Friday 27th March 2015
NEWS TICKER, FRIDAY MARCH 27th 2015: Moody's says that The Link Real Estate Investment Trust's (A2 stable) acquisition of the mid-end positioned EC Mall in Beijing is credit negative, but has no immediate impact on its ratings. The acquisition, while immediate EBITDA and cash flow accretive, will reduce liquidity and increase debt leverage, as measured by gross debt to EBITDA. This is Link's first venture into the Chinese retail market. Yesterday, Link announced that it will acquire EC Mall for a total consideration of RMB2.5bn. The transaction will close on April 1st - The outcomes of the March 19th-20th spring European Council will be debated with European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at 15.00 today. Agenda items at the Council include Energy Union, the EU’s economic situation, its eastern partnership, and the situation in Libya - -- The sharp fall in oil prices will have a positive, yet limited credit impact for most European asset-backed securities (ABS) collateralised by loans granted to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), says Moody's Investors Service in a sector comment published today. "If we balance both direct and indirect exposures to the oil and gas sectors, which affect performance the most, the net effect is slightly positive," says Monica Curti, a Moody's Vice President and author of the report. The rating agency observes that securitised portfolios have very low direct exposure to the oil and gas industries, for which lower prices are credit negative. For pools where borrowers are indirectly exposed to these sectors, Moody’s says the oil price decline will be slightly positive in terms of credit performance due to its strong positive effect on sectors such as airlines, shipping and packaged food, which represent up to 12% of some European ABS SME portfolios. However, for over 60% of the ABS SME transactions that Moody's studied, the net effect of oil price exposures is negligible. In addition, the general positive effect of the oil price decline on economic growth will be mild. "While sustained lower oil prices would significantly boost economic growth in principle, their positive effect will be mild for European SMEs because of the euro area's low dependency on oil and the fact that oil prices have fallen in a subdued economy," says Ariel Weil, a Moody's vice president and co-author of the report - The Straits Times Index (STI) ended +5.76 points higher or +0.17% to 3419.02, taking the year-to-date performance to +1.60%. The FTSE ST Mid Cap Index gained +0.38% while the FTSE ST Small Cap Index gained +0.48%. The top active stocks were SingTel (+0.70%), UOB (+0.61%), DBS (-0.05%), Keppel Corp (+1.13%) and OCBC Bank (+0.29%). Outperforming sectors today were represented by the FTSE ST Utilities Index (+3.48%). The two biggest stocks of the FTSE ST Utilities Index are United Envirotech (+0.31%) and Hyflux (+1.14%). The underperforming sector was the FTSE ST Real Estate Holding and Development Index, which declined -0.33% with Hongkong Land Holdings’ share price declining -0.94% and Global Logistic Properties’ share price gaining +0.78%. – Reuters reports that Chicago-based CME Group had planned to debut an EU wheat-futures contract by the end of next month, but it has yet to reach agreements with local companies to guarantee sufficient deliverable capacity. Eric Hasham, senior director, CME Group is quoted as saying: "If for whatever reasons the parties that we are speaking to decide not to move forward ... we would not be making the contract available.” - Nigeria and Ivory Coast are looking to emulate Senegal's successful move into the market for Islamic bonds or sukuk, the head of the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD) has said. Earlier this month the ICD, which is the private sector arm of the Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank Group, signed an agreement with the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) to cooperate in the development of the private sector in ICD member countries in Africa - Turkey received foreign direct investment worth $1.8bn in January, according to Turkey’s Economy Ministry. The energy sector was the largest recipient of international capital during the month with $735m worth of inflows. Foreign investment to the county increased by 44% in the first month of 2015 compared with the same month in the previous year, said the statement. Around a quarter of the investment came from European countries, a significant decrease (-76%) compared with January 2014. More than $420m in investments came from Asian countries, such as China and Malaysia. There were 175 new, foreign-funded companies established in the first month of the year, down from 410 in the same month of 2014. A total of 41,699 companies were operating in Turkey with international capital as of January 2015, with 24,612 of them operating in Turkey’s largest province, Istanbul, the ministry said. The report also said that of the total number of foreign-funded companies in Turkey, 6,054 were German-funded and 2,774 were financed by the United Kingdom. Turkey received a total of $12.4bn in foreign direct investment in 2014, down 1.7% compared with 2013.

