After a year and a half of the post-covid era, it seems like we are getting, slowly but surely, back to certain normality where even though masks are still the norm, you can start to take them off, travel is reviving, and curfews seem to be a nightmare of the past. This return to normality also applies to finance and economics. Economies in the Eurozone are recovering from the hit they took in March of 2020 and the ECB has hinted towards a slow-down and eventual stop of the Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme (PEPP) they started at the beginning of the pandemic.
What is the Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme (PEPP)?
The PEPP is a non-standard monetary policy measure that started in March 2020 amid the covid outbreak. It was meant to counter the risks of economic slowdowns on European Economies through an aggressive monetary policy.
We are talking about a temporary Asset Purchase Programme (APP) of private and public sector securities intended to indirectly alter the private sector’s borrowing and spending behaviour as well as addressing possible liquidity issues that could arise. All the asset classes eligible under the traditional APP were also eligible under the PEPP. In addition, it included a waiver of the eligibility requirements for securities issued by the Greek Government. The minimum eligible remaining maturity was shortened to 70 days, while the maximum eligible remaining maturity for public sector asset purchases was set at 30 years and 364 days. Furthermore, the eligibility of non-financial commercial paper under the Corporate Sector Purchase Programme (CSPP) was expanded to include securities with a remaining maturity of at least 28 days.
Initially, the PEPP was going to have €750bn for these purchases. However, on the 4th of June 2020, the Governing Council decided to allocate an extra €600bn and then on the 10th of December 2020, another €500bn. The total sum of the PEPP would end up amounting to €1.850bn.
The duration of the PEPP was specified at the beginning, with the ECB stating the following: “the Governing Council will terminate net asset purchases under the PEPP once it judges that the COVID-19 crisis phase is over, but in any case, not before the end of March 2022”.
Financial background and what did the PEPP imply?
The ECB was already carrying out a Quantitative Easing (QE) strategy when the COVID-19 outbreak started. This QE program started in March 2015 and its main purpose was to prevent sub-zero inflation in the Eurozone at a time where economies were still recovering from the eurozone debt crisis. In this QE program, the ECB bought government and corporate debt, asset-backed securities, and covered bonds at a pace of €1,3 million a minute.
By mid-late 2019 the QE program was stabilized, and the balance sheet of the ECB was not increasing, but rather staying constant (see chart below). What the PEPP implied was a sudden resumption and increase in the QE program. As it can be observed in the chart, the pace at which the Balance Sheet of the ECB increased – which consists of all the bonds, corporate debt, asset-backed securities, and other financial assets – was something never seen before. In fact, in a year’s time the Balance Sheet of the ECB has nearly doubled, currently amounting to €8.191bn.
ECB’s Balance Sheet, All Asset
How does the PEPP work?
PEPP helps people and firms to get access to affordable funds they need to weather the crisis and is a complement to the other monetary policy measures already in place.
The PEPP allows the ECB to purchase the assets above-mentioned in the financial markets, making their prices go up and implicitly, the market interest rate go down. This makes borrowing cheaper for companies, governments and individuals. It is an expansive policy that helps maintain borrowing, spending and investing stable despite the pandemic crisis.
In addition, the PEPP seeks to boost economic growth and inflation through incentivizing consumption and investment, and ultimately, reactivating the economy.
PEPP monthly purchases
It is worth mentioning that the PEPP, although similar to the regular Asset Purchase Programme (APP), has some unique characteristics. These are:
It is flexible. In what kind of assets they buy, when they buy it and in which countries. This allows the ECB to respond rapidly to changes in the financial or economic environment to preserve the best financing conditions. As it can be seen in the graph above, the pace of the programme has stabilized around the €80bn mark over the last months. However, the amount they disbursed each month has been varying throughout the period analyzed. This has enabled the BCE to keep optimal financing conditions through one of the worst crises the Euro area has faced.
It is scalable. The initial allocation was €750bn and has been bumped up to €1.850bn. This amount can be raised or lowered as required to maintain favourable financing conditions. Roughly €1.350bn have been deployed so far. Thus, unless the programme is cut short, they still can purchase assets worth €500bn.
