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After a 15 year hiatus, Argentina returned to the global credit markets yesterday with the sale of a USD16.5B sovereign bonds, the largest ever dollar offering by a developing country. Argentina boosted the size of its offering to USD16.5B from USD15B after attracting orders worth USD70B. The country sold four tranches: 10-year debt at 7.5%, three- and five year yielding 6.25% and 6.875%, respectively, and 30-year paper at 8.0%.
Financial markets in the Eurozone will be pushed around by global events today. The Bank of Japan kicks off the party in the early hours CET, and the spectrum of investors' expectations is wide.
Price action in Italian bonds went from hairy to scary yesterday as two-year yields jumped to just under 3.0%.
Predicting which way markets would move in response to potential general election outcomes has been relatively straightforward in the past. But the usual rules of thumb will not apply when the election results filter through after polling stations close on Thursday evening.
Yesterday's final CPI report confirmed that inflation in the euro area increased slightly last month. The headline rate rose to 1.5%, from 1.4% in October, lifted by a 1.7 percentage point increase in energy inflation to 4.9%.
Markets' reaction last week to the ECB's October meeting accounts--see here--shows that investors are beginning to take seriously the idea of an inflection point in Eurozone monetary policy.
EZ bond markets were stung earlier this week by a Bloomberg story suggesting that the ECB, in principle, has agreed on a QE exit strategy which involves "tapering" purchases by €10B per month. The story also specified, though, that the central bank has not discussed when tapering will begin.
Friday's final EZ inflation report of 2017 sent a dovish signal to bond markets.
We are fairly sanguine that government bond markets in the Eurozone will take the end of QE in their stride.
Bond markets didn't panic when the ECB announced its intention further to reduce the pace of QE this year, to €30B per month from €60B in 2017.
Investors are busily fitting narratives to the sudden reversal in global bond markets. We think a correction was long overdue, but a combination of three factors provides a plausible rationale for the rout, from an EZ perspective.
Venezuelan bond markets have been on a rollercoaster ride this year, with yields rising significantly in response to heightened political uncertainty and then declining when the government pays its obligations or when protests ease.
The ECB will keep interest rates on hold later today, and the commitment to monthly asset purchases of €60B--of which €50B will be sovereigns--until September next year will also remain unchanged. Sovereign QE should begin formally next week, but it has already turned bond markets upside down.
The impasse between Greece and its creditors has roiled Eurozone bond markets, but the ECB is likely ready to restore calm, if necessary. We think a further widening of short-term interest rate spreads would especially worry the central bank, as it would represent a challenge to forward guidance. For now, spreads remain well below the average since the birth of the Eurozone, even after the latest increase.
This remains a tumultuous time for EZ bond investors. The twists and turns of the French presidential election campaign continue to shove markets around. Marine Le Pen's steady rise in thepolls has pushed French yields higher this year.
The strengthening EZ economy increasingly looks like the tide that lifts all boats. The Greek economy is still a laggard, but recent news hints at a brightening outlook. Last week, S&P affirmed the country's debt rating, but revised the outlook to "positive" from "stable."
The ECB won't make any major changes to its policy stance today. We think the central bank will keep its main refinancing rate unchanged at 0.00%, and that it will maintain its deposit and marginal lending facility rate at -0.4% and 0.25%, respectively. The central bank also will keep the pace of QE unchanged at €80B per month until March, and at €60B hereafter until December. This is the first ECB meeting for some time in which Mr. Draghi will be able to report significantly higher inflation in the euro area.
Global economic growth continues to fall short of expectations, and the call for aggressive fiscal stimulus is growing in many countries. This is partly a function of the realisation that monetary policy has been stretched to a breaking point. But it is also because of record low interest rates, which offer governments a golden and cheap opportunity to kickstart the economy. One of the main arguments for stronger fiscal stimulus is based on classic Keynesian macroeconomic theory.
We think that the higher inflation outlook means that the MPC will dash hopes of unconventional stimulus on August 4 and instead will opt only to cut Bank Rate to 0.25%, from 0.50% currently. The minutes of July's MPC meeting show, however, that the MPC is mulling all the options. As a result, it is worth reviewing how a QE programme might be designed and what impact it might have on bond yields.
Brazil's central bank conformed to expectations on Wednesday, cutting the Selic rate by 75 basis points to 12.25%, without bias. Overall, the BCB recognises that the economic signals have been mixed in recent weeks, but the Copom echoed our view that the data are pointing to a gradual stabilisation and, ultimately, a recovery in GDP growth later this year.
Mr. Draghi's speech yesterday in Portugal, at the ECB forum on Central Banking, pushed the euro and EZ government bond yields higher. The markets' hawkish interpretation was linked to the president's comment that "The threat of deflation is gone and reflationary forces are at play."
China has undoubtedly been through a credit tightening, commonly explained as the PBoC attempting to engineer a squeeze, to spur on corporate deleveraging.