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The European Review

By Patrick Artus, chief economist at Natixis

The Calculation for Spain

Tuesday, 31 July 2012 Written by 
The Calculation for Spain To alleviate its debt and escape its state of crisis, we think Spain has two strategies to choose from. The first one, already in place since 2009, involves a reduction in the fiscal and external deficits while accepting aid from other eurozone countries. If Spain were to continue with this strategy, it would need to incorporate regular debt purchases by the ECB and possibly the ESM, and provide assistance to recapitalise its banks. The second strategy would be to leave the euro, which would mean a default on its gross external debt and a sharp devaluation of its currency. Both of these strategies contain negatives that need to be considered: the question is, which one would be the least detrimental to the country’s economic future? http://www.ftseglobalmarkets.com/

To alleviate its debt and escape its state of crisis, we think Spain has two strategies to choose from. The first one, already in place since 2009, involves a reduction in the fiscal and external deficits while accepting aid from other eurozone countries. If Spain were to continue with this strategy, it would need to incorporate regular debt purchases by the ECB and possibly the ESM, and provide assistance to recapitalise its banks.

The second strategy would be to leave the euro, which would mean a default on its gross external debt and a sharp devaluation of its currency.

Both of these strategies contain negatives that need to be considered: the question is, which one would be the least detrimental to the country’s economic future?

Strategy One: Spain's present strategy of adjustment...A Catch-22 situation?

Spain’s high levels of external debt mean it cannot increase its external borrowing (except for emergency borrowing from the EU or the ECB). Therefore, it must balance its current account.



Its present strategy of adjustment is clear: a restrictive fiscal policy; an improvement in cost-competitiveness to rebalance foreign trade; and the acceptance of European aid to recapitalise banks in distress. The last action hinges on purchases of government bonds to push down long-term interest rates. However, this strategy is risky.

A scenario may help us better understand this strategy: a fall in real wages due to price-stickiness discourages household demand, which has a knock-on effect to make business investment decline. Hence, there is a major decline in domestic demand and activity, making it very difficult to reduce fiscal deficit. In early 2012 we saw this in action when Spain’s fiscal deficit widened considerably, due both to tax revenue short-falls and higher-than-expected government spending. A continuation of this strategy therefore may lead to a further increase in unemployment and a decline in activity.

There could also be a reduction in the external deficit due to the decline in purchasing power. That said, imports would have to be reduced by a further 20% for Spain's current account deficit to disappear, which would mean a decline of at least 12% in domestic demand and real income.

The only hope for this strategy is that improvements in cost-competitiveness could increase Spain's exports and market share, and improved profits could eventually increase business investment.

Strategy Two: Exit from the euro, default and devaluation...A possible solution or suicide?

The other strategy would be for Spain to leave the euro, sharply devalue its currency, and inevitably default on its gross external public and private debt. This would obviously be a big problem for Spanish multinational companies, given the size of debt and the impossibility of servicing it following devaluation.

But what would the likely consequences of this strategy be?

For a start, it requires an immediate rebalancing of foreign trade. The country could no longer borrow, which would result in a much weaker economic situation in the short term.

Our econometric estimate shows elasticity to the real exchange rate of 0.73 for Spain's exports and 0 for imports, in volume terms. If we assume 30% devaluation, the foreign trade gain in volume terms would be 7.7 percentage points of GDP, which is very substantial.

Devaluation would increase the price of imports and therefore reduce real income by about 5.9 percentage points, which would leave a net gain of approximately 2 percentage points of GDP.

When the Spanish peseta was devalued in the early 1990s (twice in 1992, once in 1993), the current account deficit disappeared in 18 months, exports accelerated strongly, while domestic inflation reacted only slightly to the rise in import prices. The decline in GDP only lasted one year, and from that point growth was strong because of falling interest rates.

In today’s instance, devaluation would also increase the competitiveness of tourism and increase the surplus for these services in local currency, though perhaps not in foreign currencies such as the euro.

As financing becomes completely domestic, it is not impossible that there could be a reduction in the sovereign risk premium.

Devaluation could subsequently attract direct investment by businesses. With 30% devaluation, for example, labour costs in Spain would fall to EUR 14 per hour, 60% less than in Germany. However, since the size of Spanish industry is relatively small, new activities need to be considered for it to generate a large surplus.

Conclusion: What strategy to choose for Spain?

If the improvement in Spain's cost-competitiveness and profitability does not produce quick results, the present strategy will fail: wages would have to be reduced on a greater scale to eliminate the external deficit, and the fiscal deficit would remain very high.

The other strategy (leaving the euro, devaluation and default) could be successful if the devaluation attracted new activities, but it involves a lot of uncertainties – such as the impacts on Spanish multinationals, interest rates and foreign trade.

As stated earlier, both strategies are rather bleak, but positive aspects are still evident. Considering all of the factors, we believe that the strategy of devaluation and default could be the most efficient, particularly due to the high price elasticity of exports and the fact that Spain's entire current account deficit is accounted for by the interest on its external debt. As in 1992, it could also be effective due to the domestic financing of fiscal deficits, which will prevent a rise in interest rates.

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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