It is temporary. It is specifically created to counter the impact of the coronavirus crisis on the eurozone and will be carried out until, at least, March 2022 or until the Governing Council judges that the crisis is over.
What has been the result of the Programme so far?
The PEPP Programme has boosted the region’s bond markets, helping to keep yields close to all-time lows even as governments issued record quantities of debt to navigate the pandemic crisis. The economies in the eurozone have been able to weather the storm thanks to this “life-support” system for the economies and markets that the PEPP has been. Economies were able to recover in a V-shape and consumption was rapidly reactivated thanks to the lax monetary policy coupled with the PEPP, which incentivized financial players to borrow and lend. However, this also comes at a cost, the Balance Sheet of the ECB expressed as a per cent of the Eurozone GDP has skyrocketed, reaching 70% in the last August’s reading.
ECB’s Balance Sheet as a % of Eurozone GDP
What to expect next?
A year and a half after the start of the pandemic and the PEPP, economies are experiencing record GDP growth rates, falling unemployment figures, and record inflation figures. All these figures point towards one direction; it might be time to start thinking about slowing down – and eventually stopping – the PEPP Programme.
Over the last week, Francois Villeroy (Governor of the Bank of France) has hinted that, given that the evolution of the markets is better than expected, and in order to preserve optimal financing conditions and to contain inflation, a reduction in the pace of asset purchases of the PEPP might be possible in the coming months.
Does this mean that the PEPP will come to a halt in Q4 of 2021? No, this means that the monthly purchases of €80bn might be trimmed. The end of the Programme is yet to be discussed based on the further evolution of the markets and economies in the Eurozone. However, this tapering will be a dovish one, as they remain flexible to increase the pace if financing conditions tighten again and monetary policies will remain accommodative even after the PEPP ends next year. It is worth remembering that the PEPP is running parallel to the APP that was being already carried out in the QE program of the ECB. Thus, even after the PEPP is over next year, the APP will continue to run at its normal pace.
How have the markets reacted and how will they react going forward?
At the time of the writing of this article, investors in the eurozone have reacted to this news by pricing in some risk of a taper in the September meeting of the ECB. Germany’s 10-year bond yield rose to minus 0.36%, up from minus 0.5% two weeks ago, reflecting a drop in prices. The yield on Italy’s benchmark bonds rose to 0.712% from its low last month of 0.513%. Experts say that there is room for a further sell-off, but the spread between the German and Italian borrowing costs has widened only so slightly. This is, there are no signs of mounting pressure in more indebted nations.
As for what will happen going forward, that is a great question for which there is no clear answer. Markets are unpredictable – especially under the current circumstances – and the reaction to the slow-down and eventual stop of the PEPP is yet unknown. That is why the ECB wants to make this process as slow and smooth as possible, so markets have time to digest the news without major hiccups.
Alexandro López Rodríguez
Sources: ECB, Bloomberg, Reuters, Financial Times, elEconomista, Investing
Financing has always been a crucial matter to corporates regardless the sector they operate in. Notwithstanding, the current situation on debt capital markets, mostly due to the worldwide spread of Covid-19, is making it significantly more troubling than usual, leading companies to consider alternative solutions.
PRIMARY MARKET EFFECTS
On the primary market, companies are struggling to issue, failing in injecting fresh money into their business, or even roll their outstanding debt close to maturity. An example is given by the Commercial Paper market, always considered a flexible and low-cost solution for many companies, despite their credit rating. Nowadays, issuers, even those with IG status, have seen their financing costs more than tripled, now sitting at levels close to those registered during the global financial crisis. Looking at longer-term products, such as Corporate Bonds, the current situation is only worse, if possible. Indeed, putting aside a few exceptions, the market is pretty much dry for HY and non-rated issuers, and is very small for those who stand in between the IG and HY status, as investors fear a possible downgrade. In these times of uncertainty, most of issuance volumes come for highly rated issuers, benefiting from a credit profile that makes them eligible to Central Banks’ Purchase Programs.
