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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
India's Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman finally brought out the big guns on September 20, announcing significant cuts to corporate tax rates.
Investors in euro-denominated corporate debt will be listening closely to Mr. Draghi this week for hints on how the ECB intends to balance QE between public and private debt next year.
Corporate bonds will not be included in the ECB's monthly QE purchases until the end of Q2, but markets are already preparing. The sale of non-financial corporate debt jumped to €49.4B in March, from about €25B in February, within touching distance of the record set in Q1 last year.
This week brings the third anniversary of the first rate hike in this cycle, on December 16, 2015.
Debt issuance by Eurozone non-financial firms is soaring, consistent with the ECB's hope that adding private debt to QE would boost supply. Our first chart shows that the three-month sum of net debt sold in the euro area jumped to a new record of €60.3B in May. A short-term decline in issuance is a good bet after the initial euphoria in firms' treasury departments.
The latest money and credit data highlight that the financial fortunes of firms and households have begun to differ markedly. Private non- financial corporations--PNFCs--are enjoying strong growth in their broad money holdings. The 1.2% month-to-month increase in PNFC's M4 was the largest rise since August 2016, and it lifted the year- over-year growth rate to 9.3%, from 9.0% in May.
The summer usually is a quiet time for business, but seemingly not for CFOs this year. Yesterday's money and credit figures from the Bank of England showed that borrowing by private non-financial corporations has rocketed. Net finance raised by PNFC's from all sources increased by £8.9B in July, compared to an average increase of just £2.5B in the previous 12 months.
The cyclical recovery in Italy likely strengthened in the second quarter. Real GDP rose 0.3% quarter-on-quarter in Q1, and we think the e conomy repeated, or even slightly, beat this number in Q2. This would mark the strongest performance in four years, but it will take more than a business cycle upturn to solve the Italian economy's structural challenges. Government and non-financial corporate debt has risen to 220% of GDP since 2008, and non-performing loans--NPLs--have sky rocketed.
The tax plan released by the administration yesterday was so thoroughly leaked that it contained no real surprises. The border adjustment tax is dead -- not that we thought it would have passed the Senate in any event -- and the centerpiece is a proposed cut in the corporate income tax rate to 15% from 35%.
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.
We've seen some alarming estimates of the potential impact on inflation of the House Republicans' plans for corporate tax reform, with some forecasts suggesting the CPI would be pushed up as much as 5%. We think the impact will be much smaller, more like 1-to-11⁄2% at most, and it could be much less, depending on what happens to the dollar. But the timing would be terrible, given the Fed's fears over the inflation risk posed by the tightness of the labor market.
In the yesterday's Monitor, we presented an exagerated upper-bound for China's bad debt problem, at 61% of GDP. The limitations of the data meant that we double-counted a significant portion of non-financial corporate--NFC--debt with financial corporations and government.
The theory of spontaneous combustion of the U.S. economy appears to be making something of a comeback, if our inbox and market chat is to be believed. The core idea here is that expansions die of old age, and can be helped on their way to oblivion by factors like falling corporate earnings and rising inventory. The current recovery, which began in June 2009 and is now 63 months old, already looks a bit long-in-the-tooth.
The ECB will keep its refinancing and deposit rates unchanged today, at 0.0% and -0.4% respectively. We also think the pace of QE will be held at €80B per month. Attention will turn instead to the details and implementation of the measures unveiled last month. Corporate bonds will be added to QE at the end of the second quarter, and monthly purchases of about €5-to-€10B per month are a realistic assumption.
Wednesday's money data confirmed that Chinese households have continued to borrow into Q2 but at a slower rate than in 2016. The slowdown will really set in during the second half, and into 2018. Households have done a sterling job of taking over the borrowing baton from corporates, but they can't do everything.
The Bank of England won't set markets alight today. We expect another 9-0 vote to leave rates unchanged at 0.25%, and to continue with the £50B of gilt purchases and $10B of corporate bond purchases announced in August. This is not to say, though, that everything is plain sailing for the Monetary Policy Committee.
Financial assets of all stripes are, by most metrics, expensive as we head into year-end, but for some markets, valuations matter less than in others. The market for non-financial corporate bonds in the euro area is a case in point.
