Saturday 30th April 2016
NEWS TICKER: Central bank policy is still dominating the trading agenda, even though most analysts believe that the Fed will, if it does move, move only once this year and will raise rates by a quarter of a percent. The statement of the US FOMC was terse and most likely signals extreme caution on its part, though there is a belief that hawkish voices are rising in the committee. The reality is though that the US economic growth story is slowing. Many think the June meeting will spark the uplift. Let’s see. The US dollar is continuing to lose ground across the board after data showed the US economy expanded at its slowest pace since the second quarter of 2009, according to the BEA, which FTSE Global Markets reported on last Friday. GDP increased at a 0.5% annualised rate - versus an expected 0.7% - after rising 1.4% in the fourth quarter of 2015 as personal consumption failed to boost growth in spite of low gasoline prices. Central bank caution makes sense in that context, however timing will be sensitive. If the central bank moves in the autumn it threatens to unbutton the presidential elections; but the reality is that mixed data will emanate from the US over this quarter which will make a June decision difficult. It’s tough being an FOMC member right now. The Bank of Japan meanwhile signalled its intention to stay the course this week with current policy, which discombobulated the markets. The Japanese markets were closed today for a public holiday, so it won’t be entirely clear if the market will suffer for the central bank’s decision. Certainly if fell 3.61% yesterday and is down 5% on the week. so the omens aren’t great. Of course, the pattern that is well established of late is that as the market falls, the yen appreciates. The yen was trading at 107.14 against the dollar last time we looked, compared with 108 earlier in the session, having at times touched 111/$1 yesterday (the lowest point for more than 18 months) The month to date has seen a rise in both the short term and long term volatility gauges. Coinciding with the rise, Nikkei 225 Index Structured Warrant activity has also significantly picked up. Nikkei 225 Structured Warrants showed increased activity with daily averaged traded value up 33% month-on-month. The Nikkei 225 Index Structured Warrants had significant increase in trading activity year-on-year with total turnover up by 6.8 times. – ASIAN TRADING SESSION - Australia's ASX 200 reversed early losses to close up 26.77 points, or 0.51%, at 5,252.20, adding 0.3% for the week. The uptick today was driven by gains in the heavily-weighted financials sub-index, as well as the energy and materials sub-indexes. In South Korea, the Kospi finished down 6.78 points, or 0.34%, at 1,994.15, while in Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index fell 1.37%. Chinese mainland markets were mixed, with the Shanghai composite dropping 7.13 points, or 0.24 percent, at 2,938.45, while the Shenzhen composite finished nearly flat. The Straits Times Index (STI) ended 12.42 points or 0.43% lower to 2862.3, taking the year-to-date performance to -0.71%. The top active stocks today were SingTel, which gained 0.26%, DBS, which declined 1.03%, NOL, which gained closed unchanged, OCBC Bank, which declined 1.00% and CapitaLand, with a 0.63% fall. The FTSE ST Mid Cap Index gained 0.60%, while the FTSE ST Small Cap Index rose 0.49%. Structured warrants on Asian Indices have continued to be active in April. YTD, the STI has generated a total return of 1.3%. This compares to a decline of 4.9% for the Nikkei 225 Index and a decline of 6.3% of the Hang Seng Index. Of the structured warrants available on Asian Indices, the Hang Seng Index Structured Warrants have remained the most active in the year to date with Structured Warrants on the Nikkei 225 Index and STI Index the next most active – FUND FLOWS – BAML reports that commodity fund flows went back to positive territory after taking a breather last week, supported again by inflows into gold funds. “The asset class is currently the best performer, with year to date % of AUM inflow at 15%, far ahead of all other asset classes. Global EM debt flows reflected the bullish turn of the market on EMs, recording the tenth consecutive week of positive flows. On the duration front, short-term funds recorded a marginal inflow, keeping a positive sign for the last four weeks. The mid-term IG funds continue to record strong inflows for a ninth week. But it looks like investors have started to embrace duration to reach for yield, as inflows into longer-term funds have recorded a cumulative 0.8% inflow in the past two weeks,” says the BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research team – GREEN BONDS - Banco Nacional de Costa Rica is the latest issuer with a $500m bond to finance wind, solar, hydro and wastewater projects. The bond has a coupon of 5.875% and matures on April 25th 2021. Banco Nacional will rely on Costa Rican environmental protection regulations to determine eligible projects. This is the fourth green bond issuance in Latin America, according to the Climate Bonds Initiative (CBI). Actually, Costa Rica is one of the global leaders in terms of