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    Gavekal Research

    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.

    0
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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.

    0
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    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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    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.

    1
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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.

    0
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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...

    0
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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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    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.

    0
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    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...

    0
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    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.

    4
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    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.

    0
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    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’...

    2
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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...

    0
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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.

    0
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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.

    0
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    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...

    0
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    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.

    0
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    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...

    0
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    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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    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...

    0
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    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...

    1
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    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...

    0
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    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.

    0
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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.

    0
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    ‘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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    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.

    2
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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.

    2
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    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...

    1
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    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.

    0
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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.

    1
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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.

    0
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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...

    1
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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.

    0
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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.

    0
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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.

    0
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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.

    0
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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.

    0
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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.

    0
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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.

    0
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    A European Vortex

    There is a big disconnect between markets and reported data in the eurozone. Bund yields are within a whisker of all time lows, inflation expectations have cratered and the Eurostoxx banks index fell -12.5% in May. Yet at the same, Europe’s macro data, while not great, points to stabilization after a 16-month industrial downturn.

    0
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    Harder Times For European Luxury

    It is conceivable that some European industries may benefit from the trans-Pacific economic cold war, picking up business lost to their US and Chinese competitors as a result of the worsening tensions. But one sector that will not benefit is the European equity investor’s favorite: luxury goods. European luxury goods companies now face tougher times ahead.

    0
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    One Reduction Of Risk At The Margin

    By putting off for six months its decision whether or not to impose a 25% tariff on all imports of passenger cars and car parts on national security grounds, the US administration bowed to expedience on Wednesday. In theory, the threat of auto tariffs remains on the table. In practice, the six month delay has robbed the proposal of much of its credibility.

    1
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    The Message In Eurozone Money

    The advanced estimate of first quarter eurozone GDP released on Tuesday came as a pleasant surprise. Growth came in stronger than generally expected, while Italy emerged from recession. With the MSCI EMU equity index up almost 17% YTD in local currency terms, the question is whether growth can be sustained over the coming quarters.

    0
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    Europe's China Syndrome

    Chinese premier Li Keqiang is in Brussels on Tuesday for the 21st EU-China summit, and the talks are likely to be testy. After much dithering and in response to much pressure from Washington, the EU has begun to take a more hardline posture towards China. The core EU countries share many of the concerns that motivate the US trade war with China.

    0
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    Europe's Export Problem

    Europe is the world’s most export-dependent big economic region. In such a precious position, the effect of external weakness can be debilitating, as shown by the eurozone manufacturing PMI having just fallen to its lowest in nearly six years at 47.5. The question is whether any respite can be found in overseas markets.

    0
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    A New Era For European Banks

    European banking stocks have been battered for much of the last four years by negative interest rates and a Brussels plan to impose market discipline through shareholder bail-ins rather than public bail-outs. This approach is now in question as Germany embraces a new industrial strategy that will rely on strong state-backed banks taking political direction.

    2
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    When You're In A Hole, Stop Digging

    The first law of holes states: when you are in one, stop digging. It’s sound advice, which central bankers would do well to heed. Unfortunately for Mario Draghi and his colleagues at the European Central Bank, things are not so simple. It is one of the quirks of negative interest rates that the longer rates remain in negative territory, the less accommodative policy becomes.

    0
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    A Potential Lifeline For Europe's Banks

    As the members of the European Central Bank’s governing council prepare to meet in Frankfurt this Thursday, they face the unsettling possibility that their policy settings may risk compounding, rather than alleviating, the eurozone’s economic weaknesses.Unfortunately for members of the council who may be inclined to dither, doing nothing is not a viable option.

    1
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    What Europe’s Political Ructions Mean

    European politics is again heating up. Yesterday saw the Spanish government fail to pass its budget in a move likely to spur fresh elections. Populists in Italy and yellow vests in France are keeping up their campaign of disruption. Given that few of these issues directly threaten the structures of the EU, the question for investors is: Does any of this matter?