Markets initially objected to last week's ECB package, but the tune has since changed. The decision to focus on direct credit easing to the domestic economy, via more attractive TLTROs and corporate bond purchases--rather than by lowering rates further--is now seen by many analysts as a stroke of genius.
December's money data brought clear signs that the economy's growth spurt in the second half of 2016 is about to come to an abrupt end. Growth in households' money holdings and borrowing slowed sharply in December, and the pick-up in corporate borrowing shortly after the MPC cut interest rates and announced corporate bond purchases, in August, has run out of steam already.
China has undoubtedly been through a credit tightening, commonly explained as the PBoC attempting to engineer a squeeze, to spur on corporate deleveraging.
In yesterday's Monitor we set out how government will have to prepare for an increase in debt issuance both to bring debts on-balance sheet and also to issue new debt as government is obliged to run deficits while the corporate sector deleverages.
Companies' profit margins have fared relatively well during this recovery, and on many measures, they are back to pre-crisis levels. But looking ahead, corporate profitability is set to be squeezed as labour takes a larger share of national income and the Government gets to grips with the budget deficit by increasing corporate taxation.
In the years before the crash of 2008, if you wanted to know what was likely to happen to the pace of U.S. economic growth, all you needed to know was what happened to corporate bond yields a year earlier. The correlation between movements in BBB industrial yields--not spreads--and the changes in the rate of GDP growth, lagged by a year, was remarkably strong from 1994 through 2008, as our first chart shows. Roughly, a 50 basis point increase in yields could be expected to reduce the pace of year-over-year GDP growth--the second differential, in other words--by about 1.5 percentage points.
Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, explains the issues he sees looming over corporate earnings. He speaks on "Bloomberg Surveillance."
Markets were all over the place yesterday in response to the messages from the ECB.
The turmoil in Washington has begun to hit markets. We don't know how this will end, but we do know that it isn't going away quickly.
We're braced for a hefty downside surprise in today's durable goods orders numbers, thanks to a technicality.
China's monetary and credit data--released yesterday, two days behind schedule--suggest that monetary conditions are loosening at the margin, while credit conditions have remained stable, but easier than in the first half.
S&P downgraded Chinese government debt last week to A+ from AA- yesterday, following a Moody's downgrade last May.
The ECB's communication to markets has been clear this year. In Q1, the central bank changed its stance on the economy towards an emphasis on "downside risks to the outlook".
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.
Colombia's December activity reports confirmed that quite strong retail sales last year were less accompanied by local production, which became only a minor driver of the economic recovery, as shown in our first chart.
Japan's economic data have been very volatile in the last 18 months.
Mexico's National Institute of Statistics--INEGI-- will release preliminary GDP data for Q1 on Friday. We are expecting good news, despite the tough external and domestic environment. According to the economic activity index--a monthly proxy for GDP-- growth gained further momentum in Q1, based on data up to February.
Chinese prices largely moved in line with our expectations in September, according to yesterday's data.
On the face of it, the 25 basis points increase in 10-year German yields this month is modest. But the sell-off has reminded levered investors that trading benchmark securities in the Eurozone is not a one-way street. When yields are close to zero, investors also use leverage to enhance returns, and this increases volatility when the market turns.
The ECB will keep its main refinancing and deposit rates unchanged at 0.00% and -0.4% today, but we think the central bank will satisfy markets' expectations for more clarity on the QE program next year.
Italy's economy is still bumping along the bottom, after emerging from recession in the middle of last year.
The ECB will not make any major changes to policy today.
In recent years only one event has made a material difference to the growth path of the U.S. economy, namely, the plunge in oil prices which began in the summer of 2014. The ensuing collapse in capital spending in the mining sector and everything connected to it, pulled GDP growth down from 2½% in both 2014 and 2015 to just 1.6% in 2016.
We have had something of a rethink about the likely timing of the coming cyclical downturn. Previously, we thought the economy would start to slow markedly in the middle of next year, with a mild recession--two quarters of modest declines in GDP-- beginning in the fourth quarter.
The ECB broadly conformed to markets' expectations today. The central bank maintained its key refinancing and deposit rates at 0.00% and -0.4% respectively, and delivered the consensus package on QE.