renewable energy use. In the first quarter of 2016 it sourced 97.14% of its power from renewables. Hydro's share alone was 65.62%. – SOVEREIGN DEBT - After coming to market with a 100 year bond last week, the Kingdom of Belgium (rated Aa3/AA/AA) has opened books on a dual tranche bond; the first maturing in seven years; the second in 50 years, in a deal managed by Barclays, Credit Agricole, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Natixis and Société Générale. Managers have marketed the October 22nd 2023 tranche at 11 basis points (bps) through mid-swaps and the June 22nd 2066 tranche in the high teens over the mid of the 1.75% 2066 French OAT – LONGEVITY REINSURANCE - Prudential Retirement Insurance and Annuity Company (PRIAC) and U.K. insurer Legal & General say they have just completed their third longevity reinsurance transaction together, further evidence that longevity reinsurance continues to be a vehicle for UK insurers seeking relief from pension liabilities exposed to longevity risk. “This latest transaction builds on our relationship with Legal & General and solidifies the platform from which future business can be written,” explains Bill McCloskey, vice president, Longevity Risk Transfer at Prudential Retirement. “It's also a testament to our experience in the reinsurance space and our capacity to support the growth of the U.K. longevity risk transfer market.” Under the terms of the new agreement, PRIAC will issue reinsurance for a portion of Legal & General's bulk annuity business, providing benefit security for thousands of retirees in the UK. PRIAC has completed three reinsurance transactions with Legal & General since October 2014 – VIETNAM - Standard & Poor's Ratings Services has affirmed its 'BB-' long-term and 'B' short-term sovereign credit ratings on Vietnam. The outlook is stable. At the same time, we affirmed our 'axBB+/axB' ASEAN regional scale rating on Vietnam. The ratings, says S&P, reflect the country's lower middle-income, rising debt burden, banking sector weakness, and the country's emerging institutional settings that hamper policy responsiveness. Even so, the ratings agency acknowledges these strengths are offset by Vietnam's sound external settings that feature adequate foreign exchange reserves and a modest external debt burden. The country has a lower middle income but comparatively diversified economy. S&P estimates GDP per capita at about US$2,200 in 2016. “Recent improvements in macroeconomic stability have supported strong performance in the sizable foreign-owned and export-focused manufacturing sector (electronics, telephones, and clothing). This strength will likely be offset by weaker domestic activity as the impetus to growth stemming from low household and company sector leverage is hampered by weak banks and government enterprises, and shortfalls in infrastructure. We expect real GDP per capita growth to rise by 5.3% in 2016 (2015: 5.6%) and average 5.2% over 2016-2019, reflecting modest outlooks for Vietnam's trading partners. Uncertain conditions in export markets and the slow pace in addressing government enterprise reforms, fiscal consolidation, and banking sector resolution add downside risks to this growth outlook – RUSSIA - Russia's central bank held interest rates steady at 11% today, in line with expectations, although it hinted that if inflation kept on falling it would cut soon. Last month, the bank held rates steady, warning that inflation risks remained "high" and that the then oil price rise could be "unsustainable." However, the decision came at a time of renewed hope for Russia's beleaguered economy and the country's oil industry with commodity prices showing tentative signs of recovery. The central bank noted that it "sees the positive processes of inflation slowdown and inflation expectations decline, as well as shifts in the economy which anticipate the beginning of its recovery growth. At the same time, inflation risks remain elevated." Yann Quelenn, market analyst at Swissquote explains: "The ruble has continued to appreciate ever since it reached its all-time low against the dollar in early January. At that time, more than 82 ruble could be exchanged for a single dollar note. Now, the USDRUB has weakened below 65 and even more upside pressures on the currency continue as the rebound in oil prices persists. The outlook for Russian oil revenues is more positive despite the global supply glut. Expectations for increased oil demand over the coming years and the fear of peak oil are driving the black commodity’s prices higher – MARKET DATA RELEASES TODAY - Other data that analysts will be looking out for today include Turkey’s trade balance; GDP from Spain; the unemployment rate from Norway; mortgage approvals from UK; CPI and GDP from the eurozone; CPI from Italy; and South Africa’s trade balance – FTSE GLOBAL MARKETS – Our offices will be closed on Monday, May 2ndt. We wish our readers and clients a happy and restful May bank holiday and we look forward to reconnecting on Tuesday May 3rd. Happy Holidays!

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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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