    0
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    The UK's Limits To Growth

    For the British economy, it has been a case of “mustn’t grumble” since the 2016 Brexit referendum. However, the effect of a weak fourth quarter GDP report was to debunk any illusion that Brexit uncertainty has been weathered. Such a reckoning was inevitable with or without Brexit, as the UK has in effect hit limits to its growth.

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    The Future Of Italian Yields

    Since it became clear Rome and Brussels were moving towards a compromise to end their budget stand-off, Italian assets have outperformed. The yield on 10-year BTPs has fallen, narrowing the spread over bunds. But investors should be wary of positioning for a continued contraction; in both the short and long term, Italy’s deficit and debt dynamics are unpromising.

    2
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    Searching For A European Catalyst

    With 2019 not yet a week old, the eurozone is already looking uncomfortably like the odd man out. With the world’s big three economies heading more deeply into a synchronous slowdown, policymakers in the US and China are showing their readiness to alter course. European policymakers have displayed no comparable flexibility.

    0
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    A New Engine Needed

    As the European Central Bank halts net new asset purchases and ends its balance sheet expansion, European equities are back at almost exactly the same level as in December 2014, on the eve of the ECB’s announcement of quantitative easing. Clearly, with extraordinary monetary stimulus no longer in the mix, European stocks will need a different driver if they are to make gains in 2019.

    2
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    Winter For Eurozone Credit Growth

    A depressing autumn is turning into a dismal winter in the eurozone, as November’s deteriorating PMIs follow weak third quarter growth—and even a quarter-on-quarter contraction in Germany. Much of the softness can be attributed to poor external demand, especially from China and the emerging markets, and to the ongoing disruption to car sales caused by the introduction of new emissions tests. Together these have hammered European manufacturing,...

    0
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    The Doom Loop Tightens

    The stand-off between Rome and Brussels over Italy’s 2019 budget claimed its first casualty on Monday. Italy’s major banks were forced to club together to support an emergency bond issue by Banca Carige, after the rise in Italian government bond yields triggered by the budget battle eroded the mid-sized lender’s capital base, pushing it to the brink of collapse.

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    Germany, And Europe, After Merkel

    All political careers end in failure. Doubtless Angela Merkel is already feeling the sting. Even as the long-serving German chancellor stands up on Tuesday to address the European parliament in Strasbourg, political observers and investors are looking beyond Merkel’s term in office to the identity of her successor. That is likely to be decided on December 7, when Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union is set to elect a new party chairman, so...

    0
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    Another Weight On The Euro

    The bear flattening of the US yield curve while European short rates remain anchored in negative territory means that it no longer makes sense for euro-based investors to hedge the currency risk of US bond purchases. Their hedging costs have risen to a level that wipes out the yield they would get on a 10-year US treasury. For US dollar investors, the opposite is true.

    0
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    Softly, Softly, Mr. Draghi

    Last week was an ugly one for equity markets on both sides of the Atlantic. But there was a crucial difference. US stocks are down from an all-time high set as recently as last month, with the S&P500 closing on Friday above (just) its 200-day moving average. In contrast, eurozone equities have been trending continuously lower ever since the end of January.

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    More Trouble Ahead For Italian Yields

    The market gave an unequivocal two thumbs down to Italy’s budget deficit forecast announced on Friday. In proposing a deficit target for each of the next three years of 2.4% of GDP, finance minister Giovanni Tria was perceived to have bowed to pressure from Italy’s populist coalition for spending increases and tax cuts, and to have relegated debt reduction to a back seat. In response, Italy’s 10-year government bond yield jumped 26bp to 3.14%,...

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    When To Buy UK Stocks

    “Deal or no deal” is the question blurring all UK investment decisions. Britain’s exit from the European Union should be settled before the end of the year, but the run-in will be nerve-wracking. Since Prime Minister Theresa May released her halfway-house “Chequers” plan in early July, investors have fretted that the UK may crash out of the EU next March with no new trading relationship in place. My colleague Anatole has consistently downplayed...