SECONDARY MARKET EFFECTS
On the secondary market, severe outflows have been seen lately on Corporate Bonds and CPs, hitting prices and putting a remarkable pressure on yield curves. On one hand, corporate investors are trying to keep their liquidity high by either selling their long-term positions or avoiding to roll those that are about to mature. On the other, institutional investors are not only willing to build a safety cushion with their cash but they are also coping with the constraints imposed by their investment policy. As a matter of fact, over the last few weeks, downgrades by the main credit rating agencies have led to a series of fallen angels, i.e. companies who have lost their IG status, flooding the market with junk bonds. In the US, the market has seen an increase in fallen angels of about $120bn, while in Europe, it is expected to be around €61bn, considering non-financial companies only, with €38bn and €110bn in a bullish and bearish cases, respectively. As a consequence, as most institutional investors have limits on junk issuers, they had to sell quickly their position making prices plummet.
Having stated the problems, how are companies dealing with them? Their main concern is related to debt repayment when investors are not willing to roll their positions or to take on new investments. Therefore, at first, the immediate solution to this problem has been reverting to their Banks in order to use their credit facilities, ready to use but very expensive compared to capital market solutions. Later on, they notably lifted their yield curve so as to attract new funds without any success, in most cases.
As a consequence, other solutions have been implemented by Central Banks. In the US, the Fed has lowered its Fed funds target rate by 100bp to a range of 0-0.25%. Moreover, a new round of Quantitative Easing has started with securities purchases of at least $700 bn that will take place over the next months. In addition to this, a series of facilities has been put in place: the Commercial Paper Funding Facility (CPFF), allowing the Fed to buy on the secondary market, through a SPV, CPs issued by highly-rated companies, at least A1-P1-F1, and one-time purchase of CPs issued by issuers with at least A2-P2-F2 rating; the Primary Market Corporate Credit Facility (PMCCF) and the Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facility (SMCCF) to buy bonds issued by eligible counterparties, respecting specific rating requirements, with maximum maturity of 4 years for the former and 5 years for the latter.
In the UK, the Bank of England has put in place many measures to support all market actors. Specifically, the cut of its interest rate to 0.1%, that will reduce costs in funding for banks, businesses and households; the Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF), that supports firms’ liquidity by purchasing CPs issued by those rated at least A3-P3-F3, the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, that provides SMEs with access to government-backed finance, with a guarantee up to 80%, for a maximum of GBP 5 million.
As far as the Eurozone is concerned, the ECB has expanded its existing QE, already at €20bn, by adding €120bn. Moreover, a new Pandemic Emergency Purchase Program (PEPP) has been put in place, that will allow the ECB, through its Local Central Banks, to buy marketable debt instruments, issued by companies with a minimum rating of A2-P2-F3, that have an initial maturity of 365/366 days or less and a minimum remaining maturity of at least 28 days.
In Sweden, the Riksbank has started to buy on auction base CPs issued by non-financial companies up to a total amount SEK 300bn. The papers need to have a residual maturity of up to three months and to be issued by companies with at least A3-P3-F3 rating. Moreover, the Bank has recently decided to buy Municipal Bonds for SEK 15bn.
In addition to these measures at European level, each country is implementing further solutions. In France, the Government has enacted a guarantee scheme to support bank financing to businesses, dealing not only with pre-existing loans but also new ones providing guarantees between 70% and 90% depending on the size of the company. In Germany, two main programs have been put in place: KfW-Unternehmerkredit, for established companies, and ERP-Gründerkredit-Universell, for those that have been in existence for less than five years. They will be channeled through local banks and will be equivalent to €200bn. As for SMEs, further €50bn have been put aside to support their business. In Italy, the Government has enforced a decree that will guarantee loans for SMEs and self-employed up to 90%, for a total amount of €200bn. Moreover, it has implemented a protection for those listed companies showing a weak stock market situation, that are considered strategic in the energy, defense and telecommunication sectors, in order to avoid foreign holdings overcoming the threshold of 10%. In Spain, the Government has activated a publicly guaranteed credit line through the ICO for a total amount of €100bn that, at least in the first round, will be provided through the five largest Spanish banks. The State will provide guarantees up to 70% and 80% depending on the size of the company. Finally, the Swedish Government has arranged a measure to guarantee up to 70% of the new loans provided by banks, allowing companies to borrow up to SEK 75 million in order to relieve the pressure on their liquidity.
