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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Of mice and men and bailouts

Wednesday, 25 July 2012
Of mice and men and bailouts With the sovereign debt crisis still in full swing it is becoming a moot point as to where you should place your money. Popular reflection throws up the usual suspects, gold, bunds, gilts, US T-bonds and so on, but one does begin to wonder whether this accepted order of security is actually right. We have seen haircuts taken on quite a bit of sovereign debt. However, were not for central banks still accepting such debt as collateral, the yields on certain national issuance would be considerably higher than they are at right now. Simon Denham, managing director of spread betting firm, Capital Spreads gives the bearish view. http://www.ftseglobalmarkets.com/

With the sovereign debt crisis still in full swing it is becoming a moot point as to where you should place your money. Popular reflection throws up the usual suspects, gold, bunds, gilts, US T-bonds and so on, but one does begin to wonder whether this accepted order of security is actually right. We have seen haircuts taken on quite a bit of sovereign debt. However, were not for central banks still accepting such debt as collateral, the yields on certain national issuance would be considerably higher than they are at right now. Simon Denham, managing director of spread betting firm, Capital Spreads gives the bearish view.

Simon DenhamSimon Denham, managing director of spread betting firm Capital Spreads. Photograph kindly supplied by Capital Spreads.We have the curious situation of New Spanish issuance being bought by Spanish banks then repoed at favorable rates back into the ECB as collateral against debt taken out for this very purpose. The politicians have now agreed bailouts for the banks (but not for Spain itself) in the full knowledge that most of such bailout monies will be used for exactly the purposes described above.

The question must be: how much more will northern Europe tolerate? As times get tougher in Greece, Spain and Italy more of the little business still being done is actually flowing into the black market, exacerbating already critical deficit problems. 



Forcing through stern excise adherence needs to be done when times are good not when many businesses are struggling for survival. This actually is the knub of the problem of the eurozone since its inception; Southern States previously accepted a generally deteriorating currency in exchange for a certain laxness in fiscal responsibility. Other the other hand, the much bigger North (economically) certainly did not.

When the good times rolled all the politicians basked in the supposed genius of the new bloc studiously ignoring all of the ever more strident warnings of productivity dislocation and failing dismally to impose any form of regional spending controls. The saying ‘your sins will find you out’ could hardly be more apposite in this situation as Germany and France (who were amongst the first to break the piously agreed deficit limitations back in 2003) are now requiring just such a response from the weaker members.

Where then, does this leave equities?

Well, oddly enough there is an argument to say that corporate assets might well become the safe haven investment of the future. The ability to move companies from one jurisdiction to another if the regulatory/tax burdens becomes too extreme, the general fiscal responsibility of the vast majority of executive boards, their generally low debt position and the high profit margins lead one to consider that equities and corporate bonds are a rather safer home than ­sovereign debt (of whichever nation).  

The major advantage of a sovereign nation has always been the accepted lore of their ability to raise taxes no matter what the economic situation. Even so, as we see from Spain and Italy’s recent tax receipt numbers—and even the UK over the past few months—this accepted truism may be starting to wear thin.  People in general continue to lose any respect for their government’s ability to spend wisely. If then the average German, Finn or Dutchman decides that bailing out Southern Europe is not his responsibility and we effectively move towards a Greek position on paying tax, or voting for parties that espouse a more isolationist policy, the general deficit situation may well ­deteriorate exponentially.

All the while, returns on equities look to be attractive in the current interest rate environment. The FTSE 100 yield is over 4% as is the Stoxx 50 and the dividend adjusted price versus the cost of acquisition is now at historically high levels. Obviously, dividends might well be lowered over the coming years as growth looks more remote, but interest rates are likely to remain sub 1% as well, so even a reduction in payments might not be accompanied by a fall in price. Returns on stocks have remained remarkably stable despite the current political brouhaha. However, this might be the time that this ‘value’ was reappraised upwards to reflect falling returns elsewhere. 

For all of the truly awful news of the last six to twelve months the FTSE is still pretty much where it was this time last year. It might not take much in the way of good news to send us higher. Of course, this said, we do still need the politicians to make at least a couple of good choices!

As ever ladies and gentlemen, place your bets! 

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