Eurozone: Decisions Decisions
LONDON: Global stocks and the euro dipped yesterday as investors cashed in some of last week’s sharp gains ahead of a German ruling on the euro zone’s new bailout fund, Dutch elections and potential new stimulus from the US Federal Reserve.
The European Central Bank’s statement last week, indicating that it was prepared to buy an unlimited amount of strained euro zone government bonds pushed European shares to a 13-month high and the euro to a four-month peak on hopes it could mark a turning point in the bloc’s 2-1/2 year crisis.
Investors started the week by taking some of that profit off the table. The MSCI index of top global shares was down 0.1 ahead of the opening bell on Wall Street, with the euro and stock markets in London, Paris and Frankfurt all slightly lower.
US stock index futures also pointed to a lower open on Wall Street, with futures for the S&P 500, Dow Jones and Nasdaq 100 all down just over 0.2 percent.
Europe faces another testing week, with Dutch voters going to the polls and Germany’s constitutional court set to rule on new powers for the European Stability Mechanism, the euro zone’s new bailout fund, both on Wednesday.
Since ECB President Mario Draghi first mooted the ECB’s new crisis plan on July 26, world stocks have rallied more than 8 percent, euro zone blue chips have jumped almost 20 percent and the euro has risen more than 4 percent. Analysts are wondering whether the gains can continue.
“The Draghi effect obviously helped the markets hugely, so people are likely to be a bit more hesitant this week,” said Hans Peterson, global head of investment strategy at SEB private banking.
“Risk appetite is likely to be on the way up, but we have to clear some hurdles, and the things in Europe have to go according to plan. The key issue this week is the approval of the ESM by the German constitutional court.”
Strategists at Goldman Sachs also issued an upbeat note on equities, saying that while there were worries over China’s wobbling growth, the brighter European news and signs of gradual improvement in the US were both positives.
There is still room for market rallying,” they said, citing their target for the Eurostoxx 50 to hit 2,700 points in the next 12 months. “From current levels, however, we expect further gains through to year-end, but at a slower pace,” they added.
The euro followed the downward trend, easing against the dollar, but stayed close to a near four-month high hit on Friday after below-forecast US jobs data fanned speculation the Federal Reserve may launch more monetary stimulus this week.
Hopes that powerful ECB intervention in Italian and Spanish bond markets could finally draw an end to the seemingly endless euro crisis has seen massive upward shifts across global markets, from European stocks and treasuries to commodity-reliant economies.
Spanish 10-year yields have tumbled more than two percentage points from an unsustainably high 7.8 percent to around 5.6 percent, while the reduced demand for safe-haven German debt has pushed equivalent yields up 36 bps from their record lows to stand at 1.48 percent.
Spain’s borrowing costs hit a fresh five-month low on Monday while German Bund futures bounced around in choppy conditions, supported initially by worries over Greece’s fiscal repair plans and Fed aid hopes before going into negative territory around midday.
U.S markets are waiting eagerly to see whether the latest data have convinced the Federal Reserve that more stimulus is required.
The benchmark S&P 500 index rose 2.3 percent last week, its biggest weekly gain in three months.
SEB’s Peterson said it was still uncertain whether the US central bank would act and cautioned that any new support was likely to provide a temporary rather than a long-term lift.
“What is really important here is the wider macro picture, whether the euro zone sorts itself out and what happens in China and Asia,” he added.
Fresh data from China on Monday showed exports grew at a slower pace than forecast last month while imports surprisingly fell, underlining weak domestic demand as the global economic outlook dims.
Oil markets are riding high, underpinned both by hopes that economic stimulus around the world will fuel growth and geo-political tensions in parts of the Middle East, the world’s most important oil-producing region.
Brent crude futures for October delivery were trading 46 cents higher at $114.71 per barrel by 1248 GMT, after settling up 76 cents on Friday. US crude was trading up 7 cents at $96.49 per barrel.
“Chinese data had been expected to be weak, so to some extent it has been taken into account in oil prices, but having said that, it basically caps the upside,” said Masaki Suematsu, energy team sales manager at Newedge Japan.
Copyright spygun/Reuters, 2012
The Eurozone’s Déjà vu Economics
For years, regulators have been trying to control bad banking. Governments have been failing to control bad sovereign fiscal governance. That’s the nature of the Eurozone. This flawed approach has only left one solution – at some stage, both the banks and sovereigns will have to be properly underwritten by the European Central Bank (ECB).
One day soon, the ECB will become the lender-of-last-resort.
However, possibly for reasons of either dull-wittedness or maybe just some good old-fashioned showmanship, the ECB never makes a move until there is a proper danger of a crisis. (Think Superman grabbing that train on a railway bridge just seconds before it falls into the ravine.)