As we have seen, Government and Central Banks’ responses has been quick, and the measures announced historical. Nevertheless, the completion of such actions turns out to be more complicated than first stated and some concerns are arising.
At the European Level, the response keeps adjusting as the effect of the crisis on the economy and on companies’ balance sheet are unfolding. We had the proof of that on 22nd of April when the Central Bank agreed to start accepting non-investment grade debt as collateral, on the path to follow the Fed and buy higher-quality junk bonds to partially limit the effect of possible fallen angels, as mentioned above. In the meantime, EU leaders are still discussing a possible 2 trillion-euro ($2.2 trillion) rescue plan for the region as an estimate of private-sector activity in the euro area plunged to just 13.5 from 29.7 in March (IHS Markit).
Concerning national intervention to guarantee liquidity to businesses, doubts are still on the table in some countries as most of measures taken are channeled through private banks. This uncertainty takes place at several levels, starting at the documentation to be drafted and going up the inequality of loans distribution between banks or between businesses. Indeed, in some countries, the implementation characteristics has led to favor specific banks and types of business, making it harder for an entire part of the economy to access the first wave of liquidity.
– The Wall Street Journal
– Federal Reserve
– Bank of England
Dear Customer, On February 27th, 2020, NEW MOMENTUM sent an internal communication to the employees with a Specific Prevention Plan, where they were provided with the rules of behavior to protect themselves and their environment, following the recommendations of the World Health Organization and the Ministry of Health. From NEW MOMENTUM we want to inform you that our office has always been prepared for emergency situations of this type and to ensure its services to customers.
At present, we are operating with total normality and we offer the level of quality and service that is usual. In order to favor fluid and safe communications, we advise and thank you for using e-mails.
Finally, I just want to say that, in these uncertain times, all of us at New Momentum are at your disposal to help you anticipate any financing related problem or any other kind of problem related to our services.
Bruno Atlan, CEO
This week, the Government Council released its decision on the monetary policy to support households, firms and banks during the current economy disfunction. The Council conducted the following package made of “ambitious and coordinated fiscal policy response”:
1) In order to immediately provide liquidity support until June 2020, the Long-Term Refinancing Operation (LTROs) – injecting low interest rate funding to banks with sovereign debt as collateral on the loans – will be delivered as being an effective backstop in case of need, carried out as a fixed rate tender procedure via an auction mechanism and an interest rate amounting to the average rate on deposit facility (-0,50%).
2) Afterwards, from June 2020 to June 2021, the Targeted Long-Term Refinancing Operations (TLTROs) will be applied to push banks to lend to small, medium-sized enterprises and households. With an interest rate on these TLTRO III being at 25 basis points below the average rate applied: The Main Refinancing Operation rate (MRO), rate at which banks can borrow money from the ECB.
3) The European Central Bank decided not to change its interest rate on the main refinancing operations (0,00%), the interest rates on the margin lending facility (0,25%) and its deposit facility (-0,50%).
4) It also decided to raise the bank’s asset purchases by a temporary envelope of an additional € 120 billion until the end of the year in order to concentrate on bonds issued by companies and to further lower borrowing costs for the private sector.
5) Lastly, The ECB will fully reinvest the principal payments from maturing securities purchased under the Asset Purchase Programme (APP).
In an uncontrolled scenario of the death toll outbreak, some sectors found themselves making the most of the situation to achieve record profits. Indeed, Asian-based companies such as Top Glove, a rubber surgical gloves producer, and Zhende Medical, a medical supplier, saw their stocks skyrocket by 14% and 33% at the beginning of the month.
