E.g., 18-05-2021
E.g., 18-05-2021
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    Gavekal Research

    Heading For The Med

    “Sell in May and go away,” has long been a popular adage in Europe, a continent renowned for its predilection for long summer holidays by the Mediterranean. Last year, however, “sell in May” would have proved disastrous as an investment strategy. This year too investors should treat the old saw with circumspection.

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    Europe Surprising On the Upside

    Europe may not yet have the pandemic in the rear-view mirror but infection rates in most countries are falling, vaccinations are surprising on the upside and a full opening of most services this summer seems likely. Since expectations for the eurozone remain constrained, there is a good chance that its yield curves soon steepen and the single currency strengthens.

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    Doom Loop? What Doom Loop?

    Ahead of the European Central Bank’s meeting this Thursday, there has been the usual chatter about what the ECB can do to alleviate stresses in the eurozone’s financial markets. This is unsurprising, given that Covid infection rates remain stubbornly high in several of the bloc’s leading economies, and that peripheral spreads have widened in recent weeks, with the Italian 10-year spread over bunds increasing by some 10bp.

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    Gavekal Research

    Yield Differentials Matter—For Now

    As the first quarter draws to a close, the US dollar has confounded December’s bearish consensus expectations by generating a positive total return versus the euro of 3.8%. As Louis and Will and KX explained last week, in retrospect the US dollar’s performance over the last three months is not that surprising. The question now is: how long will these near-term factors persist?

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    Gavekal Research

    The Yield Curve Control That Dare Not Speak Its Name

    A year ago today, European Central Bank president Christine Lagarde said “we are not here to close spreads”. With a fair amount of water having flowed under the bridge since then, the spread between 10-year Italian BTP’s and bunds has fallen from 261bp to just 94bp. So when on the anniversary of that proclamation, she said the “ECB is not doing yield curve control”, one could be forgiven for demurring.

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    The Problem With Europe’s Inflation

    Later this year, eurozone consumer price inflation should hit its highest level in more than a decade. We found out on Tuesday that February’s consumer prices rose by 0.9% year-on-year, and more price hikes are in the works. Alas, this is not the type of inflation that the European Central Bank has been seeking to engineer for the best part of a decade.

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    Draghi’s Reform Plan And Asset Prices

    Newly installed as Italy’s prime minister at the head of a broad coalition, on Wednesday Mario Draghi outlined an ambitious agenda of structural reforms. Notably, the former European Central Bank chief wants to oversee a root-and-branch overhaul of Italy’s tax system, while investing in the education system and streamlining public administration. His first task will be to steer Italy through the pandemic. But beyond that, Draghi’s plans could...

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    The Long Bond Bait And Switch

    Ultra-long bond issuance is back in vogue in Europe. This month Spain has sold €5bn of 50-year bonds at a yield of 1.45%, while Belgium snapped out a 50-year issue at 0.69%. In January it was France, which sold a 50-year at 0.59%. Next up is likely to be Italy, which is expected to take advantage of the tightening in spreads following the appointment of Mario Draghi as prime minister (see Draghi’s Return) to come to market with a 50-year of its...

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    A Canary Chirps

    In late January, just as the GameStop squeeze was beginning to attract attention, Louis advised investors “to keep European banks on their screens.” As the canary in the coal mine of global financial markets, eurozone banks would signal broader trouble ahead if they continued to fall. But if they rebounded, it would be a sign the global inflation trade was back on (see Third Time The Charm?).

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    Gavekal Research

    Draghi’s Return

    Say what you like about Mario Draghi, but he’s not one to shirk responsibility in a crisis. Almost 10 years after he took the helm at the European Central Bank to steer the eurozone through its debt crisis, on Wednesday he is due to meet Italian president Sergio Mattarella, who will ask him to form a government and take over as prime minister.

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    Gavekal Research

    Europe’s New Lockdowns

    On Tuesday, Germany followed the United Kingdom by imposing fresh restrictions on activity and movement that in effect amount to a new lockdown comparable—and in some areas even stricter—than the anti-coronavirus shutdown imposed over the second quarter of last year. With infection rates across Europe stubbornly high despite the controls already in place, and with fears mounting about the spread of new viral strains, the risk is high that other...

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    Gavekal Research

    The Limits Of Europe’s Rotation

    The last five weeks have seen an impressive rally in Europe’s formerly beaten- down equity market sectors. As hopes have grown that vaccines will bring the coronavirus pandemic to an early end in 2021, the stocks of Covid losers such as banks, oil and gas companies, airlines and airports have leapt sharply higher. The Stoxx bank index, for example, is up 44% since the end of October in euro terms, 50% in US dollar terms.

