Search Follow us
28 January 2019 · 2 min read

ECB fiddles as eurozone turns

Compared to US Fed, ECB seems flat-footed as growth slows

During the recent period of market volatility the US Fed has in our view successfully re-positioned itself on the doveish end of expectations, both in terms of interest rate and more recently balance sheet policy. The ECB in comparison appears flat-footed, with ECB President Draghi failing to use the opportunity in his press conference last week to emphasise policy flexibility in the event of a downturn. Ironically, the most recent disappointing incoming data is concentrated in the eurozone, rather than the US.

Read more...
10 January 2019 · 2 min read

FOMC Minutes: Up to speed with events but US-centric

Meeting minutes suggested Fed closer to market views than originally thought

The minutes of December’s FOMC interest rate meeting suggest the US Federal Reserve is in fact more attuned to the recent tightening of financial conditions and risk of a slowdown than first thought. Tweaks to the language in the FOMC’s December statement were intended to emphasise the data-dependency of the Fed’s monetary policy stance and also that only limited policy tightening was now envisaged. While we view this as reassuring for the remainder of 2019, the heightened volatility of global markets following Fed Chair Powell’s press conference demonstrates the ease of a miscommunication when interest rate policy becomes politically charged.

Read more...
20 December 2018 · 2 min read

FOMC: US Fed merely matches expectations

Only a watching brief on overseas developments risks the dreaded divergence

Taking into account US economic conditions of full unemployment and inflation close to target, the reiteration in yesterday’s FOMC statement of the policy of gradually returning US rates to neutral levels is understandable. Furthermore, lowering the rate trajectory for 2019 from 3 to 2 projected rate hikes also makes sense given the tightening of financial conditions (namely falling equity prices and rising credit spreads) since the summer. However, we believe markets were looking for something stronger than ‘wait and see’ to counter the negative psychology which has led to a very poor December for global equity markets.

Read more...
19 December 2018 · 3 min read

Brexit: Prepare for a confrontation

No-deal preparations on both sides represent a predictable escalation in tensions

UK PM Theresa May has survived the confidence vote triggered by her own party. A further proposed House of Commons confidence vote is also destined to be defeated. However, PM May’s continued premiership does not mean there will be no change in Brexit tactics. She faces the same unresolved conflicts as before. In order to deliver her deal, she may shift towards a more confrontational position with the EU in order to obtain increased leverage. Investors should not confuse this with actively seeking a no-deal Brexit. However, the road to amending the Withdrawal Agreement and winning UK Parliamentary approval now seems paved with market volatility. While UK markets are now trading at valuation levels which discount a significant degree of Brexit disruption, declining earnings forecasts in both the eurozone and UK suggest that it is too early to materially increase equity exposure to these markets.

Read more...
12 December 2018 · 3 min read

Brexit on pause as UK PM challenged

ECJ Article 50 decision means UK Parliament is in control of its destiny

After letters from at least 48 MPs, the UK Conservative party will now hold a confidence vote in its leader later today. If the incumbent UK PM May fails to secure a majority of Tory MPs, a leadership contest will be triggered. The postponement of the Parliamentary vote on May’s Withdrawal Agreement and subsequent day of flying around Europe meeting heads of state, yet appearing to achieve little but photo opportunities has forced the matter to a head. Regardless of the outcome of the confidence vote, the Brexit process is at stalemate with the UK Parliament unable to ratify the only agreement the EU is prepared to offer to date.

Read more...
23 November 2018 · 3 min read

Economic survey data on a weakening trend outside US

The fly in the ointment for investors trying to look through political developments

Following a difficult autumn, investors are likely to be weighing whether 2018’s risks are almost in the rear-view mirror. Brexit could conceivably be settled by January, with minor changes to the Withdrawal Agreement; the Italian budget stand-off could be resolved by a telephone call. In terms of financial conditions, the Fed may raise rates in December but could guide to a pause, reflecting economic or market turbulence. Similarly, the ECB could acknowledge that the weakening trend in eurozone data warrants a continuation of QE, or at least some very doveish forward guidance.  Finally, following the mid-term elections, rebel Trump’s politically motivated trade war on China is now without a cause, at least in the short-term. Speculation of a US/China trade “deal” at the upcoming G20 meeting in Argentina is rising, which could perhaps at least represent a cease-fire in hostilities. Such a shift in sentiment may seem far-fetched, but should at least be considered alongside more bearish scenarios.

Read more...