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.
It's going to be very hard for Fed Chair Powell's Jackson Hole speech today to satisfy markets, which now expect three further rate cuts by March next year.
China's manufacturing PMI posted a surprise, albeit trivial, increase in February, to 51.6 up from 51.5 in January.
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.
January's money and credit data provided another warning sign that the economy has started 2017 on a weak footing. For a start, the three-month annualised growth rate of M4, excluding intermediate other financial corporations--the Bank's preferred measure of the broad money supply-- declined to 1.8% in January, from 3.1% in December.
On the face of it, the potential for a tangible boost to GDP growth from a revival in business investment after a no-deal Brexit has been averted appears modest.
The Prime Minister's refusal last week to reaffirm her party's 2015 election pledge not to raise income tax, National Insurance or VAT has fuelled speculation that taxes will rise if the Conservatives are re-elected on June 8. Admittedly, Mrs. May asserted that her party "believes in lower taxes", and the tax pledge s till might appear in the Conservatives' manifesto, which won't be published for a few weeks.
The big difference between economic cycles in developed and emerging markets is that recessions in the former tend to be driven by the unwinding of imbalances only in the private sector, usually in the wake of a tightening of monetary policy.
Data released in recent days confirm the story of a struggling economy and falling inflation pressures in Mexico, strengthening our forecast of interest rate cuts over the second half of the year.
A thought, ahead of Chair Yellen's Testimony tomorrow. Conventional wisdom has it that the terminal Fed funds rate in this cycle will b e much lower than in the past--the Fed thinks 3¾%, compared to 5.25% in 2007, and 6.5% in 2000--reflecting the long-lasting legacy of the crash, particularly in household balance sheets.
The presumption in markets is that the French presidential election is the last hurdle to be overcome in the EZ economy. As long as Marine Le Pen is kept out of l'Élysée, animal spirits will be released in the economy and financial markets. We concede that a Le Pen victory would result in chaos, at least in the short run. Bond spreads would widen, equities would crash and the euro would plummet. But we also suspect that such volatility would be short-lived, similar to the convulsions after Brexit.
The decision by the ECB to remove the waiver for including Greek government bonds in standard refinancing operations changes little in the short run, as the banking system in Greece still has full access to the ELA. It does put additional pressure on Syriza, though, to abandon the position that it will exit the bailout on February the 28th, effectively pushing the economy into the abyss.
China's National People's Congress yesterday laid out its main goals for this year, on the first day of its annual meeting.
Friday's German new orders data were sizzling. Factory orders jumped 3.6% month-to-month in August, pushing the year-over-year rate up to a nine-month high of 7.8%, from an upwardly-revised 5.4% in July.
Mr Abe's Liberal Democratic Party took a drubbing at the polls in Tokyo's Assembly election over the weekend. The consequences for fiscal spending probably are minimal but the vote strengthens the case for increased emphasis on the structural reform "arrow" and less focus on monetary policy.
Private non-financial corporations' profits have held up well over the last two years, despite the net negative impact of sterling's depreciation and modest increases in Bank Rate.
Ms Keiko Fujimori, the candidate of Peru's conservative Fuerza Popular party, seems on course to win the first round of the presidential election this Sunday, April 10. According to the latest Ipsos poll, the daughter of former President Alberto Fujimori continues to lead the race, with the support or about 34% of voters.
Markets were jolted yesterday by news that the U.S. Fed is mulling ending, or at least slowing, the reinvestment of Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities later this year. Such a move would reduce liquidity in global markets that has underpinned soaring equity prices in recent years.
Make no mistake, business investment has been depressed by Brexit uncertainty over the last year.
The 7.8% month-on-month plunge in Japan's core machine orders in May re-emphasises the underlying weakness that we have been worrying about, after the 5.2% jump in April.
India's PMIs for October were grim, indicating minimal carry-over of energy from the third quarter rebound.
We're expecting to learn this morning that productivity rose by a respectable 1.7% in the year to the fourth quarter, the best performance in nearly four years.
As we go to press, equities in the Eurozone are having a bad day following the collapse in U.S. and Asian equities earlier.