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    Gavekal Research

    Yield Curves, The Euro And The Dollar

    The balance of probability points towards a steeper US yield curve over the short to medium term as US short rates remain pinned at zero and long-dated US treasury yields push higher. One might think that higher US long rates should attract capital inflows, but what matters is the relative shift in gradients, notably between the US dollar and euro yield curves.

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    Gavekal Research

    Limits To EU Solidarity

    This week, Hungary and Poland vetoed the European Union’s €750bn recovery fund in a fit of pique at a new mechanism that will stop money going to “bad boy” states deemed to impede the rule of law. With southern Europe waiting for EU cash to support its post-Covid recovery, the two eastern bloc countries hope to force a compromise that will stop outside interference in their domestic affairs. The issue tops the agenda of today’s EU leaders’...

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    After Consolidation, A Further Rerating

    Given the violence of Monday’s rotation-driven rally on soaring hopes of an early coronavirus vaccine rollout, it is small surprise that equity markets are now giving back some of those gains. Expectations are still high that developed economies will be able to begin vaccination programs as early as the first quarter of next year. But the intervening days have given investors a keener appreciation of the challenges involved. Meanwhile, the...

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    Europe’s Bitter Winter

    Just a couple of weeks ago there were still reasons to be sanguine about the damage that rising coronavirus infections would inflict on Europe’s economy and financial markets. Today those reasons are looking a good deal thinner. Europe’s near term trajectory increasingly resembles a “W-shaped” recovery.

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    No Fiscal Panacea

    It’s been a big week in Europe’s debt capital markets. The European Union sold €17bn of bonds for its SURE job support program and Italy issued €8bn of 30-year bonds yielding 1.76%. The strength of demand was an encouraging sign, given the outsize role that debt-funded government stimulus will have to play in driving the eurozone’s economic recovery from the Covid crisis.

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    Gavekal Research

    European Divergence Is Back

    Like a car, the more excess weight you add to an economy, the slower it drives. Slapping restrictions on normal activities, even if income support measures are offered, makes it harder for an economy to grow. In Europe, the second wave of Covid-19 infections is having an uneven effect depending on the severity of the outbreak and the sector composition of the affected economy. The result will be to deepen the divergence in European growth and...

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    Gavekal Research

    The UK’s Savings Problem

    The British government's new job support scheme to take effect next month offers much less generous subsidies, and job losses are inevitable. Heightened job insecurity will mean increased precautionary savings, compounding the downturn in consumption. But the government faces institutional constraints on how much it is willing and able to borrow to plug the gap.

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    Gavekal Research

    Better Days For Europe’s Domestic Plays

    It is hardly surprising that euro strength is generally bad for European exporter stocks and good for domestically-focused firms; or that exporter-heavy markets, like Germany, tend to lag at such moments. We saw this in 2017, when the euro rose almost 12% against the dollar between April and August, spurring a -2.4% fall in the DAX and a 0.7% gain in the broad Eurostoxx. So how to explain this year’s topsy-turvy markets, where the sprightly DAX...

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    Gavekal Research

    The Euro's Solid Ground

    After a breakneck 10% rally against the US dollar since mid-May, the euro faces headwinds as rising Covid-19 cases means that European nations must re-instigate social distancing measures. Still, Europe’s newly-agreed common purpose in facing such travails makes any sell-off in the single currency a buying opportunity as the unit looks set on a path of structural appreciation.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Europe’s Job-Protection Choices

    Between February and April, some 22mn Americans lost their jobs. The rate of unemployment soared to nearly 15%—four percentage points above its last record high in 1982—but across the pond in Europe joblessness barely budged, inching up to 7.8%, from 7.2% in March. Taking the lead from Germany, governments across Europe decided it was better to keep people in jobs than to fire and rehire them later. As Europe again faces a worsening Covid-19...

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    Gavekal Research

    Europe's Deal

    Most of the attention paid to the European Union’s recovery fund deal, secured in the early hours of Tuesday morning, focused on how much of the agreed €750bn would be distributed as grants and how much as loans. That’s understandable. Haggling over this balance was one of the main reasons the talks dragged on into their fifth day. But as far as investors are concerned, the relative size of grants and loans is among the least significant aspects...

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    Gavekal Research

    From Temporary To Permanent

    “Nothing,” Milton Friedman famously declared, “is so permanent as a temporary government program.” He was right, which is one reason Wednesday saw the euro climb to its highest against the US dollar since the first days of the international Covid outbreak in early March, while 10-year Italian government bond yields fell to their lowest. Investors are betting that the European Union’s €750bn “Next Generation EU,” proposed as a temporary facility...

