increase in fiscal deficits, France is now suffering from significant economic weaknesses that can only be overcome by a stimulation of supply via institutional, tax and labour market reforms. http://www.ftseglobalmarkets.com/

France’s ailing economy urgently requires stimulation – and this must come from supply-side policies. Previously buoyed by borrowing, the strength of real estate and an increase in fiscal deficits, France is now suffering from significant economic weaknesses that can only be overcome by a stimulation of supply via institutional, tax and labour market reforms.

 

The French economy is experiencing a decline in investment, an inability to rebuild exports, continuing market share losses and a rapid rise in unemployment. Although previously bolstered by an increase in private sector indebtedness, growth in residential construction (until 2008), and a temporary increase in fiscal deficits, economic growth has fallen to virtually zero as of the second quarter of 2011.



However, unlike similar situations in Spain and the UK, France’s underperformance is due to a deterioration of supply rather than a decline in demand. Certainly, France’s weak economy cannot be blamed on a rapid correction in the fiscal deficit, nor to a decline in real wages. In fact, there has been a worsening of supply-side conditions since the late 1990s, highlighted by a decline in profitability, the tightening of profit margins (particularly in the industrial sector) and the distortion of income sharing in favour of wages and to the detriment of profits, itself the equivalent to an economy-wide fall in profit margins.

The result is a country where companies are hampered by poor levels of investment. Indeed, the economy has become stuck in a mid-market product range, as portrayed by the sharp drop in French exports caused by an appreciation in the euro. Furthermore, France is exhibiting advanced deindustrialisation (in the past decade both manufacturing employment and manufacturing volume as a proportion of GDP have steadily decreased), weak growth of companies (limiting the number of companies big enough to export) and a high proportion of small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) that are prematurely sold to large groups. 

Reforms to restore the economy

Supply-side reforms are urgently required: in particular, tax reform to reduce companies’ welfare contributions, labour market negotiations to take into account both wages and employment, and institutional reforms to encourage the growth of innovative SMEs.

Firstly, France must reduce welfare contributions, especially those paid by companies. It is well known that welfare contributions negatively affect employment. Therefore to boost the supply of goods, and the demand for labour, there needs to be a reduction in government expenditure on wages and welfare benefits, or (as happened in Germany and the UK in 2007 and 2011 respectively) an increase in VAT.

Secondly, the country’s labour market lacks a corrective force in periods of rising unemployment. Current pay talks are purely wage-based and do not take into account the need to reduce unemployment and create new jobs. The result is that increasing unemployment does not have a significant impact on wages and therefore unemployment levels can remain high for long periods without reducing wages.

Therefore the government needs to ensure that pay talks involve both wages and jobs, in order to create a trade-off between wage increases and job creation. Certainly, the close link between unemployment and wage increases can be seen in Germany, Spain, Italy and the UK – a labour market scenario that France must replicate.

Finally, institutional reforms are needed to boost SME growth. France’s already weak export levels are compounded by the low proportion of companies big enough to export their goods. In order to stimulate growth among SMEs, France should create a Small Business Act and Small Business Administration to improve relationships between large groups and their subcontractors, simplify administrative paperwork and improve cooperation between companies and the education system.

Going forward

In the short term, these reforms (government spending cuts, a VAT hike, reduction in wages in exchange for additional jobs, etc.) would inevitably lead to a fall in demand. But the current view – that the solution to the economy’s woes lies in stimulating demand – must be abandoned in favour of supply-side policies if a recovery is to be achieved. 

The acute question remains in play: Is there a political party ready to carry out this programme after the presidential elections?

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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