India's headline GDP print for the third quarter was damning, with growth slowing further, to 4.5% year- over-year, from 5.0% in Q2.
We sympathise if readers are sceptical of our opening gambit in this Monitor.
The advance international trade data for December were due for publication today, but the report probably won't appear.
China's total debt stock is high for a country at its stage of development, relative to GDP, but it is sustainable for country with excess savings. China was never going to be a typical EM, where external debtors can trigger a crisis by demanding payment.
China's abysmal industrial profits data for October underscore why the chances of less- timid monetary easing are rising rapidly.
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."
Money supply dynamics in the Eurozone continue to signal a solid outlook for the economy. Headline M3 growth eased marginally to 4.9% year-over-year in January, from 5.0% in December; the dip was due to slowing narrow money growth, falling to 8.4% from 8.8% the month before. The details of the M1 data, however, showed that the headline chiefly was hit by slowing growth in deposits by insurance and pension funds.
In our daily Monitors we've talked about the four paths that we see for the Chinese economy over the medium-to-long term. First, China could make history and actively transition to private consumption-led growth.
The newly-revised data on capital goods orders, released on Friday, support our view that sustained strength in business capex remains a good bet for this year.
January's money supply figures continued the nerve-jangling flow of data on the economy's momentum.
Global monetary policy divergence has returned with a vengeance. In the U.S., despite recent soft CPI data, a resolute Fed has prompted markets to reprice rates across the curve.
Further political wrangling yesterday distracted from data showing that the risk of no -deal Brexit is placing increasing strain on the economy.
February's money and credit figures supported recent labour market and retail sales data suggesting that consumers are increasingly financially strained. Households' broad money holdings increased by just 0.2% month-to-month in February, half the average pace of the previous six months.
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.
The Fed is on course to hike again in December, with 12 of the 16 FOMC forecasters expecting rates to end the year 25bp higher than the current 2-to-21⁄4%; back in June, just eight expected four or more hikes for the year.
The Fed surprised no-one by raising rates 25bp yesterday and leaving in place the median forecast for three hikes next year and two next year.
The August NFIB survey of activity and sentiment at small businesses was soft, but it could have been worse.
The French industrial sector ended last year on an upbeat note, but the underlying trend in activity is still weak. Industrial production rose 1.5% month-to-month in December, equivalent to a 0.1% fall year-over-year.
China's M2 growth stabilised in November, at 8.0% year-over-year, matching the October rate.
Apart from a slew of economic data--see here and here--two important things happened in Germany last week.
September's GDP report laid bare the economy's sluggishness.
The debate about the ECB's policy trajectory is bifurcated at the moment. Markets are increasingly convinced that a rapidly strengthening economy will force the central bank to make a hawkish adjustment in its stance.
China's money and credit numbers for April were a mixed bag. M2 growth merely inched down, to 8.5% year-over-year, from 8.6% in March, keeping its gradual uptrend intact.
Our base case remains a 10bp cut in the deposit rate, to -0.5%, in September.
This week's manufacturing, construction and services PMIs for October will demonstrate how well the economy is coping with the prospect of higher interest rates.
China and the U.S. are officially to restart trade talks, according to China's Ministry of Commerce, after previous negotiations stalled in June.
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.
China's official and Caixin manufacturing PMIs have diverged in the last couple of months.
We think Japanese monetary policy easing essentially is tapped out, both theoretically and by political constraints.
We struggle to see how the pro-separatist movement in Catalonia can move forward from here.
We suspect that today's ECB meeting will be a sideshow to the political chaos in the U.K., but that doesn't change the fact that the central bank's to-do list is long.
The Chinese authorities have been out in force in the last few days, aiming to reassure markets and the populace that they are ready and able to support the economy, after abysmal trade data on Monday.
The ECB did its utmost not to say or do anything remotely novel today. The central bank kept its main refinancing and deposit rates unchanged at 0.00% and -0.40%, respectively, and reiterated its plan for QE next year.
China's official real GDP growth likely slowed to 6.0% year-over-year in Q3, from 6.2% in Q2.
We are fairly sanguine that government bond markets in the Eurozone will take the end of QE in their stride.