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    Gavekal Research

    Buy Europe, Sell The UK

    In past crises the UK has emerged more quickly than the eurozone. In 2008-09, it restructured its banks, slashed interest rates and embraced quantitative easing before European policymakers had eaten breakfast. As a result, UK domestically-focused stocks outperformed those in the eurozone. Don’t count on a rerun in the aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis.

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    A Dismal Best Case

    The crowds that Monday swarmed British shops, allowed to open for the first time in 12 weeks, at first sight bodes well for a V-shaped recovery. Yet despite plentiful accumulated savings and considerable pent-up demand, the UK’s consumption-driven economy faces formidable post-lockdown headwinds, with consequences for equities and sterling.

    1
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    Europe Flexes Its Fiscal Muscles

    Another day, another big fiscal expansion from Germany. Yesterday, Berlin outlined a €130bn stimulus package, representing 3.8% of GDP. If there was any doubt, Europe has clearly ditched its decade-long infatuation with austerity and is back in the Keynesian camp. This situation is bullish for eurozone stocks and in time could yet spur a long-forgotten problem—inflation.

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    Gavekal Research

    ‘No Limits’ Now ‘No, Limits’

    Markets have largely taken in their stride Tuesday’s decision by the German Constitutional Court that the European Central Bank exceeded its mandate by launching quantitative easing in 2015. The euro's move against the US dollar and the 10bp uptick in Italian 10-year yields were modest by the standards of recent volatility. This may be overly complacent.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Italy’s Debt Sustainability Question

    In the short term, Italy’s sovereign spreads are unlikely to be greatly troubled by the decision late Tuesday from Fitch to downgrade the country’s debt rating. In the longer term, however, in the absence of some form of eurozone fiscal union, Italy will remain caught in a vicious debt trap, which must call its continued membership of the single currency into question.

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    The Trouble With Eurozone Banks

    European leaders trod a fine line on Thursday, opening the way for a hefty “recovery refund”, but not committing to one and not saying how the money may be spent. Eurozone capital markets—except for bank stocks—have been fairly calm, and so do not need a hasty bailout. That exception, however, is a problem that may end up consuming a big part of any rescue fund.

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    Gavekal Research

    The Atlantic Divide

    Second order economic effects from the Covid-19 outbreak are ripping through industrialized economies, with soaring unemployment, shuttered industries and a fall in corporate profits. While China has eschewed large-scale government support, Europe and the US have adopted massive fiscal and monetary responses. These Western initiatives do, however, differ in key respects and when lockdowns finally end, one or other approach will likely have...

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    Gavekal Research

    Another Crisis, Another Euro-Fudge

    “Europe will be forged in crises, and will be the sum of the solutions adopted in those crises,” wrote European Union “father” Jean Monnet in his 1976 memoirs. Today Europe is once again facing a crisis. And once again the solution adopted by Europe’s fractious leaders is likely to be a short term fudge that defers hard decision-making to another day.

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    Why Europe Can Survive The Storm

    Economic activity indexes in Europe have collapsed to never-before-seen levels, yet markets have rallied as investors have become persuaded that policy responses are enough to avoid a full blown euro crisis from unfolding. Europe for once appears to be more decisive in managing a crisis situation than the US and it is possible it may manage a swifter pick-up once the public health situation stabilizes.

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    Europe In The Eye Of The Storm

    After the US slapped a 30-day travel ban on visitors from Continental Europe the world’s three biggest economic areas are now effectively cut off from most human contact. As China sees its infection rate level off, the growth dynamic of this pandemic has shifted to Europe. Economic effects will depend on government responses.

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    What Will End The US Dollar’s Run?

    Among the confounding effects of the coronavirus has been its impact on foreign exchange markets. The last few weeks have seen heavy flows into the US dollar, on the grounds that the US economy is relatively insulated from the ill-effects of the outbreak. As fears have grown of a dismal first quarter for the eurozone on diminished external demand (see Just When Things Were Looking Up), the euro has slumped to a near three-year low against the US...

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    Just When Things Were Looking Up

    It seems the European economy can’t catch a break. After a grim year in 2019, especially for the manufacturing sector, the old continent entered 2020 with reasons for cautious optimism. Survey-based indexes of business optimism appeared to bottom out late last year. Then the Wuhan coronavirus hit China.

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    Britain’s Soggy Prospects

    Despite a worsening coronavirus situation and worries that a Brexit bounce could be short-lived, the Bank of England defied the expectations of many by not cutting interest rates. The UK’s weak medium term growth outlook and difficult impending trade talks with the EU means that policy will remain dovish and sterling’s upside prospects are likely capped.

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    Playing The ECB Strategic Review

    When a government agency announces a “strategic review”, the presumption is that some knotty issue is being kicked into the long grass. That was the vibe yesterday when Christine Lagarde kicked off the European Central Bank’s year-long navel gazing exercise. In this case, however, investors would do well not to check out entirely from ECB watching.

    0
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    The Long Slow Road To German Fiscal Expansion

    To read the media headlines, you would either think that Germany’s coalition government is on the brink of collapse, or that Europe’s largest economy is on the eve of a massive fiscal expansion. The headlines are exaggerated. Yes, at the weekend the coalition’s SPD partner did elect a duo of free-spending leftists as its new leaders. But the government is likely to survive intact for its remaining two years. And although political thought in...

    4
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    Europe's Political Paralysis

    With the Spanish general election unlikely to produce a proper government, the country looks increasingly ungovernable. For an economy that weathered the financial crisis intact but has chronic productivity problems, this is a worry. However, the result of Europe’s fragmenting political landscape is long-term policy stasis rather than a near-term collapse of the single currency.

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    It's Not 2017 Again In Europe

    Yesterday saw a global risk-on move as investors cheered reports that a US-China trade deal may be in the offing. In Europe, this followed data releases that showed German factory orders picking up and PMIs stabilizing. On first blush, this looks reminiscent of 2017’s recovery. Alas, there are three key reasons to think a rerun may not materialize this time around.

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    A Swedish Canary In The Coal Mine

    Sweden’s Riksbank plans to raise its main policy rate to zero from -0.25%. A relieved governor, Stefan Ingves, said last week it would be a “bonus” to return to parity in December and warned against staying negative for too long. The Swedish recantation follows the European Central Bank’s controversial move last month to further cut rates to -0.5%. Investors should take note because the Swedish canary may be signaling a shift in attitudes to...

    0
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    The German Spillover

    Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this year’s slump in manufacturing is how few negative spillover effects it has had on demand in the broader economy—until now. Services PMIs for both the eurozone as a whole and for Germany took a sharp turn south in September. In Germany, the deterioration is making a technical recession all but inevitable.

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    Up Against The Limit With The ECB

    German savers face “custody fees” when depositing big sums at the bank, or get clipped 50bp when buying a euro-denominated money market fund. Such outcomes explain why a growing number of economists oppose calls for the European Central Bank to cut rates further and restart quantitative easing when it meets tomorrow.

    1
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    Germany’s Fiscal Firepower

    Uniquely among the world’s big economies, Germany runs a budget surplus, in accordance with the “debt brake” written into its constitution following the 2008-09 financial crisis. This means Berlin could, in theory, deploy considerable fiscal firepower even within the current rules, and a great deal more if it chose to bend or rewrite them.

    1
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    What Germany Means For Europe

    Even before the US-China trade war escalated last week, Europe stood on shaky ground. We learnt yesterday that German industrial production for June fell -1.5%. Europe’s largest economy faces cyclical and structural challenges, and the question is whether it takes its neighbors down with it.

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    Sterling’s Information Void

    Since Boris Johnson became prime minister, the UK government’s promise of a “do or die” Brexit has caused sterling to slump -2.9% against the US dollar to about US$1.21. While the chances of Britain actually leaving the EU without a deal remain small, this outcome will remain unclear for some time. That presents risks, but great opportunities for those dealing in sterling.

    0
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    Healthchecking Boris Johnson’s Britain

    On Wednesday, “colorful” former journalist, television comedian and London mayor Boris Johnson will achieve a long-held ambition when he moves into Number 10 Downing Street to replace the hapless Theresa May as the United Kingdom’s new prime minister. Judging from the headlines, Johnson is taking over an economy on the brink of a painful slowdown, if not already actually in recession.

    0
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    The ECB After Draghi

    At the ECB's annual shindig in Portugal this week, two questions matter. Given negative interest rates and capital key constraints over asset purchases, how does the ECB fight the next downturn? And who will replace Mario Draghi? His successor must be politically cunning if they are to persuade Europe’s leaders that monetary policy is reaching its limits, and fiscal policy must take the strain.

    2
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    The ECB Reloads

    The ECB may hope for the best, but it is preparing for the worst. As Mario Draghi prepares to hand over the ECB’s reins to an undecided successor, he seems to be restocking its armory.

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