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%).

Is Greece offered any other choice to a slow death and a sudden death?

Friday, 06 July 2012 Written by 
Is Greece offered any other choice to a slow death and a sudden death? The adjustment programme that Greece is putting in place with the Troika, even if it is toned down and spread out over time, will eventually lead to a fall in Greeks' purchasing power until Greece's external deficit disappears. And in light of Greece's economic structure and the disproportion between its imports and exports, this will imply a collapse in living standards in Greece. The other possibility for Greece is to leave the euro and massively devalue its currency, but this would instantly mean a loss of purchasing power due to the deterioration of the terms of trade, and a massive decline in domestic demand, which would in any case be inevitable because there would then be no more lenders to finance Greece's external deficit. http://www.ftseglobalmarkets.com/

The adjustment programme that Greece is putting in place with the "Troika", even if it is toned down and spread out over time, will eventually lead to a fall in Greeks' purchasing power until Greece's external deficit disappears. And in light of Greece's economic structure and the disproportion between its imports and exports, this will imply a collapse in living standards in Greece. The other possibility for Greece is to leave the euro and massively devalue its currency, but this would instantly mean a loss of purchasing power due to the deterioration of the terms of trade, and a massive decline in domestic demand, which would in any case be inevitable because there would then be no more lenders to finance Greece's external deficit.

For Greece to escape a slow death (austerity programme) or a sudden death (exit from the euro), a massive European aid plan would be needed to rebuild the Greek economy and create jobs, a plan that is unlikely at present, and very different from the present bailout which merely finances debt servicing on Greek government bonds held by public investors.

The logic of the adjustment programme for Greece: Slow death



Even if Greece and the Troika renegotiate the adjustment programme, its fundamental characteristics will remain the same:

·                                  a restrictive fiscal policy to eliminate the fiscal deficit;

·                                  a fall in wages to improve competitiveness and reduce domestic demand, until Greece's external deficit disappears.

The main idea of the adjustment programme is that Greece's domestic demand exceeds its production capacity, thereby generating a structural external deficit. So Greeks "are living beyond their means", with a rise in living standards far exceeding growth in production capacity, and it is therefore legitimate to reduce domestic demand both through a restrictive fiscal policy and wage cuts.

The fall in wages could also bring about an improvement in competitiveness, hence an improvement in foreign trade, but its main objective is to reduce domestic demand and imports.

The problem with this approach is that:

·                                  it is showing its ineffectiveness: despite the decline in domestic demand, the current-account deficit has declined little; due to the shortfall in activity, public finances are no longer improving;

·                                  its cost in terms of jobs and purchasing power is gigantic. Greece is a country in which the weight of industry is very small and where, as a consequence, the disproportion between imports and exports is very great.

A substantial decline in purchasing power in Greece is therefore needed to eliminate the external deficit, with a further fall of about 30% in real wages. Purchasing power would have to be brought back to the level of the early 1990s to balance the current account, and this is of course rejected by the population. The fundamental problem is twofold:

·                                  even if there is a fall in wages, the improvement in price-competitiveness is limited by price stickiness;

·                                  since the size of industry is small, the adjustment must be achieved mainly through a fall in imports, hence a decline in income.

Exit from the euro and devaluation: Sudden death

Faced with this prospect of a "slow death" due to the austerity programme, Greeks could decide to leave the euro and devalue. But in that case the shock would be sudden and terrible, because there would be both:

·                                  a rise in import prices;

·                                  an obligation to eliminate the external deficit, because no one (neither the private sector nor the public sector) would any longer lend to Greece;

·                                  a weak positive impact of the gain in competitiveness, due to the small size of industry.

Greece would default on its gross external debt, and would therefore no longer have to service that debt, which is positive (it would gain six percentage points of GDP in interest payments on external debt). But the rise in import prices would even further exacerbate the foreign trade imbalance, while the potential for external borrowing would disappear. There would inevitably have to be a reduction in domestic demand to restore the foreign trade balance despite the rise in import prices, hence inevitably a collapse in imports in volume terms.

This is reminiscent of the process in Argentina, in similar circumstances, in the early 2000s: a collapse of activity following the huge devaluation, the need to switch to a current-account surplus which required dividing imports by three - hence a collapse in the real wage due to imported inflation, and in domestic demand and employment.

From 2003 onwards, there was  a sharp improvement in Argentina's situation, but it is important to remember that it had considerable structural advantages by comparison with Greece at present:

·                                  substantial weight of industry (22% of jobs);

·                                  before the crisis, exports and imports of the same size;

·                                  a smaller current-account deficit to reduce (five percentage points of GDP).

The shock would be far more violent and prolonged for Greece.

So what would be the solution for Greece?

We have seen that Greece is at present offered two solutions:

·                                  a "slow death", through a stifling of the economy via the austerity plan, even if it is softened down;

·                                  a "sudden death", if there is an exit from the euro and devaluation.

In either case, gradually or suddenly, there must be a substantial decline in purchasing power to eliminate the external deficit which is no longer financeable. For Greece to escape this dreadful choice, Europe's aid would have to be allocated not to debt servicing on Greece's government bonds held by public investors (EFSF, ECB) - which in and of itself is an incredible situation where Europe is borrowing in order to pay to itself the servicing of the Greek debt it holds - but to help rebuild the Greek economy and create jobs, which is definitely not being done at present.

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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