The prospect of dramatic European Central Bank action – coupled with the deflationary threat posed by a plunge in the price of oil and the pain it inflicts on oil producing countries – is putting the financial system under growing stress.
Volatility is back with a bang.
The Swiss franc leapt by an unprecedented 40 percent at one point after the Swiss National Bank scrapped its currency cap out of the blue. Oil may have bounced but it’s still down the thick end of 60 percent since mid-2014, dragging the rouble and other oil-producer currencies with it. Copper, generally a barometer of world industrial demand, is barely finding its feet after plunging this week.
The world’s major central banks have long followed the same general flight path, guided by the economic winds of growth, inflation and financial markets. It has worked pretty well for policymakers in the United States, Europe, Japan, and the United Kingdom: moving together to tighten or loosen monetary policy makes things more predictable for citizens, businesses and investors. It also serves as buffer to any volatile currency movements, at least among developed economies. But six years after the worst recession in decades, this could be the year central bankers split off and – with some risk – go their own way.
European Central Bank President Mario Draghi pushed the envelope as far as he could last week, saying a review early next year would decide whether money-printing to buy government bonds was needed. He said he didn’t need unanimity within the ECB to force it through.
So much for forward guidance. More Britons have no idea where interest rates are heading than since records began 15 years ago, according to the latest Bank of England/GfK NOP survey.
Two vital gauges of euro zone progress, or lack of it, today.
German inflation for November is forecast to slip to 0.6 percent and will cue up the euro zone figure on Friday, which is predicted to come in at just 0.3 percent. Spanish inflation, due earlier, is forecast to come in at -0.3 percent.
Even as the expected date for an eventual interest rate rise in the U.S., Britain and Canada keeps getting pushed further into the future, the outlook for residential housing markets in these countries is also starting to cool.