As such, we could have thought that the global healthcare sector would have been less affected by the situation, but it happened to be hypothetical.
Indeed, as the S&P 500 fell by more than -11.5% since the start of the week, the Health Care Select Sector SPDR Fund, composed by the biggest pharmaceuticals and health care equipment companies (Johnson & Johnson, UnitedHealth, Merck & Co, Pfizer, etc.), also lost more than 10% over the same period.
There are two main explanations to that:
Most pharmaceuticals company’s supply chain depends heavily on China, leading markets to fear a shortage. Indeed, Laboratories buy a large part of their bulk components, vaccines, anti-cancer drugs and generics from China. In the 1980s, drug companies chose to relocate part of their production to Asian Factories, where they kept their research and development activities due to cheaper Labor and more flexible regulations. Thus, a lasting virus spread would potentially put global supply at risk. Therefore, governments are currently alarming healthcare professionals on taking the necessary measures to guarantee health coverage. A few days ago, French Pharmaceutical giant Sanofi responded to that by announcing, a few days ago, that it will relocate part of its production sties in Europe before 2022. Too late for Investors.
The other explanation to healthcare stocks downturns appears to be political with the rising likeliness to see Bernie Sanders as the 2022 election Democratic candidate. The Left-wing program of the politician contains a dismantling of America’s private health care system, which would be replaced by a government-run Medicare-for-All. On the markets side, as the investiture of the democratic candidate seems more and more probable, private health insurance actors such as UnitedHealth are taking a big hit with the stock dropping by -13% over the week. Even though it is still unlikely to imagine such legislation to go through, this puts the lights back on a sector that has been at the center of discussions since Barack Obama’s election and his affordable Care Act in 2008, period that corresponds to UnitedHealth’s all time low in stock markets, before its impressive performance in the past years, under the new laws.
Authors: Emilie Mayer, Côme Vigoureux
Sources: Reuters, France Info, State Street SPDR, Investopedia
Brazil: Impact of Elections on Financial Markets, an Opportunity for Importers and Exporters? Recent events in Brazil generated volatilities in different financial markets, with a drastic shift in commodities, currency, bonds and stocks prices. This trend has already had a consequent implication for domestic but also foreign companies doing business in Brazil. For example, Spanish exporters will benefit of a 17% depreciation of the EUR versus BRL (from 4.92 the September 14th to 4.08 the October 29th). This opportunity may represent an interesting opportunity for European companies involved in Brazil to hedge a potential comes back on the 4.50 area.
After a bloody month of October for Global Equity markets and indexes from all over the world taking big losses (Nasdaq & Nikkei: -9 %; China: -7,75 %; CAC 40 & DAX: -7 %; India: -5,75%), the only survivor appears to be Brazil. Indeed, the BOVESPA grew by 10% this last month of national election that ended with the victory of Jair Bolsonaro, far-right party candidate promising a market-friendly economic program.
Economy and Tax
Alongside with its counselor and future economy minister, Paulo Guedes, a University of Chicago economist and fund manager known for its market-friendly position, Bolsonaro promised to undertake reforms widely praised by national investors.
Firstly, the new cabinet plans on privatizing every state-owned firm, including both energy giants Eletrobas and Petrobas, to raise over $400 billion and reduce the budget gap. This symbolizes the business-friendly policy promised during the election including deregulation and tax exemptions for companies. This strengthened analyst view of the Brazilian stock market, the national Index is up 13% since September and trading way beyond historical levels, leading analysts say it could reach 100,000 by the end of the year (current level is around 88,000 while it was at 75,000 in September).
In order to bring deficit from $37bn to “zero” as promised, the elected president planned spending cuts by implementing, what will appear to be the main challenge of its mandate, a pension system reform. This ambition to reform the country led investors to endorse Bolsonaro’s candidacy over the left-wing candidate. Moreover, the Workers Party is considered by many Brazilians to be responsible for the country’s worst recession in history. Indeed, the GDP of the eighth-largest economy in the world shrank by almost 8% and close to 13 million people are unemployed.
