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People across Europe are growing wary over the failure of governments to foster economic security since the 2008 crisis. Their conclusion increasingly is that the EU is to blame, so their support for EU-sceptic, and even right-wing nationalist, parties has increased accordingly.
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.
Would the U.K. inevitably leave the E.U. if a majority of the electorate voted for Brexit on June 23? Repeatedly, the Government has quelled speculation that it will call for a second referendum on an improved package of E.U. reforms after a Brexit vote on June 23. But unsuccessful referendums have been followed up with second plebiscites elsewhere in Europe.
German industrial production data were presented by Bloomberg News as signs that the recovery is "gathering momentum", but it is slightly premature to make that call. Narrow money growth is currently sending a strong signal of higher GDP growth this year in the euro area, but the message from the manufacturing sector is still one of stabilisation rather than acceleration.
Investors looking for more QE and rate cuts will be disappointed by ECB inaction today. We think the Central Bank will keep its main interest rates unchanged, and also maintain the pace of asset purchases at €60B a month. We do, however, look for a slight change in language, hinting that QE is likely to continue beyond September next year.
Eurozone current account data yesterday provided further evidence of stabilisation in the economy despite a headline deterioration. The adjusted current account surplus fell to €18.1B in November from a revised €19.5B in October, but the decline was mainly driven by an increase in current transfers; the core components remain solid.
The ECB's negative interest rate policy--NIRP--has come under the spotlight following the violent selloff in Eurozone bank equities. Mr. Draghi reassured markets and the EU parliament earlier this week that new regulation, stronger capital buffers, and common recognition of non-performing loans have made Eurozone banks stronger.
We have argued consistently since oil prices first began to fall that U.S. consumers would spend most of their windfall, so real spending would accelerate even as nominal retail sales growth was dragged down by the drop in the price of gas and other imported goods. At the same time, we argued that capital spending in the oil business would collapse, and that exports would struggle in the face of the stronger dollar.
Talks between the EU and the U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron are expected to culminate with a deal today, but we doubt this week's summit will be the final word. A detailed re-negotiation of the U.K.'s relationship with the EU is the last thing the large continental economies need at the moment.
Opinion polls suggest that the Italian population will reject Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's constitutional reform on Sunday. Undecided voters could still swing it in favour of Mr. Renzi, but the "No" votes have led the "Yes" votes by a steady margin of about 52% to 48% since October.
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.
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