    1
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    The Case Against Eurozone Stocks

    The eurozone may not face the kind of liquidity crunch roiling US dollar-based emerging economies, but its equity markets remain on a grinding downward trajectory. The MSCI EMU index is within 1.0% of this year’s low and a range of technical indicators make for ugly reading. I would advise global investors to generally avoid the single currency area, but for those who must be there I will slightly surprise myself by arguing that the eurozone’s...

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    Europe’s Whimpering Economic Cycle

    As with most of the developed world, the eurozone has seen a breakdown of the Phillips Curve link between inflation and unemployment. The 2008 crisis and ensuing double-dip recession created a sclerotic environment where labor market dynamics had little impact on general prices. This is another way of saying that Europe’s economy has remained stuck a in low-growth funk. Last year that seemed to have finally changed, with cyclical forces driving...

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    Last Place In The FX Beauty Contest

    In mid-August, the US dollar hit a 12-month high against developed country currencies, and a multi-year high against emerging market currencies. Two weeks on, the burning question for investors is whether those highs represent a turning point, whether the dollar strength that prevailed from mid-April to mid-August has now played out, and whether the US currency is about to resume the softening trend that predominated through 2017. As always,...

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    More Than Collateral Damage

    Among the collateral casualties of Turkey’s lira crisis have been European bank shares. Over the last week, as the lira plunged, the SX7E index—the EuroSTOXX banking index—slumped -7% on fears about banks’ exposure to Turkish borrowers. But Turkey is not the only concern weighing on European bank stocks. The sell-off over the last week is just the latest in a series of downlegs that together have seen the SX7E fall -19.7% over the last six...

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    Gavekal Research

    What US Auto Tariffs Would Mean For Europe

    Last week’s public hearings in Washington heard a chorus of industry opposition to the US administration’s proposed import tariffs on cars and car parts. But in Europe at least, markets appear to be coming around to the view that the tariffs will go ahead regardless. After Friday’s fall, the auto and auto parts sub-index of the Stoxx 600 has slumped -15% since late May when the US Commerce Department announced its Section 232 investigation,...

    1
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    The Message From Eurozone Credit

    Should we worry that eurozone corporate bond spreads have doubled since late January? After all, bond yields are rising globally and as deflationary risks have ebbed the European Central Bank has signaled its intent to normalize monetary policy. Yet, looking back at the eurozone’s last cycle, policy was tightened without spreads blowing out. My concern is that the present squeezing of financial conditions is sending a darker message, and will...

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    Gavekal Research

    Slower Eurozone Growth Ahead

    Wednesday was another grim day for European bank stocks, which are now down almost -24% from their late January peak. Yesterday Louis looked at the reasons behind the slump in bank shares globally, and attempted to find a silver lining to the dark cloud of their underperformance (see The Message From Bank Stocks). When it comes to Europe, however, the fall in bank shares is just one more reason to feel pessimistic.

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    Behind European Underperformance

    Amid Monday’s trade-war-inspired risk-off, it is significant that European equities underperformed. Sure, Europe had already closed when White House trade advisor Peter Navarro emerged to reassure investors that the US administration is not proposing blanket investment restrictions. Even so, European markets suffered disproportionately. That should be no surprise, considering that the current global trade uncertainties have arisen against a...

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    Europe Through Rose-Tinted Specs

    If the European Central Bank had a dot plot, on Thursday it would have shifted downwards. The ECB’s dovishness stood in contrast with the Federal Reserve, which just a day earlier moved its own dot plot projection of future interest rates upwards. If the market retained confidence in Europe’s relative growth and returns, this divergence of rate expectations probably would not matter greatly. But with European growth softening, and political risk...

