Reuters blog archive
from Global Investing:
ECB chief Mario Draghi returns to London next week almost 10 months on from his seminal “whatever it takes” speech to the global financial community in The City – a speech that not only drew a line under the euro financial crisis by flagging the ECB’s sovereign debt backstop OMT but one that framed the determination of the G4 central banks at large to reflate their economies via extraordinary monetary easing. Since then we’ve seen the Fed effectively commit to buying an addition trillion dollars of bonds this year to get the U.S. jobless rate down toward 6.5%, followed by the ‘shock-and-awe’ tactics of the new Japanese government and Bank of Japan to end decades.
And as Draghi returns 10 months on, there's little doubt that he and his U.S. and Japanese peers have succeeded in convincing financial investors of central bank doggedness at least. Don't fight the Fed and all that - or more pertinently, Don't fight the Fed/BoJ/ECB/BoE/SNB etc... G4 stock markets are surging ever higher through the Spring of 2013 even as global economic data bumbles along disappointingly through its by now annual ‘soft patch’. Looking at the number tallies, total returns for Spanish and Greek equities and euro zone bank stocks are up between 40 and 50% since Draghi's showstopper last July . Italian, French and German equities and Spanish and Irish 10-year government bonds have all returned about 30% or more. And you can add 7% on to all that if you happened to be a Boston-based investor due to a windfall from the net jump in the euro/dollar exchange rate. What’s more all of those have outperformed the 25% gains in Wall St’s S&P 500 since then, even though the latter is powering to uncharted record highs. And of course all pale in comparison with the eye-popping 75% rise in Japan’s Nikkei 225 in just six months!! Gold, metals and oil are all net losers and this is significant in a money-printing story where no one seems to see higher inflation anymore.
But with both Fed and BoJ pushes getting some traction on underlying growth and the euro zone economy registering it's 6th straight quarter of contraction in the first three months of 2013, maybe Draghi's big task now is to convince people the ECB will do whatever it takes to support the 17-nation economy too and not only the single currency per se. Last year's pledge may have been a necessary start to stabilise things but it has not yet been sufficient to solve the economic problems bequethed by the credit crisis.
Coincidence or not, Draghi speech on Thursday is flanked by keynotes from his monetary allies. Fed chief Bernanke speaks on Saturday and then to testifies to the congressional Joint Economic Committee on Wednesday, BoJ head Kuroda holds a press conference after the bank's policymaking meeting ends on Thursday and outgoing BoE governor King speaks Friday. G20 sherpas meet in Russia this weekend, while EU leaders meet in Brussels on Wednesday. The big economic data set-piece of the week will be critical flash global PMI readings for May - is business finally pulling out of the early year funk or is confidence still evaporating?
Australia arguably has one of the best individual retirement systems in the world. The government-sponsored system - superannuation - requires mandatory employee and employer contributions to retirement savings. In certain need-based circumstances, the government may also contribute. Australians take funding their retirements seriously, and the government is giving them a powerful new tool to save by moving trading of government bonds onto the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX). From the government:
Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan and Minister for Financial Services Bill Shorten today announce that Australian Government Bonds (AGBs) will be available for trading on the Australian Securities Exchange for the first time on 21 May.
The 1994 bond market massacre is remembered with horror by those who lived through it. Yields on 30-year Treasuries jumped some 200 basis points in the first nine months of the year, hammering investors and financial firms, not to mention thrusting Mexico into crisis and bankrupting Orange County.
The accepted story is that an over-eager Federal Reserve set off the carnage by raising interest rates too soon - the sort of premature move that current Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has suggested, again and again, that he is not going to make.
from Global Investing:
Investors keen to wade deeper into the euro zone's quieter waters will have 765 billion euros, or just over $1 trillion, worth of fresh government bonds offered to them this year, nearly 8 percent less than in 2012, Deutsche Bank writes in a report.