The announcement of reforms and project to reduce deficit already had an impact on financial markets, firstly in the national bond market with the yield on the 10Y Government Bond going back to last month of May levels at 10% (against 12,5% in September – See Below).
Those announcements combined with the assurance that the Central Bank will be able to act independently brought back the domestic currency to the milestone of 3,6 per dollar with analysts planning a stabilization at those levels. Following the strengthening of the Real, Price of nationally produced commodities such as Sugar and Coffee (Brazil being responsible for a Third of worldwide production) rallied last month. Indeed, a stronger Brazilian real makes commodity exports less attractive for holders of other currencies (See Graph below).
Even though investors have welcomed Bolsonaro’s election positively, no details of this program have been released and there is no certainty on whether it will be approved or not. Indeed, his Social Liberal Party (PSL) doesn’t hold the majority at the house of Congress, which could make it more complicated to vote constitutional amendments such as a pension reform.
On the financial markets side, analysts believe the Bovespa index could resume its rise during the next months if the new government (official on the 1st of January) materialize its reforms in 2019. Otherwise, this positive trend won´t be sustainable.
Volatility doesn’t necessarily mean bad news, with some anticipation and expertise on its side, it could also represent a strong opportunity for any kind of business. New Momentum can assist you in all kind of capital market problematics.
Sources: Reuters, Bloomberg, BBC
Last 15th of March, Standard & Poor’s decided to upgrade Portugal’s credit rating to BBB, an announcement quickly followed by the one of Moody’s, which, chose to leave the one of Italy unchanged. Later this months the S&P’s maintained Spain’s rating at A- with a positive outlook, opening the debate on a future increase in the short run. In a climate of Bond Rallies, those decisions drove investors to rush on those countries’ bonds, as well as those of their neighbors. What parameters did rating agencies consider in their assessment? What can we expect from the apparent recovery of “Mediterranean” economies in the debt capital markets, both sovereign and corporate?
Facts and Macro Explanations
In Portugal, the reforms undertaken by the government over the last years appear to pay off as the countries’ economy is expected to grow between 1,5% and 1,7% during the next two years. Moreover, Portugal is expected to record a budgetary surplus (including the debt reimbursement) by 2020, allowing them to reduce their debt to GDP ratio. Enough for S&P’s to upgrade the countries’ credit rating.
Net contributions to real GDP growth (Portugal) | In percentage points
Sources: Banco de Portugal and Statistics Portugal
The picture seems a little less bright for Italy where the Treasury revised its GDP Growth estimate to 0,1% , after slipping into recession in the second half of 2018. Moody’s decision appears to be more motivated by next week’s agenda and it still unclear whether the other rating agencies will also postpone report scheduled at the end of May. Indeed, the vote on 2020’s budget proposal is scheduled next month and the possible increase of the Value Added tax with it. Moreover, the outcome of the EU election is likely to have an impact on the Government’s policy.
In Spain, S&P’s decided to maintain the current rating of A- with a positive outlook, although some analysts were expecting to see it rise. The agency pointed out that their position could evolve in the coming months if the government manages to consolidate the deficit level and improve the payout of exterior debt. On the political side, the outcome of the Catalonia crisis and the anticipated election could also be preponderant. The Spanish economy is expected to grow at 2,2% this year and then deaccelerate as the economic cycle will mature, sustained by a growing internal demand, according to S&P’s. The rating agency also expects the private consumption to rise as salaries will keep growing. Nevertheless, the recent growth of the minimum salary could reduce the pace of new employments creation.
Consequence on Sovereign Bond Markets
Shortly after Moody’s decision to leave Italy’s Baa3 credit rating unchanged, the Italian Treasury 10y Bond yield was pushed to 2.42%, its lowest since May 2018. Its spread over Germany’s narrowed to its tightest since last September at 234 basis points, far from its end of 2018’s level when it crossed the 300bp.
