Ever wanted to know why Germany is not keen on single euro zone bonds? Look no further:
from Mike Dolan:
Just one look at the whoosh higher in global markets in January and you'd be forgiven smug faith in the hoary old market adage of "Don't fight the Fed" -- or to update the phrase less pithily for the modern, globalised marketplace: "Don't fight the world's central banks". (or "Don't Battle the Banks", maybe?)
In tandem with this month's Federal Reserve forecast of near-zero U.S. official interest rates for the next two years, the European Central Bank provided its banking sector nearly half a trillion euros of cheap 3-year loans in late December (and may do almost as much again on Feb 29). Add to that ongoing bouts of money printing by the Bank of England, Swiss National Bank, Bank of Japan and more than 40 expected acts of monetary easing by central banks around the world in the first half of this year and that's a lot of additional central bank support behind the market rebound. So is betting against this firepower a mug's game? Well, some investors caution against the chance that the Banks are firing duds.
According to giant bond fund manager Pimco, the post-credit crisis process of household, corporate and sovereign deleveraging is so intense and loaded with risk that central banks may just be keeping up with events and even then are doing so at very different speeds. What's more the solution to the problem is not a monetary one anyway and all they can do is ease the pain.
Prime U.S. money funds further reduced their holdings of euro zone bank paper in December, although the pace of movement slowed while investors continued to hedge against any bank failures, J.P. Morgan Securities said on Wednesday. The slower movement out of euro zone bank paper was the result of money funds having already strongly reduced their holdings, J.P. Morgan said in a note to clients.
Euro zone bank paper continued to roll off in December from prime money fund portfolios but has seen some slowing as nearly 70 percent of these exposures have been eliminated from prime fund portfolios over the course of the past year. In spite of continued reductions in euro zone bank exposures, prime fund assets under management were basically flat for the second consecutive month reflecting some level of investor comfort in the level of risk in price fund portfolios as much of the cash that left euro zone bank paper has been reinvested in non-European banks and other high-quality products.
The prime money funds had small net outflows of $2.6 billion in December after net inflows of $4 billion in November, according to J.P. Morgan.
After a hopeful couple of weeks and the ”euphoria” caused by an agreement to tackle the euro zone debt crisis, financial markets got a reality check from Italy’s sale of 7.94 billion euros of government bonds. The debt met lower demand than at previous auctions, forcing the country to pay the highest premium since joining the single currency to sell 10-year debt.
The results suggest markets did not think the euro zone rescue deal — which includes an agreement on the write-down of Greek debt, recapitalisation of European banks and leveraging of the euro zone rescue fund – went far enough to restore investor appetite for Italian debt.
Italian yields rose as high as 6.03 percent near levels not seen since early August, when the European Central Bank first began purchasing Italian and Spanish bonds in the secondary market to bring funding costs down to more affordable levels. Brian Barry, analyst at Evolution Securities, says that move alone speaks volumes:
Spreads between Italian and German government debt are blowing out heading into a European Union summit on Sunday that investors are hoping will come up with some action to address the continent’s sovereign debt crisis. Spreads between 10-year Italian government debt and German bonds of the same maturity widened to 398 basis points on Thursday, making for the biggest gap since at least the fourth quarter of 1996, according to Reuters data.
You have to look back to March 1996 to see the spread’s last excursion above 400 basis points. That was when Italian government was trying desperately to meet Maastricht criteria and join the euro. I’m left wondering how pleased they are with that outcome in today’s market. They never bargained for a spillover from Greece lie this. With the French/German yield spread leading the way this week it looks like pressure will continue to build in to the weekend.
from The Great Debate:
By J. Bradford DeLong
The opinions expressed are his own.
Former US Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers had a good line at the International Monetary Fund meetings this year: governments, he said, are trying to treat a broken ankle when the patient is facing organ failure. Summers was criticizing Europe’s focus on the second-order issue of Greece while far graver imbalances – between the EU’s north and south, and between reckless banks’ creditors and governments that failed to regulate properly – worsen with each passing day.
But, on the other side of the Atlantic, Americans have no reason to feel smug. Summers could have used the same metaphor to criticize the United States, where the continued focus on the long-run funding dilemmas of social insurance is sucking all of the oxygen out of efforts to deal with America’s macroeconomic and unemployment crisis.