With the debt crisis quieting down, euro zone assets are among the top 2013 picks for many leading investors, with the likes of Societe Generale and AXA Investment Managers advising to head for the periphery with Spanish and Italian sovereign debt.
Italy’s borrowing costs over ten years drew closer to five percent after a decision by Prime Minister Mario Monti to step down early left the country's political future unclear, hurting riskier euro zone debt.
Monti said on Saturday he would resign once the 2013 budget was approved, raising questions over who will take the reins of the euro zone's third largest economy at a time when it remains a focus of the region's three-year debt crisis.
Is the U.S.on the road to Greece, as some politicians have proclaimed?
Most economists say the comparison is nonsense. At a towering $15 trillion, the U.S. economy is not only the world’s largest, it is also more than 50 times the size of Greece’s. This gap makes any type of comparison difficult – it would be like analyzing trends in Maryland in relation to the entire euro zone.
Another key difference: Unlike Greece, the U.S. actually controls its own currency. That means a debt default is effectively impossible. This reality, coupled with strong monetary stimulus from the Federal Reserve, helps explain why U.S. bond yields remain near historic lows despite larger deficits.
Looking at some of the recent trends in the euro zone debt market, one could be forgiven for thinking the region is doing alright.
Spanish and Italian funding costs have come down sharply. Data from the European Central Bank on Thursday showed consumers and firms put money back into Spanish and Greek banks in September. And there are budding signs that foreign investors are venturing back to the Spanish sovereign debt market. As one trader this week put it, the market is “healing”:
from Global Investing:
Have fears of global shortage of high-grade collateral been exaggerated?
As the world braces for several more years of painful deleveraging from the pre-2007 credit excesses, one big fear has been that a shrinking pool of top-rated or AAA assets -- due varioulsy to sovereign credit rating downgrades, deteriorating mortgage quality, Basel III banking regulations, central bank reserve accumulation and central clearing of OTC derivatives -- has exaggerated the ongoing credit crunch. Along with interbank mistrust, the resulting shortage of high-quality collateral available to be pledged and re-pledged between banks and asset managers, it has been argued, meant the overall amount of credit being generating in the system has been shrinking, pushing up the cost and lowering the availability of borrowing in the real economy. Quantitative easing and bond buying by the world's major central banks, some economists warned, was only exaggerating that shortage by removing the highest quality collateral from the banking system.
But economists at JPMorgan cast doubt on this. The bank claims that the universe of AAA/AA bonds is actually growing by around $1trillion per year. While central bank reserve managers absorb the lion's share of this in banking hard currency reserves, JPM reckon they still take less than half of the total created and, even then, some of that top-rated debt does re-enter the system as some central bank reserve managers engage in securities lending.
from Global Investing:
One of the stories of this year has been the stupendous rally on emerging local currency debt, fuelled in part by inflows from institutional investors tired of their zero or negative-return investments in Western debt. Norway's sovereign wealth fund said last week for instance that it was dumping some European bonds and spending more of its $600 billion war chest in emerging markets.
Quite a bit of that cash is going to South Korea. Regulators in Seoul recently reported a hefty rise in foreigners' bond holdings (see here for the Reuters story) and Societe Generale has a note out dissecting the data, which shows that total foreign holdings of Korean bonds are now worth around $79 billion -- back at levels seen last July. Norwegians emerged as the biggest buyers last month, picking up bonds worth 1.5 trillion won ($1.3 billion) , almost double what they purchased in the entire first half of 2012. Norway's holdings of Korean Treasuries now total 2.29 trillion won, up from just 190 billion won at the end of 2011.
Financial markets on Thursday were starkly disappointed with the European Central Bank and its president, Mario Draghi. He had promised recently to do everything in his power to save the euro and yet announced no new bond-buying at the central bank's latest meeting. Riskier assets sold off and safe-haven securities benefitted.
But Francesco Garzarelli of Goldman Sachs, Draghi's former employer, has a different take on the matter: