Remember when the SNB stopped defending its floor against the euro in January and the Swiss franc’s value surged? Not so much on Friday:
© The Financial Times Ltd 2015 FT and 'Financial Times' are trademarks of The Financial Times Ltd.
When Nixon’s treasury secretary told his European counterparts the dollar was “our currency, but it’s your problem”, he was referring to the tendency of foreigners to borrow and lend to each other using American money. The importance of these so-called eurodollars in other countries’ financial systems inadvertently gave American policymakers significant influence over credit flows outside their borders.
(This is still true: a rising dollar tightens financial conditions abroad, while a falling dollar encourages foreigners to lever up.)
Some Europeans wrongly thought this was deliberate and determined to rectify the situation by creating a competitor currency capable of functioning as a “global reserve”. A few even dreamed the euro would supplant the dollar. Read more
It’s easy to forget now, but the single currency wasn’t created purely as a political project.
Many economists in the 1980s and 1990s thought monetary union would encourage cross-border investment and trade by eliminating the risk premiums associated with the supposedly destabilising devaluations of the past. The net effect would be converging living standards, dampened business cycles, slower inflation, and faster productivity growth for everyone — the benign Germanisation of Europe.
This was a laudable goal, but unfortunately it’s not how things worked out. The policy mistakes that exacerbated the eurozone crisis, while deeply destructive, can’t be blamed. A stimulating conference recently hosted by the Centre for European Reform made it clear to us the euro had already failed to meet the expectations of its architects before the crisis. Sharing currencies was unnecessary for economic convergence, if not actively harmful. Read more
Earlier this week we gave fintech people a brief guide to the Greek crisis in a bid to explain why payments technology is unlikely to be part of any solution there.
On bitcoin specifically: why on earth would Greece want to replace the euro, a currency it already thinks too restrictive, with another which would be even more constraining and give Greeks even less control over monetary affairs!? Read more
It really is crunch time folks. Or at least, it’s a crunch time. We’re sure another could be arranged. Related question: how many ‘extraordinary meetings’ would it take to make the phrase redundant?
From JPM’s always excellent Flows & Liquidity team…
Purchases of offshore money market funds by Greek citizens, our proxy of Greek bank deposit outflows [the purchases of offshore money market funds by Greek citizens shown in Fig 1], points to a large €6bn deposit outflow this [being, last] week, bringing the cumulative deposit outflow since last December to €44bn.
This guest contribution, from Giles Wilkes, sprung from a fierce internal debate amongst the FT’s leader writing team on Wednesday…
The standoff between the Greeks and their European creditors has often been compared to a Prisoner’s dilemma. This foundational scenario for game theory – famously, the expert discipline of Yanis Varoufakis, the Greek finance minister – concerns two prisoners accused of a crime who are handled separately by the police. Each are given the choice either of ratting on their accomplice, or staying silent. Should just one of the prisoners choose to rat on the other, he will walk free with a reward while his mate languishes in jail. If both hold firm, they each walk free unrewarded, while if they each betray their friend, then both are thrown into jail. Read more
As SocGen’s Kit Juckes says, the main topic in currency markets may be the resilience of the euro in the face of the ongoing Greek
tragedy (ed – no, sorry) comedy (ed- really now, no) thing.
I wouldn’t know. I’ve been on holidays.
But in case that’s true, here’s Nomura’s Jens Nordvig on why it might be holding up. Read more
From a hyperbolic Citi, a new normal stat du jour:
The end of the world as we know it is approaching. Very few market participants remember a bond market where the structural trend in yields wasn’t relentlessly lower.
We can continue to quibble about the scope for marginal performance in both rates and credit – and quibble we will over the coming months. But for all intents and purposes any € fixed income investor is now picking up pennies – if not outright paying for the privilege of taking someone else’s credit risk. The 30yr bull-run in fixed income is on its last legs.
One third of €-denominated bonds have negative yields. 82% now yields less than 1%
General collateral rates are known to get volatile as banks scramble for liquidity ahead of the quarter’s close.
But this March 31, GC rates didn’t just get volatile. They went positively paraobolic.
According to Bloomberg Data, the overnight US dollar GC rate more than doubled to 0.45 per cent, a rate not seen in the markets since October 2012. They fell back to 0.2 per cent range on Wednesday, implying there’s no systemic threat to talk about, but the spike does prompt questions over how and why a funding mismatch of this level might have come about. Read more
Citi’s Chief Economist Willem Buiter spent some time with FT Alphaville explaining why he believes Draghi’s concession on profit and loss sharing among ECB member national central banks turns, in all likelihood, the single monetary unit into nothing more than a glorified currency board.
Quick background: The ECB’s profit-and-loss sharing mechanism became a key negotiating point ahead of European QE. For the Bundesbank, QE was only viable if NCBs assumed most of the responsibility for losses on assets they brought into the consolidated balance sheet. In the end Draghi acquiesced by reducing risk-sharing to only 20 per cent of assets.
A currency board works by pegging liabilities (central bank reserves and currency) to an exchange rate target, rather than a CPI or employment target. The monetary authority managing the board achieves the target by ensuring all commercial entities served by the system can convert the authority’s liabilities into foreign currency at any point. In short, there’s a guaranteed FX convertibility promise at the central bank. Read more
From JPM’s Raphael Brun-Aguerre
And from the same source (with our emphasis): Read more
Is this nuts?
…the speed of the Euro depreciation is starting to look very fast. We are in the 99th percentile (at least) of 3M, 6M, 9M, and 12M moves since initiation in 1999.
