Saturday 26th 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

The adjustment in France has not even begun

Wednesday, 30 May 2012 Written by 
The adjustment in France has not even begun The French have the impression that their economy has worsened significantly and that austerity policies are weakening employment and living standards yet this inevitable adjustment is still to come Indeed, when examining the situation of public finances, competitiveness, foreign trade, the sophistication of products and businesses, it is clear that the process of adjustment and improvement has hardly begun in France, whereas it has progressed a lot on some criteria in Spain, Italy and Portugal, and of course long ago in Germany. http://www.ftseglobalmarkets.com/

The French have the impression that their economy has worsened significantly and that austerity policies are weakening employment and living standards yet this inevitable adjustment is still to come Indeed, when examining the situation of public finances, competitiveness, foreign trade, the sophistication of products and businesses, it is clear that the process of adjustment and improvement has hardly begun in France, whereas it has progressed a lot on some criteria in Spain, Italy and Portugal, and of course long ago in Germany.

The impression in France of a significant deterioration of the economy and living standards

The French are extremely pessimistic about the economy and living standards, as showed by a recent international optimism poll conducted by BVA – Gallup international. Yet, the French unemployment rate is lower than Spain and Portugal, and households' real income and spending are still increasing while they are falling in Spain, Italy and Portugal. The French fear a reduction in of social welfare, even though the welfare system has actually become more generous at a time when it has declined in Germany.

State of progress in France’s adjustment

In terms of the adjustment process, let us look at French public finances, competitiveness and foreign trade, and the financial position of French businesses and their product sophistication.

1. Public finances

In 2012, only Spain will still have a fiscal deficit higher than that of France. Meanwhile, the debt ratio will continue to increase in France at a time when it is falling in Germany and has stabilised in Italy.

2. Competitiveness, foreign trade

France and Italy have a higher unit wage cost than Germany, which explains the continuing losses of export market shares for these two countries; whereas Spanish and Portuguese exports, where producer costs are low, are now growing rapidly.

Indeed, France has a large trade balance deficit in manufactured goods yet Spain and Portugal now have an even trade balance. Meanwhile, Italy and Germany have trade balance surpluses. As long as international capital mobility remains low in the euro zone, due to the “renationalisation” of investors' portfolios caused by the crisis; countries will be subject to an external balance constraint. Indeed, France is the only country that has not yet reduced its current-account deficit.

An improvement in foreign trade can be achieved either through an improvement in cost-competitiveness, hence a fall in wage costs, or through a contraction of domestic demand, which reduces imports. At present, the unit wage cost is increasing faster in France than in Germany and all the other struggling euro-zone countries causing domestic demand to continue to increase instead of fall as in Spain, Italy and Portugal.

3. Financial position of businesses and product sophistication

In contrast to other euro-zone countries, the financial position of French businesses continues to deteriorate. It is clear that the deterioration of corporate profitability is due to the low level of product sophistication in French industrial output, which means that French businesses find it harder to pass on rises in production costs to consumers, contrary to what can be seen in Germany, Spain and even Portugal. This is extended by France’s slow productivity gains (efficiency in producing products), which are recovering in Spain and Portugal.

All in all, practically everything remains to be done in France:

France still needs to reduce its fiscal deficit, improve competitiveness/ foreign trade, and restore profitability (productivity) and product sophistication.

Meanwhile, these adjustments have been completed in Germany and are progressing well in the other euro-zone countries. Italy and Portugal now have small fiscal deficits; Spain and Portugal have seen improvement in cost-competitiveness; external deficits have been reduced in Italy, Spain and Portugal while both corporate profitability and productivity have also improved; and Spanish and Portuguese products have become more sophisticated as shown from their ability to pass on higher production costs to consumers.

This all points to a risk of more restrictive fiscal policies in France, a fall in wages, and efforts to restore productivity by businesses (as in Spain and Portugal), which will inevitably be costly in terms of employment.

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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