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    Europe's Cyclical Blues

    When they meet on Thursday, European Central Bank policymakers face a dilemma. As wage and price pressures rise across the eurozone, they are expected to outline an exit from quantitative easing policies. At the same time, growth indicators are weakening, raising the specter of a eurozone recovery (again) being cut off in its infancy. The essential point is whether Europe’s turnaround has become self-sustaining. We think the answer to that...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Europe’s Italian And Turkish Troubles

    On the face of it, the collapse on Sunday evening of attempts in Italy to form a coalition government comprising the populist and Euroskeptic Five Star and Lega parties should be good news for European assets and the euro, at least in the short term. On Friday, fears of a populist government in Rome, coupled with the prospect of a no confidence motion and general election in Spain undermined both the euro and peripheral debt. Also down were...

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    The Outcomes In Italy

    Political uncertainty isn’t always bad news. It is now 10 weeks since Italian voters went to the polls in a general election, and still Italy’s bickering political parties have not managed to form a stable coalition government. That hasn’t proved an obstacle for investors. Since the election, Italian equities have gained 9.7% in euro terms, 6.4% in US dollar terms, making Italy the world’s best performing major stock market over the year to date.

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    Gavekal Research

    Europe’s Coiled Spring Currency

    There was a neat circularity to yesterday’s press briefing by Mario Draghi. The European Central Bank was happy to stick with its monetary accommodation as growth data had softened and the euro was pleasingly weaker. Hence, as German exporters go through one of their periodic bouts of angst and confidence readings pull back across the eurozone, the logic runs that the euro could now slide further. This would especially seem to be the case as...

    3
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    No Time To Give Up On Europe

    Even as winter descended in January, the economic climate seemed decidedly balmy. Eurozone growth for 4Q17 came in at 2.7% YoY, while the year’s first PMI peaked at a post-2006 high of 58.8. Investors liked the idea of deflation finally being slain and a possible earlier-than-expected normalization of monetary policy. Alas the fun didn’t last as a series of data disappointments punctured an equity rally that had been led by financials. My bet is...

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    Gavekal Research

    A Fork In The Road For European Equities

    In the first half of last year making money in European stocks was easy as benchmarks steamed higher on hopes that less political risk would allow an economic surge into sunlit uplands. It has not exactly worked out that way. Such has been the loss of momentum that both the MSCI EMU and broader MSCI Europe indexes have plunged below their 200-day moving averages (just as worrying for tea leaf readers, the 50-day moving average for the narrower...

    3
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    What A Trade War Means For Europe

    The departure of free-trader Gary Cohn from the Trump administration has investors rightly concerned that a global trade war may loom. Markets rallied yesterday on reports that the US may carve out exclusions for its steel and aluminum tariffs, but President Donald Trump seems set to announce a punitive package as early as today. The European Union has taken a tough stance against the US threat, and yesterday added orange juice and peanut butter...

    1
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    A Very British Tightening

    Last week, the Bank of England upped its UK growth forecast and signaled that interest rates may be raised harder and faster than expected. This week, Theresa May’s government maintained its muddled passage towards a European Union exit, which has increasingly fretful multinationals warning that Britain’s economy could be headed for the rocks. Even, if like me, you think the UK will secure an eventual squishy-type deal with the EU that involves...

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    Relief At Hand For UK Consumers

    “I can’t stand London,” one US economist who last year relocated to the UK capital recently complained to Gavekal. “It’s grey and miserable, and all anyone ever talks about is Brexit.” It’s easy to sympathize. Political infighting over the Brexit process dominates UK headlines. However, there are growing reasons to feel more positive about the outlook for UK consumers.

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    The German Coalition And Europe

    Late Sunday, party delegates of Germany’s social democrat SPD voted 362 to 279 to begin formal coalition talks with chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU conservatives. Hurdles still remain, but our base case is that the weekend’s vote paves the way for the formation of a Grand Coalition by April. After months without a stable government, any reduction in uncertainty will naturally be positive for markets. But for investors, the most significant...

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    From Recovery To Expansion

    Perception is a funny thing. Yesterday President Emmanuel Macron pitched up in London and wowed the British by loaning them a 70 meter piece of embroidered propaganda that celebrates their conquest 950 years ago. By contrast, the last French president to visit Britain had a pint of warm beer with David Cameron in a pub and no one noticed. A similarly discombobulated dynamic can be seen in European equity markets, where years of pessimism have...

