The euro has fallen to the same value as the US Dollar, with 1 EUR being worth exactly 1 USD, according to many forex traders who have been keeping a close eye on the market. This is big news as this is the first time their values have been equal in 20 years.
One of the main reasons that the euro has lost its value is the conflict in Ukraine. Russia, which invaded Ukraine at the end of February, is one of the main suppliers of gas to Europe. However, it’s thought that Russia will retaliate against western sanctions by completely cutting off the gas supply to Europe.
This uncertainty amid rumours that the 10-day scheduled shutdown of the Nord Stream 1 could be made permanent has contributed to the energy crisis in the UK.
Unfortunately for us in Europe, it’s not good news. With many countries already on the cusp of a recession, the euro losing its value isn’t going to help the situation. The fall of the euro confirms the fact that current political situations and the energy crisis are going to have a knock-on effect on our bank accounts.
Unfortunately, the pound is also unable to escape the dip in the European economy. So far, the pound has reached its lowest rate since March 2020, when the pandemic hit.
In practical terms, this means that imports such as food will become more expensive, pushing our monthly food bills upwards. We’ll also see an increase in commodities such as petrol. For those going abroad on holiday this summer, it’s not good news either. With a weaker pound, families will get less for their money when buying abroad.
Although it may seem like a lot of doom and gloom, we haven’t entered into a recession yet. So, there’s always the potential that the times of hardship will pass, and the currency values will climb back up to their levels before conflict breaks out in Europe.
However, on the other end of the scale, there is also the possibility that the pound and euro will continue to fall, leading to a full-blown recession. On the other hand, the dollar has remained strong throughout, so it’s clear that the recession is just Europe-wide.
What will happen for certain? Only time will tell.
The Bank of Russia said this move by the West, as well as discussions about a potential seizure of the frozen part of reserves, would prompt other central banks, such as those in the Middle East and Asia, to reconsider their savings strategies.
"One could expect an increase in demand for gold and a decline in the US dollar's and the euro's role as reserve assets," the Russian central bank said in a report on financial stability.
"One of the results of the imposed sanctions restrictions for the foreign exchange market was the tendency to increase the use of currencies alternative to the US dollar and the euro.”
The value of the pound sank precipitously on Friday, falling by more than 1% against the euro and the dollar after UK prime minister Boris Johnson’s warning on Thursday that a no-deal Brexit remained a “strong possibility”.
Sterling fell 1.3% against the euro to €1.089 and against the dollar to $1.3204 in early London trading.
The pound has been under continuous pressure since Wednesday, when Johnson and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen confirmed that “significant differences” were yet to be bridged after trade negotiations in Brussels.
The UK and EU are currently deadlocked over questions of their post-Brexit relationship, with main sticking points including competition rules and fishing rights in UK waters. The two sides have set a deadline of Sunday to reach an agreement and prevent a “no-deal” scenario that would likely cause economic chaos.
"We need to be very, very clear there's now a strong possibility that we will have a solution that's much more like an Australian relationship with the EU, than a Canadian relationship with the EU," Johnson said. Unlike Canada, Australia does not have a comprehensive trade deal with the EU, and most of its trade is subject to tariffs.
However, the UK as a nation conducts far more trade with the EU – around 47% of its overall trade compared with Australia’s 15%.
“With the UK now looking like it’s hurtling towards a no-deal Brexit, investors should adopt the brace position for swings in sterling and shares in domestic focused companies,” said Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.
Whether or not a deal is achieved, the UK’s temporary trade arrangements with the EU will expire on 31 December.
Amidst the recent shock resignations of Brexit Secretary David Davis and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, investment uncertainty, slower economic growth and a weaker pound, the United Kingdom is on its way to a slow but steady Brexit, with negotiations about the future relations between the UK and the EU still taking place.
And whilst the full consequences of Britain’s vote to leave the EU are still not perceptible, Finance Monthly examines the effects of the vote on economic activity in the country thus far.
