MacroScope

Euro zone inflation falls again; economists base ECB rate cut calls on deja vu

Euro zone inflation has dipped again and some forecasters are hedging their bets on the policy response by saying the European Central Bank could either cut rates this week or sometime in the next two months.

That lack of conviction, although not a recent phenomenon, is driven by memory of the ECB’s surprise cut in November after a similar drop in inflation and a nagging belief that things have not worsened enough in the interim to warrant another.

Only two of 76 analysts - Barclays and IFR Markets – in a Reuters poll conducted before news on Friday that January euro zone inflation fell to 0.7 percent said the ECB would trim its refinancing rate below 0.25 percent this week.

Now a few more, including Deutsche Bank and RBS say they will. While many economists say the decision is a close call, most lack conviction over whether it will do any good.

Money market traders aren’t convinced either, despite the fall in bond yields in recent days and the sell-off in emerging market assets.

The Bank of Canada is probably not ready to seriously consider cutting rates — yet

With all signs showing the Canadian economic miracle is fading, the Bank of Canada is understandably starting to sound more dovish. The Canadian dollar has got a whiff of that, down about 10 percent from where it was this time last year.

But that doesn’t mean Governor Stephen Poloz is ready to signal on Wednesday that his rate shears are about to get hauled out of the shed.

Yes, economic growth is expected to be restrained over the next couple of quarters, the long-awaited pick up in exports and business investment still seems elusive and inflation continues to remain undesirably weak.

Hopes for a weaker euro looking more like fantasy

Hopes that the soaring euro will eventually fall and help the economy with a much-needed export boost for struggling euro zone nations are looking more and more like fantasy.

The collective talk about its inevitable drop is beginning to sound much like the drum-beat of opinion lasting more than half a decade that said the yen would fall while it stubbornly marched in the other direction.

Only the most spectacular fusillade of Japanese central bank cash in history managed to turn the situation around, and even now the yen is barely trading much weaker than the most conventional of predictions a few years ago.

Will ECB come to post-summit party?

Bit of a day coming up with the European Central Bank topping the bill. A quarter-point interest rate cut is widely priced in and the bank may also lower its deposit rate to try and encourage the banks that dump up to 800 billion euros back in its coffers every night to invest it in the real economy or even Italian and Spanish government bonds.

There is even some talk of a third round of three-year money printing but that looks premature. Yes, the ECB has acted in the past after euro zone politicians have shown some gumption (which last week’s summit still just about qualifies for) but the other part of that equation is that the currency bloc has had to be right on the brink. Spanish 10-year yields are back below 6.5 percent, still too high but not as acute as in recent weeks. There are not likely to be any hints that the ECB will revive its bond-buying programme, despite the urgings from Spain and Italy, nor is it likely to give any support to the idea of giving the ESM rescue fund a banking licence so it can borrow virtually unlimited funds from the ECB (a back door way of achieving the same result).

The risk for the markets is that the ECB does very little, which should not be discounted, and even if it does there’s a possibility of a “buy the rumour, sell the fact” scenario.