Category Archives: Euro monetary policy

10/7/19: Financialising Stagnant Growth: From Japanified Economy to Christine Lagarde

Monetary policy since the GFC of 2008 has been characterised by the near-zero (and even negative) policy rates, negative bank rates, negative Government debt yields and rampant asset price inflation. The result has been zombification of the advanced economies.

Here is the latest advanced estimate of the Eurozone real GDP growth based on the CEPR/Banca d'Italia Eurocoin indicator:
Current forecast for 2Q 2019 growth in the Eurozone, based on Eurocoin indicator is for 0.17% q/q expansion. June Eurocoin sits at 0.14%, the lowest since September 2013. The growth rate forecast has now been sub-0.25% (below 1% annual) in five months (through June 2019) and counting. Meanwhile, the link between growth and inflation has been weakening, as shown in the chart below:

Both, from the point of view of view of the current data relative to 1Q 2019 and to 2Q 2018 and to Q1 2018, growth rates are shrinking, per above. The ECB, however, remains stuck in the proverbial hard corner (chart next):

 Five years into zero policy rates, inflation is gradually creeping up (chart above), but growth is nowhere to be seen (chart next):

Worse, tangible fundamentals (captured by the models, like Eurocoin) of economic growth are becoming less and less consistent with actual growth outruns - a feature of the economy that is becoming dependent on things other than real investment and real demand for generating expansion in GDP. Both, the chart above and the chart below, highlight this troubling fact.
All of this suggests that we are in the period in economic development that is fully consistent with the secular stagnation thesis: traditional tools of monetary and fiscal policies are no longer sufficient in generating real economic growth. Instead, these tools help sustain economies overloaded with debt. It is an extend-and-pretend model of economic development: as long as corporates and households can be supported in carrying existent debt loads through monetary accommodation, the economy remains afloat (no recession, nor crisis blowout), but the levels of debt are so prohibitively high that no new debt can be accumulated to generate economic expansion.

The markets know as much. Investors know that zombie loans (loans with no capacity of servicing them should interest rates rise) mean zombie banks. Zombie banks mean zombie new borrowing markets. Zombie new borrowing markets mean zombie real investment by households and companies. Zombie investment means zombie demand. Zombie demand means deflationary supply. Rinse and repeat.

This knowledge in the markets is tangible. It takes a change in investors expectations (as in recent changes in outlook toward the reversal of the monetary tightening in the U.S. and Europe) to reprice assets. No actual value added growth enters the equation. Assets are no longer being priced on their productive capacity. And the markets are now fully finacialised. Which is to say, they are now fully monetary policy-driven.

Enter Christine Lagarde, the new head of the ECB. Lagarde's appointment is hardly an accident or a politically correct nod to women in leadership. It is the only logical choice of the financialised zombie economics of the monetary policy. To re-start borrowing or debt cycle, the EU is hoping for mutualisation of the sovereign debt markets. In other words, it is hoping to leverage the only unencumbered asset the EU still has: surplus countries' bonds. Lagarde's job at the ECB will be to run the creation of the eurobonds, bonds that will proportionally link euro area members' bonds into a single product to be monetised by the ECB as a support for market pricing. There is probably EUR 2-3 trillion worth of the international and monetary demand for these, opening up the room for more borrowing and more fiscal spending.

14/3/16: T-Rex v Paper Clip: Of Draghi and His Whatevers…

Remember recent ECB commitment to start buying more non-sovereign, non-financial corporates' paper? It was the part of the blanket bombing with 'measures' deployed by Mario Draghi last week.

Here is my summary as a reminder: The European Central Bank cut its key lending rate to zero (from 0.05 percent) in March, slashing its deposit rate further into negative territory (to -0.4 percent from -0.3 percent). Desperate for stimulating slack corporate investment, the ECB also significantly expanded the size and scope of its asset-buying program, hiking monthly purchases targets from EUR60 billion to EUR80 billion. Worse, Mario Draghi also expanded the scope of the programme to include investment grade, euro-denominated debt issued by non-financial corporations. And he announced yet another TLTRO – a longer-term lending programme (4 years duration this time around, having previously failed to deliver any meaningful uplift in the corporate capex via three 3-year long programmes). The new TLTRO will be operating on the basis of the ECB deposit rate, effectively implying that Frankfurt will be giving away free money to the banks as long as they write new loans using this cash. Last, but not least, the finish line for the ECB’s flagship QE programme was pushed out into March 2017 from September 2016. And yet, the ECB’s leatest blietzkrieg into the uncharted lands of monetarist innovation ended with exactly the same outrun as was the case for the Bank of Japan few weeks before it.

What is important however is not the above summary, but the estimated quantum of paper that the ECB so courageously planning to buy in order to prevent Euro area from sliding in a Japan-styled depression.

Enter BAML with their estimate:
No, the lads ain't kidding. The Big Bang is at 100% of the market only EUR554 billion. Shaving off for some tightening of yields, stretching of spreads and eliminating holdings not available for sale, suppose ECB hoovers out 50% of the market. The latest 'stimulus' to the Euro area economy will be... EUR275 billion or so...

You can't make this up.

Or can you? Here's the problem, folks: Last time Bank of Japan’s policy rate was at or above 1% was in June 1995. Before the era of low rates on-set, Japanese economy managed to deliver average annual rate of real economic growth of around 3.6 percent. Since the onset of monetary easing, Japanese economic growth averaged less than 0.8 percent. Bad?.. Bad. But not as bad as in the glowing success of the Eurozone. Here, ECB policy rate fell below its pre-crisis historical low in March 2009 and continued on a downward trend from then on. This coincided with a swing in average real growth rates from 2.02 percent per annum to 0.05 percent. Yes, the numbers speak for themselves: since the start of the Global Financial Crisis, Euro area enjoyed average rates of economic growth that are 16 times lower than the same period average growth in Japan. No need to remind you which economy suffered from a devastating earthquake and a tsunami in 2011.

And to counter this, the ECB is deploying a measure that at most can deliver ca EUR275 billion. 

Forget the idea of going after the bear with a buckshot load. Try going after a T-Rex with a paperclip... 

18/2/16: Europe’s Problem is Not Germany…

CES-Ifo just released their survey results for the regular poll of some 220 German economists. And if you think that professionals are at any odds with Schäuble on monetary policy of the ECB, think again.

Which, of course, is absolutely correct. For German economy, ECB's policy is too loose. For French economy, about right. For Italy and Spain - probably somewhat too restrictive, although who on Earth can tell with any degree of confidence what 'about right' policy for these two can even look like...

Still, the key point remains: Euro is still a malfunctioning currency that cannot reconcile differences between various economies. In other words, Europe's problem is not Germany. It is not France, nor Spain, nor Italy. Europe's problem is not even Euro. Instead, Europe's problem is Europe.