Monday 28th 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

Without lax monetary and FX policies, fiscal consolidation in the euro zone is impossible

Friday, 01 June 2012 Written by 
Without lax monetary and FX policies, fiscal consolidation in the euro zone is impossible In the past, successful fiscal consolidations occurred through a combination of restrictive fiscal policy, expansionary monetary policy and sharp depreciation of the currency. In many euro-zone countries, as the policy mix is restrictive, fiscal consolidation is failing due to falling real economic activity. All possible ways to make monetary policy in the euro zone more expansionary must therefore be explored. Although there remains little leeway to lower short-term interest rates, it is possible to reduce long-term interest rates in the euro-zone countries where they are abnormally high, both by restoring fiscal credibility and through bond purchases by the ECB. Above all, the euro must be weakened, requiring interventions in the FX market. And if the current trend of restrictive fiscal policies without drastic monetary measures persists, euro-zone countries will end up in recession and with higher, not lower fiscal deficits. http://www.ftseglobalmarkets.com/

In the past, successful fiscal consolidations occurred through a combination of restrictive fiscal policy, expansionary monetary policy and sharp depreciation of the currency. In many euro-zone countries, as the policy mix is restrictive, fiscal consolidation is failing due to falling real economic activity. All possible ways to make monetary policy in the euro zone more expansionary must therefore be explored.

Although there remains little leeway to lower short-term interest rates, it is possible to reduce long-term interest rates in the euro-zone countries where they are abnormally high, both by restoring fiscal credibility and through bond purchases by the ECB. Above all, the euro must be weakened, requiring interventions in the FX market. And if the current trend of restrictive fiscal policies without drastic monetary measures persists, euro-zone countries will end up in recession and with higher, not lower fiscal deficits.

Monetary measures during fiscal consolidations in the past

In the nineties, Sweden, Canada, Finland and Italy all successfully consolidated their fiscal position through rapid reductions in fiscal deficits, without negative effects on economic growth and unemployment. This was because fiscal consolidation was systematically combined with a very expansionary monetary policy that included lower interest rates and, above all, a sharp depreciation in the exchange rate to kick things off.

In these countries, the fall in government expenditure was offset by an increase in exports linked to the devaluation of the currency as well as an increase in domestic demand linked to the fall in interest rates.

In the absence of sufficient monetary measures, the fiscal consolidations in several euro-zone countries are failing

The ECB’s policy rate is actually low, but long-term interest rates in the troubled countries have risen markedly, which results in long-term interest rates for the euro zone as a whole that are far too high.

Moreover, although it has depreciated since 2008, the euro is still overvalued against the dollar. And, since euro-zone countries want to reduce their fiscal deficits as quickly as possible, the euro zone’s policy mix is on the whole too restrictive. So it is unsurprising that activity is declining in countries with restrictive fiscal policies: Greece, Portugal, Italy, Spain, Ireland and even the Netherlands.

Indeed, the decline in growth is so substantial that fiscal deficits stopped narrowing in early 2012 in several countries (Spain, Greece, France, Italy and Portugal), requiring additional fiscal austerity measures to be adopted. But these measures will further weaken growth, especially because they are being adopted simultaneously by most of Europe (the euro zone and the United Kingdom). This could lead to an absurd situation later in the year whereby unemployment soars while the fiscal deficits fail to fall. European countries are moving increasingly to the right of the Laffer curve, where a more restrictive fiscal policy subsequently leads to a higher fiscal deficit due to a fall in economic activity.

The only solution: Expansionary monetary and exchange-rate policy

Euro-zone countries are at an impasse if the current policy mix is too restrictive, and the resulting fall in economic activity prevents them from reducing their fiscal deficits. The only solution is then to emulate the successful fiscal consolidations in the nineties by changing over to an expansionary monetary and exchange-rate policy. So – while there is no longer much to be gained from short-term interest rates in the euro zone – it is possible to reduce long-term interest rates in the countries where they are abnormally high.

In order to achieve this, these countries need to regain medium-term fiscal credibility, i.e. financial markets need to be convinced of their determination to stabilise their public debt ratios. This would enable the ECB to resume its government bond purchase programme (SMP) – aimed at accelerating the decline in interest rates – without fear of encouraging these countries to not reduce their deficits.

Furthermore, the euro must be weakened. Indeed, exchange-rate depreciation played an important role in the fiscal consolidation programmes of the nineties. And like Switzerland, China, or once again Japan, the ECB could accumulate foreign exchange reserves (in dollars in the ECB’s case) to push down the euro’s exchange rate against the dollar.

A depreciation of the euro would directly benefit the countries with large-scale industry (Germany, Italy, Ireland, Finland, Austria and Belgium) as well as countries with large-scale exports outside the euro zone (Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands and Germany), while Spain, France, Portugal and Greece would indirectly benefit from the positive effects of the euro depreciation on these other euro-zone countries.

Averting disaster

Although resuming its government bond purchase programme and accumulating foreign exchange reserves runs counter to the ECB’s culture, if it does not do this, several euro-zone countries will soon reach the absurd situation of the simultaneous increase in both unemployment and fiscal deficits at the same time that fiscal deficit reduction policies are being carried out. Indeed, the examples from the past clearly show that successful fiscal consolidations have always been combined with expansionary monetary and exchange-rate policy.

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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