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    The Persistence Of European Political Risk

    This was supposed to be the year that European political risk was laid to rest by the spring defeats of populist Euro-skeptic parties in the Dutch and French elections. But as 2017 draws to a close, anyone glancing at the headlines from Europe is likely to come away with the impression that reports of the demise of political risk were ludicrously premature. A rundown of this week’s news, from today’s regional election in Catalonia, through...

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    Where Has Eurozone Inflation Gone?

    The eurozone’s recovery continues, but all is not proceeding quite as expected. At its meeting last week, the European Central Bank’s governing council raised its forecasts for eurozone growth over the next two years to reflect the single currency area’s strengthening cyclical upswing. But while growth is accelerating, inflation remains largely missing in action, with the ECB last week revising down its forecasts for core inflation.

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    Towards ECB Stealth Tightening?

    As the eurozone’s economy picks up, the European Central Bank finds itself facing a dilemma. In order not to freak out financial markets and push long-dated yields sharply higher, which could threaten to trigger a new financial crisis, it has promised to continue its quantitative easing program of asset purchases until at least September 2018, and not to raise policy rates until well after the end of those purchases. Yet as inflationary...

    4
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    Behind Eurozone Credit Growth

    The eurozone credit cycle is accelerating. Data released yesterday showed loans to non-financial companies grew at 2.9% YoY in October, the fastest rate since June 2009, while loans to households were up 2.7% YoY for the third month running. The pick-up in lending to private businesses bodes well for eurozone growth and markets next year, with respondents to the European Central Bank’s bank lending survey indicating that investment and...

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    Too Much Forward Guidance?

    It should be an ideal environment for equity investors. Europe yesterday published stronger than expected growth figures for the third quarter, with German GDP expanding 2.8% YoY, and even laggard Italy growing 1.8%. That performance raises the possibility of faster earnings growth even as the European Central Bank is proposing to stretch out its stimulative asset purchases through the third quarter of next year and keep interest rates in...

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    Keep Calm And Suck It Up

    The Bank of England is expected to turn tail today by raising interest rates for the first time in a decade. What follows is a particular worry for homeowners, who since 2008 have seen interest payments on mortgages fall by as much as -95% due to 550bp of rate cuts. After all, the specter of a disorderly Brexit looms, businesses are threatening to move out of the UK and economic growth has slowed to a miserly 1.5%. I am relaxed about this...

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    The Trouble With Eurozone ROEs

    Economic sentiment in the eurozone is riding high, probably too high. The European Commission’s industrial and consumer confidence indexes are each close to the peaks they recorded in 2000 and 2007. Such high levels suggest overconfidence rather than rational expectations. Moreover, as far as investors are concerned, there are good reasons to be skeptical about the potential of European equity markets to outperform—largely to do with the...

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    A Very British Zombie Apocalypse

    After the Bank of England signaled its intent to raise interest rates yesterday, sterling jumped more than 1% against the US dollar and the international FTSE 100 index fell similarly. With the UK’s latest inflation reading rising to 2.9% and unemployment hitting a post-1975 low of 4.3%, it is increasingly hard to justify leaving the policy lending rate at 0.25%. One argument for deferring hikes is the UK’s lack of wage growth, but such thinking...

    4
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    2002 All Over Again For Europe?

    The eurozone’s recovery is speeding up despite the unresolved “original sin” of lumping a single currency on to a heterogeneous economy. Yesterday Charles argued that this conceit meant the next big move for Europe would be back toward crisis, and among other things investors should avoid eurozone banks. I would not dispute this basic analysis, but take a different view on timing.

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    Don’t Sweat The Euro

    In response to a stronger euro, the European Central Bank yesterday cut its inflation forecasts. Since the ECB’s monetary policy mandate is entirely focused on consumer prices, the disinflationary impact of a stronger currency leaves policymakers with a conundrum: do they go ahead and taper asset purchases as expected, or instead hold back, figuring that the currency markets are doing the “tightening” job for them?

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