Do you remember the Leave campaign’s red bus with the promise of £350 million per week more for the NHS? Two years after the referendum that confirmed the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, the cost of Brexit to the UK economy is already £40bn and counting. Giving evidence to the Treasury Committee two months ago, the Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney said the 2016 leave vote had already knocked 2% off the economy. This means that households are currently £900 worse off than they would have been if the UK decided to remain in the EU. Mr. Carney also added that the economy has underperformed Bank of England’s pre-referendum forecasts “and that the Leave vote, which prompted a record one-day fall in sterling, was the primary culprit”.
Moreover, recent analysis by the Centre for European Reform (CER) estimates that the UK economy is 2.1% smaller as a result of the Brexit decision. With a knock-on hit to the public finances of £23 billion per year, or £440 million per week, the UK has been losing nearly £100 million more, per week, than the £350 million that could have been ‘going to the NHS’.
Whether you’re pro or anti-Brexit, the facts speak for themselves – the UK’s economic growth is worsening. Even though it outperformed expectations after the referendum, the economy only grew by 0.1% in Q1, making the UK the slowest growing economy in the G7. According to the CER’s analysis, British economy was 2.1 % smaller in Q1 2018 than it would have been if the referendum had resulted in favour of Remain.
To illustrate the impact of Brexit, Chart 1 explores UK real growth, as opposed to that of the euro area between Q1 2011 and Q1 2018.
As Francesco Papadia of Bruegel, the European think tank that specialises in economics, notes, the EU has grown at a slower rate than the UK for most of the ‘European phase of the Great Recession’. However, since the beginning of 2017, only six months after the UK’s decision to leave the EU, the euro area began growing more than the UK.
Reflecting on the effect of Brexit for the rest of 2018, Sam Hill at RBC Capital Markets says that although real income growth should return, it is still expected to result in sub-par consumption growth. Headwinds to business investment could persist, whilst the offset from net trade remains underwhelming.”
All of these individual calculations and predictions are controversial, but producing estimates is a challenging task. However, what they show at this stage is that the Brexit vote has thus far left the country poorer and worse off, with the government’s negotiations with the EU threatening to make the situation even worse. Will Brexit look foolish in a decade’s time and is all of this a massive waste of time and money? Or is the price going to be worth it – will we see the ‘Brexit dream’ that campaigners and supporters believe in? Too many questions and not enough answers – and the clock is ticking faster than ever.
Refugee crisis, political turbulences, economic struggles brought on by austerity and Brexit. Katina Hristova explores the crisis that the European Union has found itself in.
"The fragility of the EU is increasing. The cracks are growing in size”, warns EU Commission Chief Jean-Claude Juncker. With Italy’s Government crisis finally being resolved and the country’s shocking rejection of NGO migrant rescue boats, it has been easy to detract from the political earthquake that the third largest EU economy experienced and the quick impact that it had on the Euro. But Europe’s problems go deeper than Italy’s political turbulences. A month ago, Spain, the fourth biggest Eurozone economy, was faced with a very similar crisis and even though the country now has a new leader, analysts believe that the Spanish instability is not over yet. With the shockwaves of both countries’ political uncertainty being felt on Eurozone markets, on top of migration pitting southern Europe against the north and as the UK marches on towards Brexit whilst Trump abandons the Iran Nuclear Deal, which could mean the end of the transatlantic alliance between the US and Europe, is the EU in serious trouble?
Why is it so serious?
Billionaire Investor George Soros is one of those people that can sense when social change is needed and when the current cultural and political processes are about to collapse. A month ago, in a speech at the European Council on Foreign Relations, Soros claimed that: “for the past decade, everything that could go wrong has gone wrong”, believing that the European Union is already in the midst of an ‘existential crisis’. The post-2008 policy of economic austerity, or reducing a country’s deficits at any cost, created a conflict between Germany and Greece and worsened the relationship between wealthy and struggling EU nations, creating two classes – debtors and creditors. Greece and other debtor nations had sluggish economies and high unemployment rates, struggling to meet the conditions their creditors set, which resulted in resentment on both sides toward the European Union. Back in 2012, the European countries that struggled with immense debt, malfunctioning banks and constant budget deficits and needed help from other member countries were Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain. In order to help them the creditors countries set conditions that the debtors were expected to meet, but struggled to do so. And as Soros points out: “This created a relationship that was neither voluntary nor equal – the very opposite of the credo on which the EU was based”.