On its side, Portugal’s 10y bond yield dropped to its lowest in at least 25 years, to 1.25%. This only confirmed the market trend as the gap over Germany has narrowed by about 30 basis points since the start of the year and was last at about 137 basis points after investors rallied on the German Bond, pushing it to negative levels.
At the end, Spanish 10y Yield curve could be even more significant to analyze investors views on the region. Indeed, if S&P’s announcements on Spain didn’t influence consequently its 10y Yield curve, the one on Portugal’s upgrade had it decreased by 4.5%. Now looking back to the last 6 months, the Spanish curve went from 1,73% to 1,10% since October, showing investors overall optimism on the region.
Spain Generic Govt 10Y Yield
To recall, Spain broke a national record on its 10-year bond sale last January, with about 47 billion euros of orders on a 10 billion-euro issue. This paved the way for Italy and Portugal to go out in the market. But the most iconic case is surely the one of Greece that issued its first 10y Note in the last decade after Moody’s improved the country’s credit rating to B1 with stable Outlook. This allowed Athens to capitalize on it and go test investors’ confidence after the mixed success of a previous a shorter-term bond sale two months before. In the meantime, yields on old 10y bonds dropped to their lowest since 2006 (It is currently trading around 3.77%). To recall, Greece is just going out of one the biggest recession in its history and was disabled to issue new bonds, receiving emergency loans from the EU and the IMF for financing. This drove the Government Bond 10y yield to a record high of 48.60% back in 2012.
First sovereign issuers, then corporates?
It is usual to see banks benefit from countries upgrades, especially in southern Europe. This time, the upgrade of Portugal’s rating was quickly followed by S&P’s rising Santander’s long and short-term credit rating in Portugal to BBB and A-2. In Spain, Fitch improved Abanca’s rating to BBB- and F3, meaning that the Galician bank is now considered as Investment Grade. In the meantime, it increased Liberbank’s rating from BB to BB+ with a stable outlook.
It could not take so long to see the trend spreading to companies which are partly owned by local governments or with the biggest exposure to such economies.
Sources : Reuters, Bloomberg, S&P’s, Moody’s, Fitch
The recent EURUSD spot move is drawing a new FX world picture. The acceleration of the move has been quite unusual for the last 5years (between the summers 2014 and today EURUSD spot lost almost 25%).
The market seems consolidating the current level around 1.0500-1.0700 which gives us the opportunity to analyze the situation.
What has changed in the EURUSD market which can explain this spot acceleration?
We can easily find arguments to demonstrate that what happened was predictable but without back trading consideration lets summarize some facts.
At the countries levels, Europe has to manage social tensions and political crisis. Greece, Ukraine, France (extreme right party increase) are elements which can explain the lack of trust in European countries to manage those issues. Terrorism represents as well in Europe a threat particularly imminent. European institutions have, by consequences, to deal between urgent threats with heavy political process and unlikely consensus making any solution very slow.
At the financial level, Central banks seem more and more isolated with a bigger distance with real problematic and finally a panel of solution quite limited to fix the economic situation. The SNB PEG release has been the perfect demonstration of this situation. By unexpected decision EURCHF collapsed from 1.2000 to 0.8500 in less than one day, making the FX market much more volatile and strengthening the trust issue in those institutions. All CHF exporters have seen their margins considerably reduced by that decision jeopardizing the Swiss economy. Even if the PEG was probably very expensive to maintain and unilateral decision created an extra tension to a situation already uncomfortable. In Europe, ECB decision to unleash QE seems to convince less than in the others countries due to the fact that it is difficult for nineteen Europeans nations to do the same thing. In New Momentum, we saw a lot of our customers (corporates and Institutional) believe finally in a limited centrals banks impact on the economic world.
What are the market anticipation and why the idea of breaking the parity is more and more credible?
One of the best way to have the market feelings about a trend is reflected in the market prices and more particularly in the FX options pricing. Why those products particularly because every parameter is priced: the level of volatility given by the implied volatilities and the smile which included the asymmetry between the upside or downside level (given by the Risk Reversal or RR).
