Saturday 13th February 2016
NEWS TICKER: FRIDAY, JANUARY 12TH: Morningstar has moved the Morningstar Analyst Rating™ for the Fidelity Global Inflation Linked Bond fund to Neutral. The fund previously held a Bronze rating. Ashis Dash, manager research analyst at Morningstar, says, “The fund’s rating was placed Under Review following the news that co-manager Jeremy Church was leaving Fidelity. Lead manager, Andrew Weir, who has managed the fund since launch in May 2008, remains in charge and is further supported by the new co-manager, Tim Foster. While we acknowledge Weir’s considerable experience in the inflation-linked space, some recent stumbles and below-benchmark returns over time have led us to lower our conviction in the fund. This is currently reflected by our Neutral rating.” - Italian GDP growth looks to have stalled to 0.1pc in the last quarter of 2015, falling below analyst expectations of 0.3% growth. The Italian economy grew by just 0.6% last year having come out of its worst slump since before the pyramids were built. The slowdown will put further pressure on reforming Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi, who has been battling to save a banking system lumbering under €201bn (£156bn) of bad debt, equivalent to as much as 12% of GDP. It is a serious situation and one which threatens Italy’s traditionally benign relationship with the European Union. The EU’s bail in rules for bank defaults seeks to force creditors to take the brunt of any banking failures. Italy suffered four bank closures last year, which meant losses of something near €800m on junior bond holders (with much of the exposure held by Italian retail investors). No surprise perhaps, Italian bank stocks have taken a beating this year, Unicredit shares are currently €3.06, compared with a price of €6.41 in April last year. In aggregate Italian banking shares are down by more than 20% over the last twelve months. Italian economy minister Pier Carlo Padoan told Reuters at the beginning of February that there isn’t any connection between the sharp fall in European banking stocks, as he called on Brussels for a gradual introduction of the legislation. He stressed that he did not want legislation changed, just deferred - Is current market volatility encouraging issuers to table deals? Oman Telecommunications Co OTL.OM (Omantel) has reportedly scrapped plans to issue a $130m five-year dual-currency sukuk, reports the Muscat bourse. Last month, the state-run company priced the sukuk at a profit rate of 5.3%, having received commitments worth $82.16m in the dollar tranche and OMR18.4m ($47.86m) in the rial tranche. Meantime, Saudi Arabia's Bank Albilad says it plans to issue SAR1bn-SAR2bn ($267m-$533m) of sukuk by the end of the second quarter of 2016 to finance expansion, chief executive Khaled al-Jasser told CNBC Arabia - The US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (Commission) announces that the Energy and Environmental Markets Advisory Committee (EEMAC) will hold a public meeting at the Commission’s Washington, DC headquarters located at 1155 21st Street, NW, Washington, DC 20581. The meeting will take place on February 25th from 10:00 am to 1:30 pm – Local press reports say the UAE central bank will roll out new banking regulations covering board and management responsibilities and accountability – Following yesterday’s Eurogroup meeting, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, says that “Overall, the economic recovery in the eurozone continues and is expected to strengthen this year and next. At the same time, there are increasing downside risks and there is volatility in the markets all around the world. The euro area is structurally in a much better position now than some years ago. And this is true also for European banks. With Banking Union, we have developed mechanisms in the euro area to bring stability to the financial sector and to reduce the sovereign-banking nexus. Capital buffers have been raised, supervision has been strengthened, and we have clear and common rules for resolution. So overall, structurally we are now in a better position and we need to continue a gradual recovery”. Speaking at the press conference that followed the conclusion of the February 11th Eurogroup, Dijsselbloem also acknowledged that “good progress” has been made in official discussions between Greece and its officials creditors in the context of the 1st programme review. Yet, he noted that more work is needed for reaching a staff level agreement on the required conditionality, mostly on the social security pension reform, fiscal issues and the operation of the new privatization fund. On the data front, according to national account statistics for the fourth quarter of 2016 (flash estimate), Greece’s real GDP, in seasonally and calendar adjusted terms, decreased by 0.6%QoQ compared to -1.4%QoQ in Q3. The NBS Executive Board decided in its meeting today to cut the key policy rate by 0.25 pp, to 4.25%. - Today’s early European session saw an uptick in energy stocks, banking shares and US futures. Brent and WTI crude oil futures both jumped over 4% to $31.28 a barrel and $27.36 respectively before paring gains slightly; all this came on the back of promised output cuts by OPEC. That improving sentiment did not extend to Asia where the Nikkei fell to a one-year low. Japan's main index fell to its lowest level in more than a year after falling 4.8% in trading today, bringing losses for the week to over 11%. Yet again though the yen strengthened against the US dollar, which was down 0.1% ¥112.17. Swissquote analysts says, “We believe there is still some downside potential for the pair; however traders are still trying to understand what happened yesterday - when USD/JPY spiked two figures in less than 5 minutes - and will likely remain sidelined before the weekend break.” Japanese market turbulence is beginning to shake the government and may spur further easing measures if not this month, then next. Trevor Greetham, head of multi asset at Royal London Asset Management, says “When policy makers start to panic, markets can stop panicking. We are seeing the first signs of policy maker panic in Japan with Prime Minister Abe holding an emergency meeting with Bank of Japan Governor Kuroda. We are going to get a lot of new stimulus over the next few weeks and not just in Japan. I expect negative interest rates to be used more in Japan and in Europe and I expect this policy to increase bank lending and weaken currencies for the countries that pursue it”. Greetham agrees that both the yen and euro have strengthened despite negative rates. “Some of this is due to the pricing out of Fed rate hike expectations; some is temporary and to do with risk aversion. In a market sell off money tends to flow away from high yielding carry currencies to low yielding funding currencies and this effect is dominating in the short term”. Australia's S&P ASX 200 closed down 1.2%. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng settled down 1.01. in New Zealand the NZX was down 0.89%, while in South Korea the Kospi slid 1.41%. The Straits Times Index (STI) ended 1.25 points or 0.05% higher to 2539.53, taking the year-to-date performance to -11.91%. The top active stocks today were DBS, which declined 0.91%, SingTel, which gained 1.13%, JMH USD, which declined 1.39%, OCBC Bank, which gained 0.13% and UOB, with a0.34% advance. The FTSE ST Mid Cap Index declined 0.50%, while the FTSE ST Small Cap Index declined0.31%. Thai equities were down 0.38%, the Indian Sensex slip 0.71%, while Indonesian equities were down another 1.16%. The euro was down 0.3% against the dollar at $1.1285, even after data showed Germany's economy remained on a steady yet modest growth path at the end of last year. Gold fell 0.7% to $1238.80 an ounce, after gold gained 4.5% Thursday to its highest level in a year. Greetham summarises: “Like a lot of people, we went into this year's sell off moderately overweight equities and it has been painful. What we have seen has been a highly technical market with many forced sellers among oil-producing sovereign wealth funds and financial institutions protecting regulatory capital buffers. However, economic fundamentals in the large developed economies remain positive, unemployment rates are falling and consumers will benefit hugely from lower energy prices and loose monetary policy.”

