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Latin American markets have been relatively resilient this year, despite Fed tightening and high global political risks. The LACI index has risen more than 5% year-to-date, and the MSCI index has been trending higher since late last year.
Advance PMI data indicate a slow start to the first quarter for the Eurozone economy. The composite index fell to 53.5 in January from 54.3 in December, due to weakness in both services and manufacturing. The correlation between month-to-month changes in the PMI and MSCI EU ex-UK is a decent 0.4, and we can't rule out the ide a that the horrible equity market performance has dented sentiment. The sudden swoon in markets, however, has also led to fears of an imminent recession. But it would be a major overreaction to extrapolate three weeks' worth of price action in equities to the real economy.
This year has been a story of two halves for EZ equities. The MSCI EU ex-UK jumped 11% in the first five months of 2017, but has since struggled to push higher.
A strong December didn't change the story of another year of Eurozone equity underperformance in 2016. The total return of the MSCI EU, ex-UK, last year was a paltry 3.5%, compared to 11.6% and 10.6% for the S&P 500 and MSCI EM respectively. In principle, the conditions are in place for a reversal in this sluggish performance are present. Equities in the euro area do best when excess liquidity--defined as M1 growth less GDP growth and inflation--is rising.
A year can make a big difference for the equity market. At this point last year, holders of the MSCI EU ex-UK were looking at a meaty gain of 21% year-to-date. The corresponding number this year is a sobering -12%. This is a remarkable shift, given stable GDP growth, close to cyclical highs, and additional easing by the ECB.
The ECB will receive most of the credit for the recent gain in stock markets, but the main leading indicator for the stock market, excess liquidity, was already turning up late last year. With the MSCI EU ex-UK up 21%, in euro terms, since October, a lot is already priced in, but in the medium term the outlook is upbeat, and we look for further gains this year.
Storm clouds gathered over Eurozone financial markets last week. The sell-off in equities accelerated, pushing the MSCI EU ex-UK to an 11-month low.
The benchmark MSCI EU ex-UK equity index was down a startling 17% year-over-year at the end of February. A disappointing policy package from the ECB in December initially put Eurozone equities on the back foot, and the awful start to the year for global risk assets has since piled on the misery.
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.
Barring a gigantic shock from the Fed this week--we expect a 25bp hike--Eurozone equities will end the year with a solid return for investors, who have been overweight. Total return of the MSCI EU ex-UK should come in around 10%, which compares to a likely flat return for the MSCI World, reflecting the boost from the ECB's QE driving out performance. Our first chart shows the index has been mainly lifted by consumer sector, healthcare and IT stocks, comfortably making up for weakness in materials and energy. The year has been a story of two halves, however, and global headwinds have intensified since the summer, partly offsetting the surge in the Q1 as markets celebrated the arrival of QE and negative interest rates.
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.
The Eurozone's external surplus rebounded further over the summer.
The tailwinds that have propelled Eurozone equities higher since the middle of last year remain place, in principle. In the economy, political uncertainty in the euro area has turned into an opportunity for further integration and reforms, and cyclical momentum in has picked up. And closer to the ground, fundamentals also have improved.
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.
Data released last week confirm that the Argentinian economy was resilient at the start of the year, but downside risks to growth have increased.
The EZ national accounts were updated and rebased in 2015--from ESA 1995 to ESA 2010--in the name of timeliness and precision.
Financial markets in Brazil and Argentina have been under pressure this week, following negative news, both domestic and external. In Brazil, the Ibovespa index tumbled nearly 1.8% on Tuesday after a Senate Committee rejected the Government's labour reform bill.
The story in EZ capital markets this year has been downbeat.
The S&P 500 index chalked up a new record on Wednesday by going 3,453 days without a 20% drawdown, making it the longest equity bull-run in U.S. history.
Last week's GDP figures illustrated that the economy is extremely vulnerable to a slowdown in households' spending. Our chart of the week, on page three, shows that consumers were alone in making a significant positive contribution to GDP growth last year.
We're breaking protocol this week by delivering our preview for Thursday's ECB meeting in today's Monitor.
Yesterday's public finance figures brought more good news for the Chancellor.
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.
At the start of the year, consensus forecasts expected Eurozone equities to outperform their global peers this year, on the back of a strengthening cyclical recovery and an increase in earnings growth. Both of these conditions have been met, and yesterday's sentiment data suggest that EZ equity investors remain constructive.
The economic slowdown in China is old news for Eurozone investors.
Recent polls in the U.K. have reminded markets that the vote is too close to call at this point, but investors in the Eurozone appear unfazed, so far. The headline Sentix index rose to 9.9 in June, from 6.2 in May, lifted by the expectations index, which increased to a six-month high of 10.0 from 5.5 in May.
The ECB will keep all its policy parameters unchanged today. The refi and deposit rates will be maintained at 0.00% and -0.4%, respectively, and the pace of QE will stay at €60B per month, running until the end of the year.
