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Lending conditions in the EZ economy continued to improve in Q1, according to the ECB's bank lending survey. Business and consumer credit supply conditions eased, but mortgage lending became more difficult to come by as standards tightened sharply in Germany, France, and the Netherlands. Demand for new loans also rose, but the increase was due entirely to gains in the mortgage and consumer credit components.
Yesterday's industrial production report was grim reading, with volatility in Greece and the Netherlands, as well as revisions, throwing off our own, and the market's, forecasts. Output fell 0.4% month-to-month in May, well below the consensus and our expectation for a 0.2% rise, pushing the year-over-year rate higher to 1.6%, from a revised 0.9% in April.
We are still waiting for the promised rebound in EZ car sales.
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 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.
The cyclical upturn in the euro area's economy is going from strength to strength. Yesterday's second Q2 GDP estimate confirmed growth at 0.6% quarter- on-quarter, marginally stronger than the 0.5% rise in the first quarter.
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.
Yesterday's second EZ Q2 GDP report was slightly more upbeat than the advance estimate.
Eurozone industrial production data today will confirm that economic growth likely accelerated in the first quarter. We think output rose 0.7% month-to-month in February, equivalent to a 0.8% increase year-over-year.
Yesterday's second batch of Q3 GDP data in the euro area provided further evidence of a strong and stable cyclical upturn in the economy.
Markets are becoming more sensitive to rumours about changes in ECB policy. The euro and yields jumped on Friday after a Bloomberg report that the central bank has discussed raising rates before QE ends.
Centrist politicians and markets breathed a sigh of relief yesterday as the results of the Dutch parliamentary elections rolled in. The incumbent conservatives, led by PM Mark Rutte, lost ground but emerged as parliament's biggest party with 33 seats out of the total 150.
Industrial production in Eurozone had a decent start to the fourth quarter. Output ex-construction rose 0.6% month-to-month in October, pushing the year-over-year rate up to 1.9% from a revised 1.3% in September. Production was lifted by gains in the major economies, and surging output in the Netherlands, Portugal and Lithuania. Across sectors, increases in production of capital and consumer goods were the main drivers, but energy output also helped, due to a cold spell lifting demand and production in France.
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