The implied volatilities for example moved from the lowest levels ever this summers at a level almost three time higher (3 Months implied volatility moved from 4.88% the 30june14 to 11.31% actually (Bloomberg source)). The acceleration of the move is as important as the current level itself because it traduces the market tension with the current situation. All the elements explain in the previous part contributed for sure for a good part of it but the technical level of the current spot around 1.0500 very close of the psychological level of the parity maintains a high level of uncertainty. Let´s relativize a bit those levels, in capital market world, FX remains an asset with the lowest volatilities. For example Lehman crisis brought EURUSD 3 Months implied volatility at 23% when the VIX reached more than 45%. Last point, does an asset with 25% move in few months is worth 11% vol Implied? The ratio seems to us still interesting even if the best level of the last summer seems definitively gone.
The smile component completed this analysis by the information regarding a trend. The 3 months 25d RR is quoting 2.10% PUT EUR over, it means that a PUT EUR 25d (strike 1.0165 with 1.0600 spot) will have a volatility 2.10% higher than CALL EUR 25d (strike 1.1003 with 1.0600spot). In other word the market is paying more to buy a hedge in the downside than the upside. Higher is the extra cost, more the market is ready to pay for the downside. To translate that with the market data the 3 months 25d RR moved from 0.55% PUT EUR over this summer at 2.10% currently, or almost 4 times higher.
The Graphic above shows the 3 Months Implied volatility and 3 Months 25d Risk Reversal, confirming all the elements explained above with first an Implied volatility much higher and Risk reversal paying more for PUT EUR (-0.55% to -2.10%). The green curve reflects the spread and we see that during the last summer we were in a configuration where volatility and smile were the cheapest. It traduces a very interesting idea probably more explicit in the graphics below that PUT EUR 25d was on its cheapest level.
Between this summer and today, the PUT EUR 25d increased from 5.30% to 12.67%. This reflects all the ideas expressed above, the market prices the bearish trend much more than 8 months ago. An interesting exercise can complete this demonstration, let´s consider the current spot 1.0600 (to be able to compare the volatility and smile effect we will assume a constant spot at 1.0600) and let´s take the 01july2014 market data and the current one:
01july2014 : EUR PUT 25d with Spot at 1.0600 would be equivalent to a strike of 1.0415
17march2015 : EUR PUT 25d with Spot at 1.0600 is equivalent to a strike of 1.0202
What does that mean? If we had the July market data today, the strike would be closer than the current spot. The fact that we see more than 200pips between the two strikes reflects that today the market anticipates a much bigger potential on a downside movement. A corporate exposed to a EURUSD lower will have to pay a more expensive premium to get a hedge at a similar strike.
The previous elements finally have shown that the market anticipates all the current events as a serious and credible risk for EUR against USD (or others currencies). It would be probably interesting to quantify that risk and get some answer about a potential timing. Once again a part of the answer will be given by the market pricing but instead of considering vanillas options we will focus on One Touch options which reflects the price during a maturity to touch a certain level. On a spot ref of 1.0600, a 3 Month One Touch 1.0000 is priced 28% and a 6 Months One touch around 50%. In other words, the EURUSD Spot has 50% to reach 1.0000 in 6 months regarding the market anticipation.
Beside the mathematics, what would change a break of the parity?
Let´s consider another effect very important and probably underestimated by the market, the psychological impact of a EURUSD below the parity. In New Momentum, we see a lot of customer under hedge on a level below 1.0000. That fact mixed with the bank risk aversion is creating a perfect situation for an acceleration below the parity. It means that the market is probably long EUR and will contribute to a panic situation when everyone will run behind their exposures. A lot of market experience disappears from the banks with the new bonus regulation, making the market with less memories than before. The recent EURCHF movement can give us a good idea of what can be a market panicking. Even if for the moment we believe in a consolidation of the spot (if any politic announcement or critical event happens), however we are firmly convinced than below the parity all the negative effects will accelerate the trend.