Courtesy of Nishay Patel and Justin Knight at UBS, ahead of the expected easing of policy from the ECB on Thursday. Click to enlarge…
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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%
Last week we got a Draghi-backed report by the ESRB which challenged the risk-free treatment of sovereigns by banks.
It included such insights as “the evidence presented in the report illustrates, however, that sovereign risk is not a novel concept” and “If sovereign exposures are in fact subject to default risk, consistency with a risk-focused approach to prudential regulation and supervision requires that this default risk is taken into account”. Which, you know, makes sense.
Thing is though, it doesn’t seem like the bank-sovereign nexus is going anywhere fast. As Gary Jenkins put it:
The tone suggests that the ESRB would like to see a change in the regulatory regime although it is clearly a case of ‘Give me chastity, just not yet,’ as this is also the week that the ECB began its QE programme without differentiating on risk between 3 year or 30 year bonds. They have set a yield of -0.2% as where they are prepared to buy anything. Thus technically holders of 30 year bunds could say that is the level they are prepared to sell at.
The UK did worse than almost every other developed economy from 2007-2012 but has been among the best performers since the start of 2013. Slightly out-of-date chart via the Reserve Bank of Australia:
What gives? According to a new analysis from Goldman, this demonstrates both the damage to the UK’s banking system after the crisis and the subsequent power of credit easing, specifically the magic that was worked on bank credit spreads after Mario Draghi uttered his priestly incantation in July, 2012: Read more
From the opening to Mario Draghi’s speech at the Brookings Institution on Thursday:
As I was preparing these comments, I happened to re-read John Maynard Keynes’ open letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, published in the New York Times in December 1933. In it, Keynes tells President Roosevelt that the administration is engaged simultaneously in recovery and reform, and identifies a tension between the two. He worries especially about the risk that over-hasty reform impedes recovery. Read more
Securitisation has gotten a bad rap thanks to its association with dodgy underwriting during the bubble. Yet bundling loans originated by banks and selling them to investors in the capital markets could be just what is needed to boost the flagging euro area economy.
This helps explains the European Central Bank’s recent announcement that it will be shopping for asset-backed securities (including mortgage bonds) and covered bonds starting in October. Read more
Before we get into this it might be worth opening the transcript of Thursday’s ECB presser and Q&A with Mario Draghi and doing a “ctrl+f” for the phrase “structural reform”.
TL;DR: the answer is 19. (h/t to Aurelija Augulyte). There 15 mentions in August, and 5 in July.
But what’s a central banker to do? As Marc Ostwald at ADM Investor Services International says, “one cannot stress enough that believing that France and Italy will deliver meaningful (and indeed ‘growth friendly) reforms is an act of faith, for which there is little or no historical precedent.” Read more
Some pre-ECB musings from Lombard Street’s Dario Perkins (with our emphasis):
Market economists remain divided on the issue of whether the ECB will do QE, not because they disagree about whether it is needed – here there is near unanimity – but because they aren’t sure Mr Draghi can overcome philosophical and technical opposition from some of his colleagues…
Fortunately, those opposed to QE at the Bank seem to have softened their stance a little recently.
Whilst we ponder over what Draghi might or might not do at tomorrow’s ECB meeting, here’s an interesting point from Ramin Nakisa and Stephane Deo at UBS that’s worth bearing in mind during the press conference:
The chart below shows how the risk premium has evolved over the recent past: it shows how many basis points of spread are demanded by investors in exchange for a one notch downgrade. While Europe Area spreads were extremely cheap during the crisis, they are now too expensive.
A week ago, Mario Draghi set euro policy-watchers all a-flutter, departing from his prepared remarks at Jackson Hole to issue a kind of blunt confession that he and his colleagues had run out of excuses for the ongoing depressed level of inflation across the eurozone, and that maybe some sort of reaction was required. Cue a quall of ECB QE speculation.
Then, on Wednesday this week, a story appeared on Reuters stating that, according to “ECB sources,” there was unlikely to be any new policy action from the ECB at its September meeting next week unless August inflation figures (published on Friday) showed the eurozone sinking significantly towards deflation.
The story remained exclusive to Reuters. But the message was clear: ECB officials are worried that market participants were reading too-much-too-soon into Draghi ad-libbing. Read more
Interest rates are very likely to remain unchanged at record lows and little is expected on the central bank’s plans to buy asset-backed securities or embark on full-scale quantitative easing.
The decision is out at 12.45pm UK time. Read more
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.
Some nice charts courtesy of Credit Suisse on Friday comparing European inflationary trends with those of Japan in the 1990s:
Unanimous in its commitment to using also unconventional instruments within its mandate in order to cope effectively with risks of a too prolonged period of low inflation…
— Mario Draghi, April ECB press conference
Don’t try saying that with a mouthful of peas.
More seriously, spot the caveats. A few members of the ECB governing council have since added to the noise around ECB QE — Nowotny, Mersch, Constancio, Coeure and Weidmann — but we feel better no informed than when the presser ended on Thursday. Read more
The ECB cut rates unexpectedly on Thursday. While there was market consensus that easing was coming, there was little agreement on the form in which the easing would take place. A cut was seen as stifling the ECB’s future flexibility by taking it to the lower bound and flirting dangerously with negative rates, while further LTROs were seen as potentially constrained by AQR-related stigma.
But the big news from Draghi’s press conference, however, is that the ECB is clearly not afraid of the former, and not necessarily scared of the latter either.
The ECB ended up cutting the main refinancing rate by 25 basis points, whilst reconfirming its commitment to fixed-rate tender full allotment in its MROs and special term refinancing operations, and its three-month LTROs. Read more
Greg Fuzesi is quietly fuming. We get a post-holiday presser from Mario Draghi on Thursday and the JP Morgan economist really would like the ECB chief to use the opportunity to expand upon the word “extended” when offering interest rate guidance. Read more
Here’s the moment, on Reuters Video on Tuesday (03:54 on the countdown clock) , when Germany’s Asmussen said… Read more
From a very dovish Mario Draghi’s press conference following the European Central Bank’s decision to keep its key rates on hold (with our emphasis):
Based on our regular economic and monetary analyses, we decided to keep the key ECB interest rates unchanged. Incoming information has confirmed our previous assessment. Underlying price pressures in the euro area are expected to remain subdued over the medium term. In keeping with this picture, monetary and, in particular, credit dynamics remain subdued.
The Great Draghini has spoken on negative rates, collateral and on volatility:
DRAGHI – HAD AMPLE DISCUSSION OF NONSTANDARD MEASURES
DRAGHI – DISCUSSED NEGATIVE DEPOSIT FACILITY
DRAGHI – TECHNICALLY READY FOR NEGATIVE DEPOSIT RATES, BUT NO REASON TO ACT RIGHT NOW
Mario’s presentation to EU leaders from Thursday night. Msg: ‘Mind the gap’…
“Oh, Hollande…” said Mario Draghi as the rest of us wondered if he had or hadn’t entered the supposed currency wars. Or if, in fact, the question was redundant.
The euro’s dive on Thursday was impressive and clearly the result of ECB president Draghi’s comments after the ECB’s rate setting meeting. But whether it was justified or not is very much contested. Read more
***DRAGHI “THERE IS NO MORE ELA”***
***WE THINK THAT’S A PROMISSORY NOTES ‘DEAL’***
Negative rates, as we’ve discussed before, are a funny thing.
On the one hand they can send an immensely powerful message. On the other hand they have the power to seriously and dangerously disrupt core economic mechanisms by magnifying the physical hoarding incentive — this helps to create a negative feedback loop that ultimately crowds out capital and leads to voluntary capital destruction. Read more