The US government can currently borrow for 30 years at a real (inflation-adjusted) interest rate of 1% per year. Suppose that the US government were to borrow an extra $500 billion over the next two years and spend it on infrastructure – even unproductively, on projects for which the social rate of return is a measly 25% per year. Suppose that – as seems to be the case – the simple Keynesian government-expenditure multiplier on this spending is only two.
Stop fighting the Turkish central bank. Since a shock interest rate cut earlier this month, the front end of Turkey’s bond yield curve has collapsed over 80 basis points, with two-year yields hitting seven-month lows of 7.84 percent. The curve is flattening as the 10-year sector starts feeling the heat as well. Whether it reflects investors’ faith in the central bank’s ability to safeguard economic growth while bringing down a record wide current account gap is another matter altogether. Bond investors have in fact been uneasy with the central bank’s experiments, fearing that overly loose monetary policy will cause an inflation shock down the road. But with more rate cuts clearly on the cards, investors are finding that Turkish rates, especially at the front end, are too attractive to miss. Especially as the central bank is shoring up the lira with daily dollar sales.
“Its difficult to go against the central bank. It’s been six months of mixed policy and finally international investors are getting the message,” says Luis Costa, head of CEEMEA currency and debt strategy at Citi. “Logically you should be paying long-end rates but it’s a challenging environment for that as the central bank bank is forcing the curve to be extremely flat.”
Markets are now pricing in another interest rate cut next week. How will markets react? The difference from the surprise rate cut on Aug. 3 is that other emerging central banks, fearful of a growth collapse, also now appear to be gearing up for policy easing. A dimming euro zone outlook means a poor outlook for exports from Turkey and other emerging markets. “There’s some realisation that the Turkish central bank may not be all that wrong,” says Zsolt Papp, who helps manage Swiss private bank UBP‘s emerging debt portfolio.
Investors have in fact realised Turkey is not overly concerned about inflation and that allows it more room to ease policy, Papp says, adding the moves in the Turkish curve indicate that is being priced in. Citi’s Costa agrees. “Policy is now clearly being driven by growth and that’s a massive game changer.”
Standard & Poor’s on Friday downgraded the United States’ prized credit rating, a move that is likely to compound recent instability in financial markets. Here is S&P’s statement explaining the decision:
United States of America Long-Term Rating Lowered To ‘AA+’ Due To Political Risks, Rising Debt Burden; Outlook Negative
We have lowered our long-term sovereign credit rating on the United States of America to ‘AA+’ from ‘AAA’ and affirmed the ‘A-1+’ short-term rating.
Italy is the latest victim of market contagion in Europe’s ongoing debt crisis. The country has one of the largest public debts in the world, making investors worried it could be the next domino to fall given poor economic growth and domestic political tensions.
Both the country’s stock and bond markets have been under pressure. Italy’s short-term borrowing costs have already surpassed Spain’s, and long-term rates are well on their way to doing the same.
Nick Bullman, founder and managing partner of CheckRisk, told Reuters Insider that Europe’s bank “stress tests” were way too soft on Italy’s banks. He argues Unicredit and Intesa could need a minimum of 4.4 billion euros to plug the capital holes they face.
from Global Investing:
What a friend emerging central bankers have in Jean-Claude Trichet. Last month the ECB boss stopped euro bears in their tracks by unexpectedly signalling concern over inflation in the euro zone. Since then the euro has pushed steadily higher -- against the dollar of course, but also against emerging currencies. The bet now is that interest rates -- and the yield on euro investments -- will start rising some time this year, possibly as early as this summer.
That's provided some relief to central banks in the developing world who have struggled for months to stem the relentless rise in their currencies.
Being short euro versus emerging currencies was a popular investment theme at the start of 2011, partly because of EM strength but also because of the euro zone debt crisis. "What that also means is that people who were short euro against emerging currencies had to get out of those positions really fast," says Manik Narain, a strategist at investment bank UBS. Check out the Turkish lira -- that's fallen around 5 percent against the euro since Trichet's Jan 13 comments and is at the highest in over a year. South Africa's rand is down 6 percent too. Moves in other crosses have been less dramatic but the euro's star is definitely in the ascendant. The short EM trade versus the euro has more room to run, Narain reckons.