Reuters blog archive
By Richard Beales
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.
Suddenly, fear has overwhelmed greed. Yields on 10-year U.S. Treasury bonds slumped below 1.9 percent at one stage on Wednesday, and the 2 percent slide in the S&P 500 Index erased what remained of this year’s gains, although the index ended the trading day down just under 1 percent. It all augurs poorly for the expected end next month of the Federal Reserve bond-buying program. Yet the domestic economy has been steadily improving. Slowing growth elsewhere presents the bigger worry.
One sign of that broad concern is tumbling oil prices, to well below $90 a barrel, a downward trend echoed in the prices of other commodities. That in turn reflects expectations of softening demand growth in big economies like China’s. Low inflation – potentially going lower still – in Europe is another symptom of relatively sluggish growth in many parts of the world. The decline in U.S. producer prices reported on Wednesday played a role in the selloff, as may have the frenzy surrounding two U.S. cases of Ebola.
All the same, America’s economy isn’t doing badly. Second-quarter GDP growth rebounded to an annualized 4.6 percent, and the IMF last week actually upgraded its forecast for U.S. economic expansion to 2.2 percent in 2014 and 3.1 percent in 2015. Worldwide growth expectations, however, were downgraded to 3.5 percent in the second half of this year and 3.8 percent next.
Pro-Russia separatists at talks with representatives from Moscow and the OSCE in Minsk said they would be prepared to stay part of Ukraine if they were granted "special status", which is unlikely to be acceptable to Kiev.
The talks will continue later in the week and come as the Ukrainian military faced a run of reverses on the battlefield which Kiev says have been engineered by the intervention of at least 1,600 Russian combat troops.
For the European Central Bank, a lot is riding on euro zone banks ramping up lending to the private sector. Unfortunately, after a very long time, lending still is not growing. It fell 1.6 percent on a year ago in July.
Struggling with a dangerously low inflation rate that is expected to dip even further to 0.3 percent in August, the ECB placed a big bet back in June that hundreds of billions of euros more in cash for banks in further liquidity auctions in October and December this year would help turn the situation around.
By Swaha Pattanaik
(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.)
British politicians are drawing up battle lines more than a year before general elections. On current form, the left-leaning opposition could oust the governing coalition. However, any knee-jerk investor dismay may be tempered given the Labour Party is more likely to cement the UK’s place in the European Union than the ruling Conservatives.
U.S. and German government bonds came under selling pressure on Thursday, one day after the Federal Reserve announced it will start trimming its monthly asset purchases by $10 billion to $75 billion. The move was much anticipated but was also historically significant – it is the first step towards unwinding the abundant monetary stimulus that helped keep the financial system afloat during years of crises.
But the bond sell-off was limited, only taking yields to the top-end of ranges held in recent months. On Friday, U.S. yields were mixed and German borrowing costs little changed.
Corporate bonds normally yield more than sovereign debt since companies are seen as more likely than states to go bust. But during the euro zone debt crisis, when various governments had to be bailed out, that relationship broke down in Spain and Italy.
Madrid and Rome are paying more to borrow in the market than similarly-rated companies generally. Ten-year Spanish and Italian sovereign bonds offer a comfortable premium of more than 60 basis points over a basket of BBB-rated corporate debt, even though that gap has more than halved from this year’s highs.
from Global Investing:
What a dire year for emerging debt. According to JPMorgan, which runs the most widely run emerging bond indices, 2013 is likely to be the first year since 2008 that all three main emerging bond benchmarks end the year in the red.
So far this year, the bank's EMBIG index of sovereign dollar bonds is down around 7 percent while local debt has fared even worse, with losses of around 8.5 percent, heading for only the third year of negative return since inception. JPMorgan's CEMBI index of emerging market corporate bonds is down 2 percent for the year.
Surprise! Euro zone unemployment was stuck at record high of 12.2 percent in May, with the number of jobless quickly climbing towards 20 million. Still, as accustomed to grim job market headlines from Europe as the world has become, it is worth perusing through the Eurostat release for some of the nuances in the figures.
For one thing, as Matthew Phillips notes, Spain’s unemployment crisis is now officially more dire than Greece’s – and that’s saying something.
Ask an economist a question about the euro zone, and the answer will as much depend on the location of their head office as any analysis of the data.
It's been noted before (here, here, and here), but economists and fund managers working for euro zone-based banks and research houses tend to be optimists about the euro zone. Everywhere else - including Britain, North America and the Nordics - they tend to be pessimists.
By Neil Unmack and Olaf Storbeck
The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are their own.
The two engines of the euro zone bond rally are sputtering. Rising yields on risk-free debt are hitting one, and the German constitutional court hearing has thrown a little sand in the other. But a tougher ride for peripheral debt is not necessarily all bad.