Unfortunately, this economic scenario appears to be played out on a perpetual “loop”.
Déjà vu Economics.
Currently, markets are once again applying severe pressure to Eurozone public debt and Euro politicians are repeating the “We are determined” and “Whatever it takes” mantras. The markets continue to fluctuate “in vacuo” with little regard to the “real” conditions, further confusing the politicos who, for some unknown reason, believe that the solution to everything lies in greater Eurozone union and organisational changes. (Bless them! It’s all they know!)
The next stage is simple (and it began last week): a few mealy-mouthed statements from Euro leaders which attempted to shove the crisis-cursor forward a few weeks until after the end of the Summer Holidays – whilst Spain and Italy (both standing on the trapdoor) have issued “holding statements”.
The well-worn and rapidly failing policy response from the Euro Gods is those potentially explosive “Austerity Measures” – the only other technique in their repertoire. Yet another case of the cure being more painful than the disease. Ask Greece.
In 2010, the Greek Government (just before it lost access to the markets) po-pooed the idea of needing help. “We are not Latin America!” they scoffed. Now it’s Spain’s and Italy’s turn: “We are not Greece!”
Oh yes you are – only bigger, hungrier and therefore more dangerous – and remember this, when you too lose access to the markets, you will need a bailout.
Euro politicians do play with a very limited repertoire, so Spain and Italy will have yet more austerity. That will accelerate the deterioration of their economies – although their politicians will talk (a lot) about “growth”.
This (just like in Greece) will result in lower tax revenues and austerity targets being missed (although the “Troika” continues to believe that, contrary to all the evidence, an economic miracle will manifest itself . Suddenly, as if by magic, they hope that the Perpetual Spring of Eternal Economic Growth will materialise out of the ashes of Austerity!!).
Then, the banks will need yet more and we’ll end up discussing when Spain and Italy will leave the Eurozone. Then France…..
That will return the cycle to Square One with the politicians once again being “Determined” and promising to do “Whatever ir takes”.
Another dose of Déjà vu Economics.
Meanwhile, should the crisis look really dangerous, the ECB’s Marion Draghi will find a telephone box, change and fly-in to save the day. “To calm the Markets”
The banks have spent four years watching and secretly hoping that this ridiculous loop continues forever, Why? Because once the ECB steps in and protects sovereign debt, those debts will have a price. Banks will have to revalue any debt they are holding (downwards), resulting in quite a few of them going to the wall.
There will be yet more “haircuts” for private investors too!
Just like a rapidly expanding non-working retired population needs more and more support from an increasingly taxed but shrinking working population, so the Eurozone is becoming an arrangement whereby more and more non-producing and increasingly reliant countries have to be supported by a rapidly shrinking collection of fully-functioning states.
The tipping point is not too far away – the point at which there are more (economically) broken states than those in reasonable health which can continue to support them.
Meanwhile, let’s have some more Déjà vu. Again.
Whatever It Takes (WIT)
Every European politician is now resorting to the “Whatever it takes” mantra. This week they will do whatever it takes to safeguard the sacred cow that is the Eurozone. That pampered sacred cow which feeds and feeds without actually producing much in return.
The politicians don’t appear to realise that this is a nonsense phrase but they certainly DO realise that it is a phrase which excites the traders because it is code, designed to convey the fact that the ECB , the Fed and all the other usual suspects will once again indulge the banks by creating yet more cash for them to play with.
Another Central Bank Bonanza!
That is why the markets have risen today. This is how it works:
As soon as Central Banks start handing out cash, the investment banks use a proportion of that cash to purchase equities. That in turns “ups” prices. So, if investors convince themselves that next week, the banks will start splashing money like a lonely Chardonnay-fueled celibate on ebay, they also realise that NOW is the time to buy.
Anything they buy today is bound to increase in price, once the Central Banks open the Banking “All-you-can-eat” Buffet.
In fact, the banks will be buying today in anticipation of Central Bank handouts. Once again, there’s the heady whiff of “empty profit” in the air.
Last week, the ECB’s Mario Draghi said that he would do “Whatever. It. Takes”. Today it was the latest Euro double-act of Merkel and Monti who joined the W.I.T chant.
The next stage will be expressions of “confidence”, followed by “meetings”, the establishment of a “by the end of the year” deadline and then the announcement of “reforms”.
(Reforms are good because they give the illusion of progress.)
One such reform is rumoured to be the granting of banking licences to the EFSM, EFSF, ESM and any other European quango or organisation beginning with Capital “E”.
That will enable them to print yet more money to distribute among the needy….er…banks!
When they say “WHATEVER it takes” – they mean it!