After a May Day holiday lull, the euro zone roars back into life with Spain facing a game of chicken with the bond market as it auctions three- and five-year bonds and the ECB holding its monthly policy meeting in Barcelona, which lends it a certain poignancy.
A week where every facet of the euro zone debt saga will come from all angles.
The major events are the French presidential run-off and Greek general elections on Sunday, May 6.
In the former case, a likely socialist Francois Hollande victory could cause some market jitters given his rhetoric about the world of finance. But we’ve looked at this pretty forensically and actually there may not be much to scare the horses. Yes he is making growth a priority (but even the IMF is saying that’s a good idea) yet his only fiscal shift is to aim to balance the budget a year later than Sarkozy would. And, contrary to some reports, he is not intent on ripping up the EU’s new fiscal rules. And of course, the bond market will only allow so much leeway.
Steps forward and steps back…
The Netherlands’ fractured political class managed to unite enough last night to reach a deal on a 2013 budget which they say will cut the deficit to 3 percent of GDP as required by new EU fiscal rules. Failure could have undermined the EU fiscal pact before it was even born and undermined the efforts of Italy and Spain to pull clear of the debt supernova.
ECB policymakers from Mario Draghi down will come at us from all angles today. Expect a united front on the main theme of the moment; calls for it to consider yet more liquidity operations essentially creating money and/or resuming its government bond-buying programme. That call was first heard at the IMF spring meeting over the weekend and the ECB president’s response could hardly have been clearer, saying: “None of the advice of the IMF has been discussed by the Governing Council, in recent times at least”.
Focus for the euro zone is firmly on Washington with G20 policymakers gathering ahead of the IMF spring meeting. The Fund is seeking an extra $400 billion-plus in crisis-fighting funds which, tallied with the $500 billion euro zone rescue fund about to be established, adds up to a meaningful firewall for the markets to ponder before they consider pushing Spain and Italy to the edge.
Back to the familiar grist of a Spanish bond auction today. This one has real power to move global markets as it offers up a 10-year bond for only the second time this year. Because of the ECB’s three-year money glut and the general point that uncertainty rises the longer you stretch the timeframe, shorter-term paper has been a much easier sell.
As we exclusively reported last night, Italy will delay by a year its plan to balance the budget in 2013. That Rome is no longer aiming for a zero budget deficit next year is very different from Spain which has upped its 2012 deficit goal to 5.3 percent of GDP, way above the 3 percent EU limit (though it is aiming for that in 2013).