China's March money and credit data, published last Friday, showed that conditions continue to tighten, posing a threat to GDP growth this year.
Chinese monetary conditions have tightened sharply in the past year. Conditions have stabilised in recent months but Fed policy normalisation implies the increase in the money stock should slow again in 2018.
Chinese M2 growth was stable at 8.3% year- over-year in May, despite favorable base effects.
Korean credit markets have begun tentatively to recover after the rise in global interest rates at the end of last year.
In the olden days, by which we mean the 15 years or so leading up to the financial crisis, a 100bp rise in long yields would be enough to slow GDP growth by about three percentage points, other things equal, after a lag of about one year.
Chinese monetary conditions remain tight. Systemic tightening through higher interest rates last year is playing a role, but intensified and ever- more public regulatory enforcement is becoming the primary driver of tightening credit conditions for businesses.
The broad strokes of yesterday's ECB meeting were in line with markets' expectations. The central bank left its main refinancing and deposit rates unchanged, at 0.00% and -0.4% respectively, and maintained the same forward guidance.
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.
For some time now we have argued that the forces which have depressed business capex--the collapse in oil prices, the strong dollar, and slower growth in China--are now fading, and will soon become neutral at worst. As these forces dissipate, the year-over-year rate of growth of capex will revert to the prior trend, about 4-to-6%. We have made this point in the context of our forecast of faster GDP growth, but it also matters if you're thinking about the likely performance of the stock market.
A looming rate lift-off at the Fed, chaos in Greece, and a renewed rout in commodities have given credit markets plenty to worry about this year. The Bloomberg global high yield index is just about holding on to a 0.7% gain year-to-date, but down 2.5% since the middle of May. The picture carries over to the euro area where the sell-off is worse than during the taper tantrum in 2013.
Sentiment in the French business sector ended this year on a high. The headline manufacturing index fell slightly to 112 in December, from an upwardly-revised 113 in November, but the aggregate sentiment gauge edged higher to a new cycle high of 112.
Both the Prime Minister and Chancellor last week threatened to cut business taxes aggressively to persuade multinationals to remain in Britain in the event of hard Brexit. But these threats lack credibility, given the likely lingering weakness of the public finances by the time of the U.K.'s departure from the EU and the scale of demographic pressures set to weigh on public spending over the next decade.
Business investment held up surprisingly well last year.
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.
The Brexit-related slump in corporate confidence finally has taken its toll on hiring.
Our payroll model, which incorporates survey data as well as the error term from our ADP forecast, points to a hefty 225K increase in November employment. We have tweaked the forecast to the upside because of the tendency in recent years for the fourth quarter numbers to be stronger than the prior trend, as our first chart shows.
In the wake of the uptick in the March ISM manufacturing survey, we think today's official production data for the same month are likely to disappoint. Our model of the month-to-month output numbers incorporates the ISM data, but it is substantially driven by manufacturing hours worked, which fell in both February and March.
Without tying its hands, the MPC--which voted unanimously to keep interest rates at 0.25% and to continue with the £60B of gilt purchases and £10B of corporate bond purchases authorised last month--gave a strong indication yesterday that it still expects to cut Bank Rate in November.
The MPC surprised nobody yesterday by voting unanimously to keep Bank Rate at 0.75% and to maintain the stocks of gilt and corporate bond purchases at £435B and £10B, respectively.
Long-time readers will be aware of our disdain fro the ADP employment report, which usually tells us nothing more than that the monthly changes in payrolls tend to mean-revert. That's because the published ADP employment number for each month is generated by regressions which incorporate lagged official payroll data, as well as information from companies which use ADP for payroll processing.
Today's March retail sales report will likely disappoint, despite the already- downbeat consensus forecast of a 0.7% month-to-month fall. We think sales fell 1.2%, equivalent to a 1.3% increase year-over-year, due mostly to the bigger-than-expected 2.3% plunge in German sales, reported too late to be incorporated in the Bloomberg consensus.
Eurozone capital markets have been split across the main asset classes this year. Equity investors have had a nightmare. The MSCI EU ex-UK index is down 10.6% year-to-date, a remarkably poor performance given additional QE from the ECB and stable GDP growth. Corporate bonds, on the other hand, are sizzling.