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Investors remain keen even as pfandbrief issue volumes fall

Friday, 09 December 2011
Investors remain keen even as pfandbrief issue volumes fall German covered bonds (pfandbriefe) largely maintained their safe-haven status with investors through the deteriorating financial environment in the second half of 2011, despite an inevitable dramatic slump in primary issuance as markets took fright at developments—or lack of them—in the eurozone. What now? Andrew Cavenagh reports. http://www.ftseglobalmarkets.com/

German covered bonds (pfandbriefe) largely maintained their safe-haven status with investors through the deteriorating financial environment in the second half of 2011, despite an inevitable dramatic slump in primary issuance as markets took fright at developments—or lack of them—in the eurozone. What now? Andrew Cavenagh reports.

With just €1.5bn of jumbo pfandbrief issues since the end of June, and none since Eurohypo’s €1bn deal at the end of August, the primary market this year will fall way short of the €87bn recorded in 2010. Verband Deutsche Pfandbriefbanken (VDP), the association of German pfandbrief banks, now reckons the final figure for this year will come out at around €65bn, against its earlier forecast of €90bn, on the back of the €47bn of bonds that were sold in the first six months, including €19.8bn of jumbo transactions.

Pfandbrief spreads have nevertheless remained relatively stable, compared with most other classes of capital market debt and covered bonds elsewhere. While the differential between pfandbriefe and German sovereign debt (bunds) may be approaching historical highs at around 120 basis points (bps), average spreads are still only about 30bps over the mid-swaps benchmark as those on most other covered bonds are well into three figures. “Flight to quality has prevailed, and the pfandbrief has confirmed its benchmark position in the covered-bond market,” maintains a VDP spokesman.



This spread stability looks set to endure through next year. For even if EU authorities take the measures necessary for the bond markets to resume normal functioning, the overall pfandbrief market will continue to shrink, which will tend to support the current spread levels. In the jumbo sector of the market, for instance, most banks are forecasting that primary issuance will be around €26bn while redemptions, although lower than the €44bn this year, will still total €38bn.

Investor confidence in the market received a further boost on November 23rd, when the Moody’s rating agency raised its base-case timely payment indicator for mortgage-backed (hypotheken) bonds issued under the Pfandbrief Act from  “probable high” to “high”. The agency cited the strong legislative and regulatory support for the pfandbrief regime as the reason for its decision, including recent amendments to the act. These require issuers to maintain a so-called liquidity buffer of at least 180 days in respect of their pfandbrief commitments and enhance the powers of a cover-pool administrator in the event of an issuer insolvency. The pfandbrief market is nevertheless facing significant challenges over the next 12 months and beyond, which could yet alter the historical perception—which German banks and financial authorities are keen to maintain—that the instruments trade almost as an homogenous asset class.  

The increasing emphasis that both the rating agencies and investors are placing on the link between issuers and their covered bonds is certainly threatening to create a great deal more discrimination in the market, particularly in the present environment where individual banks’ sovereign exposures are under the microscope.

Moody’s decision to place UniCredit’s covered bonds on review for downgrade a week after it announced it was reviewing the bank’s senior debt rating was a recent example of such linkage. Moreover, the trend could clearly see the spread spectrum in the asset class widen significantly from historical norms. Timo Böhm, portfolio manager and member of the covered bond team at Allianz Pimco in Munich, says the mounting concern over banks’ exposure to the sovereign debt crisis has led to a more pronounced linkage between the spreads on an institution’s covered bonds and those on its senior unsecured debt. “That link to the seniors and the sovereigns is much tighter now, and therefore everybody is looking at what could be the worst case here,” Böhm explained. “Even if the covered bond is rated triple-A, its spreads will widen on these concerns.”

“From our point of view, covered pools should be split,” says Böhm. He points out that banks now price their commercial property loans to reflect the different degrees of risk involved, and that it was not unreasonable for bond investors to require the same consideration. However, issuers continue to oppose the need for such a move. They say the pfandbrief legal framework offers investors adequate protection while the transparency of the cover pools allows them to choose the type of investment that most closely meets their requirements.

“They can decide themselves what kind of strategy suits them best,” says the VDP spokesman. He points to mortgage pfandbriefe backed 100% by residential mortgages: “If you like to take entirely residential mortgage risk, you find such bonds, too,” he says. While that is clearly the case, it is equally evident that issuing banks that have high concentrations of commercial loans in their cover pools are going to have to pay progressively more for the privilege.

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