- Nordvig, Nomura
Over the last eight months the USD has appreciated faster on a trade-weighted basis than at any time in the last 40 years and probably over a longer, much longer duration.
- Englander, Citi
Which, again, looks like this: Read more
You know how Bitcoin miners get a natural advantage in the cryptocurrency pyramid of inequality because of being early adopters that get first dibs on all new currency that’s created?
Turns out the ECB has a similar problem.
Here’s a nice write up of the distributive problems associated with QE-style helicopter drops in the current asset-purchasing framework from Pierre Monnin, a fellow at the Council on Economic Policies (our emphasis):
In practice, targeted money drops, like quantitative easing (QE), do not spread instantaneously throughout the economy. Like a vaccine, money is injected at one place and then disperses more or less quickly to other areas. Stephen Williamson and Olivier Ledoit have closely looked at how a money injection moves through the economy. They both use a model in which different economic groups trade randomly and repeatedly with each other.
The Swiss National Bank made G10 FX a lot more fun to watch today. One interesting thing is how the options markets responded.
Via Jared Woodard of BGC, here’s a chart comparing the move in one-week implied volatility in the exchange rate between the Swiss franc and the euro — basically, the cost of hedging the risk that the franc appreciates plus the cost of hedging the risk that it depreciates — against the actual move in the EURCHF exchange rate: Read more
Despite many recent reforms, standstill in euro area output and prices–alongside renewed debates on Grexit–have put fundamental questions about the euro back on the map. Perhaps, argues Peter Doyle, economist and former IMF staffer, that is because the key question about the euro has yet to be posed.
________________________ Read more
From JPM’s Flows & Liquidity team, this is what ECB QE incontinence looks like:
If you don’t you might miss all the capital outflow which, according to Deutsche’s George Saravelos, “not only has depreciatory implications for the euro, but also suggests that the consequences of Euroglut – low global bond yields and a stronger dollar – are here to stay.”
Oh, and blame Germany. Read more
Numbers are limited, so no more than 6 downloads per registered user please. (Before you click, it’s an 8meg file.)
Mario Draghi has been very clear about what would push him into the full-blown QE of buying government bonds. He faces some serious opposition from German monetary conservatives even to the less whizzy QE he’s unveiled so far, though — that of buying asset-backed securities.
Full-on QE faces legal difficulties from the ban on financing eurozone governments, as well as deep-seated opposition within Germany and major issues about which government bonds it should buy, and in what proportion. (Italy has the most in issue, so buy mostly Italian debt? Or buy in proportion to shares in the ECB? Or to economic size, meaning the biggest share would be German? Or in proportion to the size of the banking system?).
So it feels like time to explore some alternatives that have been, inexplicably in our view, ignored. Read more
What ails Europe is not “secular stagnation” or “normalisation”, but rather the much more specific problem of a “Euroglut”.
So, at least, says George Saravelos at Deutsche Bank.
His argument relates to the idea that the global imbalances which were created by Europe’s massive current account surplus are becoming the defining variables which will drive a weaker euro, low long-end yields and exceptionally flat global yield curves, as well as ongoing inflows into “good” EM assets. Read more
Beat Siegenthaler, FX strategist at UBS, has been wondering about what the Swiss National Bank may do if the ECB’s measures to weaken the euro begin to test its 1.20 EURCHF floor.
He notes, for example, that there has already been a marked divergence between the EURCHF and the USDCHF:
A tale of missed opportunity. Denial. Oh, and possibly even certain death?
George Saravelos at Deutsche Bank looks at what are fast becoming intensifying euro outflows and wonders if it could amount to an important idiosyncratic driver for global markets. Yesterday, for example, the market witnessed a record euro liquidation day.
As Saravelos writes:
The drivers behind this are likely diverse – profit taking after an extended streak of inflows; geopolitical worries concentrated on Russia; contagion from broader risk-aversion. Cause notwithstanding, the concentrated nature of euro weakness and the breakdown in correlation with US yields strongly points to these “capital-flight” flows being an important idiosyncratic driver. The outflows have been larger than I would have expected, but until they stabilize, they will likely serve as an ongoing source of pressure on the euro and European currencies more broadly.
The deadline for European institutions to be compliant with the Single European Payment Area (SEPA) standard came and went on August 1.
In theory, that means anyone in Europe should from now on be able to make and receive payments across the union on an entirely frictionless basis. For the euro project it’s the realisation of one of the system’s key objectives.
As the ECB noted:
It allows businesses to grow and to broaden their reach within Europe, and reduces costs by providing a standardised framework for all their payments. Businesses can now use a single system and set of accounts for all their euro trade in Europe.
Ignoring the fact that the euro is acting more like a random walk model than usual, one seemingly obvious consequence of Draghi’s swarm attack is the euro’s growing attraction as as funding currency. As Barc said:
The structural selling of EUR vol post-meeting was the standout FX trade. We view this as further evidence that the current carry-supportive environment characterized by accommodative global monetary policy, historically low vol and strong equity market performance is likely to continue. It also supports our view that the EUR should be the funding currency of choice.
And from BoNYM’s Simon Derrick over the weekend: Read more
We know who he is, we just don’t get what he’s doing. He does so like confounding expectations on his island of stability.
This time with inflation at 1 per cent there was a belief that Draghi would make some sort of compromise gesture while keeping rates on hold, even if it amounted to SMP tokenism. But, nope, he disappointed… despite the ECB’s own 2016 inflation forecast coming in well below 2 per cent. Doing nothing in the face of that isn’t exactly reassuring — it’s a lot easier to fight deflation risks than the real thing. Read more