Friday's final EZ CPI data for July confirm the advance report.
The MPC must be very disappointed by the impact of its £60B government bond purchase programme. Gilt yields initially fell, but they now have returned to the levels seen shortly before the MPC's August meeting, when the purchases were announced.
Inflation pressures in the Eurozone have been building in recent months, but we think the headline is close to a peak for the year.
House price inflation in tier-one cities has been crushed by China's most recent monetary tightening. This is a sharp turnaround from the overheating mid-way through last year. Unlike in previous cycles, interest rates are probably more important for house prices than broad money growth.
Yesterday's detailed Q3 GDP data in the Eurozone confirmed that the economy has gone from strength to strength this year.
German inflation surged in December, pointing to an upside surprise in today's advance EZ report. The headline inflation rate rose to a three-year high of 1.7% year-over-year in December, from 0.8% in November. This was the biggest increase in the year- over-year rate since 1993.
China will have to issue a lot of government debt in the next few years. The government will need to continue migrating to its balance sheet, all the debt that should have been registered there in the first place. This will mean a rapid expansion of liabilities, but if handled correctly, the government will also gain valuable assets in the process.
This week's detailed Q3 GDP data will confirm that the euro area economy is going from strength to strength.
If you were looking just at investor sentiment in the Eurozone, you would conclude that the economy is in recession.
Inflation in the Eurozone is on the rise but, as we explained in yesterday's Monitor it is unlikely to prompt the ECB further to reduce the pace of QE in the short run. The central bank has signalled a shift in focus towards core inflation, at a still-low 0.9% well below the 2% target. But the core rate also is a lagging indicator, and we think it will creep higher in 2017.
Headline money supply growth in the Eurozone has averaged 5% year-over-year since the beginning of 2015; yesterday's October data did not change that story.
We have to hand it to Italy's politicians. In an economy with a current account surplus of 3% of GDP, a nearly balanced net foreign asset position and with the majority of government debt held by domestic investors, the leading parties have managed to prompt markets to flatten the yield curve via a jump in shortterm interest rates.
The twists and turns of the French presidential election campaign continue. François Fillon was tipped as favourite after he won the Republican primaries. But Mr. Fillon now is struggling to keep his campaign on track after allegations that he gave high paying "pro-forma" jobs to his wife as an assistant last year. The socialist candidate, Benoit Hamon, has been hampered by the unpopularity of his party's incumbent, François Hollande, and has lost ground to the far-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon.
Money supply data in the EZ continue to suggest that headline GDP growth will slow soon.
Political risks in the periphery have simmered constantly during this cyclical recovery, but they have increased recently. In Italy, the government is scrambling to find a solution to rid its ailing banking sector of bad loans. But recapitalisation via a bad bank is not possible under new EU rules.
The Portuguese economy has faltered recently. In the year to Q2, real GDP rose only 0.8%, down from a 1.5% increase in the preceding year. Slowing growth in investment has been the key driver, but consumers' spending has weakened too.
Recent inflation numbers across LatAm have surprised, in both directions. On the upside, Brazil's IPCA index rose 0.2% month-to-month in September, above the market consensus forecast of 0.1%.
It is by now a familiar story that the Eurozone has become a supplier of liquidity to the global economy in the wake of the sovereign debt crisis.
Yesterday's CPI report in Mexico showed that inflation pressures are rising consistently. Headline inflation rose to 3.4% year-over-year in December, from 3.3% in November, above the mid-point of the central bank's 2-to-4% target range. Surging goods inflation and higher services prices--especially seasonal increases for package holidays and airline fares--were mainly to blame.
One of the main conclusions we drew from last week's ECB meeting was that the QE program is here to stay for a while. If the economy improves, the central bank could reduce the pace of purchases further. But we struggle to come up with a forecast for growth and inflation next year that would allow the ECB to signal that QE is coming to an end.
Taken at face value, September's money supply data suggest that the economy is ebullient, quickly recovering from the shock referendum result. Year-over-year growth in notes and coins in circulation has accelerated to its highest rate since June 2002.
The Eurozone's TARGET2 system is a clearing mechanism for the real-time settling of large payments between European financial intermediaries. It's an important piece of financial architecture, ensuring the smooth flow of transactions. But we struggle to see these flows containing much information for the economy.
Money and credit data released last weekend suggest that China's demand for credit remains insatiable.
The euro area economy continues to defy rising political uncertainty. Data yesterday showed that industrial production, ex-construction, in the Eurozone jumped 1.5% month-to-month in November, pushing the year-over-year rate up to 3.2% from a revised 0.8% in October. Output rose in all the major economies, but the headline was flattered by a 16.3% month-to-month leap in Ireland. This was due to a production jump in Ireland's "modern sector" which includes the country's large multinational technology sector.