The four-quarter average growth trend in private investment, excluding dwellings, fell to 0.1% in Q4, and the recent improvement in the PMIs indicates only a modest upturn in Q2. The dearth of investment by non-financial corporates remains one of the biggest threats to long-term growth in the Eurozone.
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 FOMC statement did enough to keep alive the idea that rates could rise in March, but the ball is now mostly in Congress' court. If a clear plan for substantial fiscal easing has emerged by the time of the meeting on March 15, policymakers can incorporate its potential impact on growth, unemployment and inflation into their forecasts, then a rate hike will be much more likely.
Investors will get what they want today from the ECB: additional easing in the form of government bond purchases. The central bank is likely to announce or pre-commit to sovereign QE and corporate bond purchases in a new program that will last at least two years.
We are expecting a hefty increase in the August ADP employment number today--our forecast is 225K, above the 175K consensus --but we do not anticipate a similar official payroll number on Friday. Remember, the ADP number is based on a model which incorporates lagged official employment data, the Philly Fed's ADS Business Conditions Index, and data from firms which use ADP for payroll processing.
We don't directly plug the ADP employment data into our model for the official payroll number. ADP's estimate is derived itself from a model which incorporates lagged official payroll data, because payrolls tend to mean-revert, as well as macroeconomic variables including oil prices, industrial production and jobless claims -- and actual employment data from firms which use ADP's payroll processing services.
The ECB's corporate bond purchase program began yesterday with purchases concentrated in utilities and telecoms, according to media sources. This is consistent with the structure of the market, and the fact that bond issues by firms in these sectors are the largest and most liquid. But debt issued by consumer staples firms likely also featured prominently.
We're expecting a hefty increase in private payrolls in today's August ADP employment report. ADP's number is generated by a model which incorporates macroeconomic statistics and lagged official payroll data, as well as information collected from firms which use ADP's payroll processing services.
Business investment has punched above its weight in the economic recovery from the crash of 2008; annual real growth in capex has averaged 5% over the last five years, greatly exceeding GDP growth of 2%. This recovery is unlikely to grind to a halt soon, since profit margins are still high and borrowing costs will remain low. But corporate balance sheets are not quite as robust as they seem, while capex in the investment-intensive oil sector still has a lot further to fall.
The ECB stood pat yesterday, keeping its key refinancing and deposit rates unchanged at zero and -0.4%, respectively. The marginal lending facility rate was also left at 0.25%, and the monthly pace of QE was maintained at €80B, with a preliminary end-date in the first quarter of 2017. Purchases of corporate bonds will begin June 8, and the first new TLTRO auction will take place June 22.
The third estimate of first quarter GDP growth, due today, will not be the final word. The BEA will revise the data again on July 30, when it will also release its first estimate for the second quarter and the results of its annual revision exercise. Quarterly estimates back to 2012 will be revised. The revisions are of greater interest than usual this year because the new data will incorporate the first results of the BEA's review of the seasonal problems.
Whether the economy enters recession will hinge more on corporate behaviour than on consumers. Household spending accounts for about two thirds of GDP, but it is a relatively stable component of demand. By contrast, business investment and inventories--which are often overlooked--are prone to wild swings.
Eurozone investors continue to look to the ECB as the main reason to justify a constructive stance on the equity market. Last week, the central bank all but promised additional easing in March, but the soothing words by Mr. Draghi have, so far, given only a limited lift to equities. Easy monetary policy has partly been offset by external risks, in the form of fears over slow growth in China, and the risk of low oil prices sparking a wave of corporate defaults. But uncertainty over earnings is another story we frequently hear from disappointed equity investors. We continue to think that QE and ZIRP offer powerful support for equity valuations in the Eurozone, but weak earnings are a key missing link in the story.
Since its October 2012 revamp, the ADP measure of private employment--the November survey will be released this morning--has tended to be little more than a lagging indicator of the official number.That's because ADP incorporates official data, lagged by one month, into the regression which generates its employment measure.
Is Japan's pending 15-month anything to write home about?
Chief U.S. Economist Ian Shepherdson discussing Durable Goods Orders in May
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