Yesterday's manufacturing data in Germany provided alarming evidence of a much more severe slowdown in the second half of last year than economists had initially expected.
If you were looking just at investor sentiment in the Eurozone, you would conclude that the economy is in recession.
Yesterday's final PMI data added to the evidence that the EZ economy was firing on all cylinders at the end of last year. The composite PMI in the euro area rose to an 11-year high of 58.5 in December, from 57.5 in November, in line with the initial estimate.
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.
Economic data in the Eurozone continue to come in soft. Yesterday's final manufacturing PMIs confirmed that the euro area index slipped to an eight-month low of 56.6 in March, from 58.6 in February.
The 15% fall in the FTSE 100 since its May 2018 peak undoubtedly is an unwelcome development for the economy, but past experience suggests we shouldn't rush to revise down our forecasts for GDP growth.
Friday's economic data suggest that the downtrend in German PPI inflation is reversing.
In the last few weeks markets have been treated to the news that euro area industrial production crashed towards the end of Q4, warning that GDP growth failed to rebound at the end of 2018 from an already weak Q3.
We suspect that euro area investors have one question on their mind as we step into 2019.
Investors in the euro area have mostly been focused on downside risks this year, and the spectre of Turkey spinning out of control has done little to change that.
Last week's horrible manufacturing data in the major EZ economies had already warned investors that yesterday's industrial production report for the zone as a whole would be one to forget.
Manufacturers in the Eurozone stood tall mid-way through Q2, despite still-subdued leading indicators.
Today's economic calendar in the Eurozone is filled to the rafters.
Evidence that U.K. asset prices still are depressed by Brexit risk has become harder to find.
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 EZ producer price data showed that deflationary pressures in the manufacturing sector are fading. The headline PPI index fell 0.2% month- to-month in August, pushing the year-over-year up to -2.1%, from a revised -2.6% July.
Judging by the headline performance metrics, EZ equity investors have little cause for worry.
Emmanuel Macron's victory in France has lifted investors' hopes that the good times in the Eurozone economy and equity markets are here to stay. On the face of it, we share markets' optimism. Mr. Macron and his opposite number in Germany--our base case is that Ms. Merkel will remain Chancellor--will form a strong pro-EU axis in the core of the Eurozone.
Equities in the Eurozone are off to a strong start in Q2, building on their punchy 12% gain in the first quarter.
A bad year is threatening to become a catastrophic one for Eurozone equity investors.
Increasingly, we are hearing equity strategists argue that investors should rebalance their portfolios toward EZ equities. On the surface, this looks like sound advice. Commodity prices have exited their depression, factory gate inflation pressures are rising, and global manufacturing output is picking up. These factors tell a bullish story for margins and earnings at large cap industrial and materials equities in the euro area.
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
The perfect world for equities is one in which earnings and valuations are rising at the same time, but in the Eurozone it seems as if investors have to make do with one or the other.
Last month was sobering month for equity investors in the Eurozone, and indeed in the global economy as a whole.
This year has been sobering for Eurozone equity investors.
Investors in the euro area demand to know whether their equities can climb--in local currency terms-- even as the euro appreciates.
"Disappointing" is probably the word that most EZ equity investors would use to describe their market so far this year.
The recent surge in equity prices is not a game- changer for the outlook for households' spending. Like last year, slowing growth in real disposable incomes and house prices will have a far greater impact on spending than rising paper wealth.
The Eurozone has a productivity problem. Between 1997 and 2007, labour productivity rose an average 1.2% year-over-year, but this rate has slowed to a crawl--a mere 0.5%--since the crisis. These data tell an important story about the peaks in EZ GDP growth over the business cycle. Before the financial crisis in 2008, cyclical peaks in Eurozone GDP growth were as high as 3%-to-4% year-over-year.
LatAm currencies and stock markets have suffered badly in recent weeks, but Monday turned into a massacre with the MSCI stock index for the region falling close to 4%. Markets rebounded marginally yesterday, but remain substantially lower than their April-May peaks. Each economy has its own story, so the market hit has been uneven, but all have been battered as China's stock market has crashed. The downward spiral in commodity prices--oil hit almost a seven-year low on Monday--is making the economic and financial outlook even worse for LatAm.
QE and a gradually strengthening economy will remain positive catalysts for equities in the euro area this year. But with the MSCI EU ex -UK up almost 24% in the first quarter, the best quarterly performance since Q4 1999, the question is whether the good news has already been priced in.
Headwinds from global growth fears have weighed on Eurozone equities in recent months, leaving the benchmark MSCI EU ex-UK index with a paltry year-to-date return ex-dividends of 1.7%. We think bravery will be rewarded, though, and see strong performance in the next six months. Equities in Europe do best when excess liquidity --M1 growth in excess of inflation and nominal GDP growth--is high.
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%.
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