The final June inflation report from Germany yesterday confirmed that pressures are rising. Inflation rose to 0.3% year-over-year in June, up from 0.1% in May, mainly due to higher energy prices. Household energy prices--utilities--fell 4.9% year-over-year, up from a 5.7% decline in May, while deflation in petrol prices eased to -9.4%, up from -12.1% in May.
This weeks' IMF's staff report on the Italian economy has increased the urgency for a compromise between the EU and Italy over the country's suffering banks. The report highlighted that financial sector reform is "critical" to the economy, and that the treatment of the significant portion of retail investors in banks' debt structure should be dealt with "appropriately."
Italy is edging closer to a coalition government with the Five-Star Movement, the Northern League, and Forza Italia at the helm.
The ECB will leave its main refinancing and deposit rates unchanged at 0.00% and -0.4%, respectively,
German inflation pressures were unchanged last month. The CPI index rose 0.8% year-over-year, matching the increase in October, and in line with the consensus and initial estimate. Energy deflation intensified marginally, as a result of lower prices for household utilities.
While we were away, the advance Q2 GDP report in the Eurozone confirmed our expectations of a strong first half of the year for the economy. Real GDP rose 0.6% quarter-on-quarter, the same pace as in Q1, lifting the year-over-year rate to a cyclical high of 2.1%.
The last few weeks' action in Eurozone financial markets has shown investors that the QE trade is not a one-way street. Higher short-rates could force the ECB to take preventive measures, but we don't think the central bank will be worried about rising long rates unless they shoot much higher.
Markets have responded strongly to the ECB's announcement that it will be buying corporate bonds as part of QE. Net corporate debt issuance of non-financial firms jumped €16B in March, the biggest monthly increase since January 2014. The 12-month average, however, was stable at €3.6B, and a sustained increase in net debt supply partly depends on firms' appetite for financial engineering
Bond markets in the euro area have been a calm sea recently relative to the turmoil in equities, credit and commodities. Following the initial surge in yields at the end of second quarter, 10-year benchmark rates have meandered in a tight range, recently settling towards the lower end, at 0.5%. Our outlook for the economy and inflation tells us this is to o low, even allowing for the impact of QE.
Recent bond market volatility has left a significant mark on Eurozone credit markets. The recent slide in the Bloomberg composite index for Eurozone corporate bonds is the biggest since the U.S. taper tantrum in 2013. The prospect of a Fed hike later this year and rising inflation expectations in the Eurozone have changed the balance of risk for fixed income markets.
Bond investors in the Eurozone are licking their wounds following a 40 basis point backup in 10-year yields since the end of last month. Nothing goes up in a straight line, but we doubt that inflation data will provide much comfort for bond markets in the short term.
The EZ government bond market has been in a holding pattern for most of 2017. The euro area 10- year yield--German and French benchmark--is little changed from a year ago, though it is at the lower end of its range.
Bond market volatility and political turmoil in Greece have been the key drivers of an abysmal second quarter for Eurozone equities. Recent panic in Chinese markets has further increased the pressure, adding to the wall of worry for investors. A correction in stocks is not alarming, though, following the surge in Q1 from the lows in October. The total return-- year-to-date in euros--for the benchmark MSCI EU ex-UK index remains a respectable 11.4%.
The markets' favorite story of the moment, aside from the Fed, seems to be the idea that overstretched corporate finances are an accident waiting to happen. When the crunch comes, the unavoidable hit to the stock market and the corporate bond market will have dire consequences, limiting the Fed's scope to raise rates, regardless of what might be happening in the labor market. We don't buy this. At least, we don't buy the second part of the narrative; we have no problem with the idea the finances of the corporate sector are shaky.
The violence of recent bond market weakness likely has been driven mainly by reduced liquidity, and a squeeze in crowded positions. But we also think that it can be partly explained by an adjustment to higher inflation expectations. The latest ECB staff projections assume the average HICP inflation will be 0.3% this year, up from the zero predicted in March. Allowing for a smooth increase over the remainder of the year, this implies a year-end inflation rate of 0.8%.
We have warned that the ECB' decision to add corporate bonds to QE would lead to unprecedented market distortions. Evidence of this is now abundantly clear. The central bank has bought €82B-worth of corporate bonds in the past 11 months, and now holds more than 6% of the market. Assuming the central bank continues its purchases until the middle of next year, it will end up owning 13%-to-14% of the whole Eurozone corporate bond market.
Monitoring bond markets in the Eurozone has been like watching paint dry this year. Yields across fixed income markets in the euro area were already low going into QE, but they have been absolutely crushed as asset purchases began in February.
The bond market has become extremely pessimistic about the long-term economic outlook following Britain's vote to leave the EU. Forward rates imply that the gilt markets' expectation for official interest rates in 20 years' time has shifted down to just 2%, from 3% at the start of 2016.
Claus Vistesen, Pantheon Macroeconomics chief euro zone economist, discusses how volatility has impacted the bond market.
Why is the EZ current account surplus rising and net exports falling at the same time?
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