Although Italy finally has a government, after nearly three months without one, the financial markets are apprehensive about what to expect next, considering the country’s €2.1 trillion debt and inflexible labour market. On 29 May, fearing the political crisis in the country, the Euro EURUSD, +0.6570% slid to a six-month low, whilst European stocks ended sharply lower, with Italy’s FTSE MIB I945, +1.43% ending 2.7% lower, building on the previous week’s sharp losses. Bill Adams, senior international economist at PNC believes that: “The situation serves as a reminder that political risk in the Euro area hasn’t gone away. Italy is not on an irrevocable road to anything at this point,” he said. “I think what is most likely is another election later this year, and what we’ve learned is that outcomes of elections are very unpredictable.”
Spain on the other hand has made huge progress since being on ‘EU life support’ when ‘its banks were sinking and ratings agencies valued its debt at a notch above junk, on a par with Azerbaijan’. Since receiving help, the country’s economy has been growing, unemployment is not as high and its credit rating has been restored. However, with the Catalonia separatism, and the parties, Podemos and Ciudadanos who have emerged to challenge the old duopoly between the Popular Party (PP) and the Socialists, the political uncertainty in the country is set to continue.
Greece has been in a permanent state of crisis for a decade now, with its current debt of 180% of its gross domestic product (in comparison, Italy's is 133%). In less than two months, on 20 August, the country is due to exit its intensive care administered by the European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund. The EU will then have to come up with a new debt relief offer on the $280 billion Greece still owes – which could be challenging, as the ‘creditors’ are not in a charitable mood.
In contrast, Poland and Hungary are financially stable, however, both countries seem to be in opposition to the EU with regards to immigration, the independence of the judiciary, ‘democratic values’ and freedom of the press. Both governments have dismissed EU plans to share the burden that the Mediterranean region carries in terms of migrants arriving into these countries. In addition to this, Hungary’s Prime Minister is promoting an ‘illiberal’ alternative to European consensus, whilst Poland has sided with the US and against its European partners on a range of subjects, including the Iran sanctions and Russian gas pipelines.
And of course, let’s not forget the EU’s list of unsolved issues – the main one being Brexit. With nine months until its deadline, the terms of Britain’s exit from the EU are nowhere near finalised.
Make the EU an association that countries want to join again
Today, young people across the continent see the European Union as the enemy, whilst populist politicians have exploited these resentments, creating anti-European parties and movements.
Since its establishment, the EU, an association that was founded to offer freedom, security and justice without internal borders, has survived many turbulences. Although the current crisis is based on a number of deep-rooted problems, odds are that these challenges will be overcome. To save the EU, Soros believes that it needs to reinvent itself via a ‘genuinely grassroots effort’ which allows member countries more choice than is currently afforded.
"Instead of a multi-speed Europe, the goal should be a 'multi-track Europe' that allows member states a wider variety of choices. This would have a far-reaching beneficial effect."
And even though he isn’t offering a proposition for a bill that someone needs to draft and pass as soon as possible, he has opened a conversation - a conversation about moving away from the EU’s unsustainable structure. “The idea of Europe as an open society continues to inspire me”, says Soros. And in order to survive, it will have to reinvent itself.
According to many reports, Italy’s ongoing political failure has potential to bring the Eurozone crashing down, which in turn could cause mass impact across the globe’s economy, both short term and long term.
In a recent turnoff events, both parties Five Star Movement and Lega Nord have been committed to the Italian government following a period of limbo since the March general election. Italy currently represents almost a fifth in the Eurozone economy and is feared as “too big to be saved.” Giuseppe Conte has been appointed the interim PM.
Below Finance Monthly has collected Your Thoughts in this financial debacle, summarising some points of expertise form top reputable sources across Europe.
Daniele Fraiette, Senior Economist, Dun & Bradstreet:
Italy’s new prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, will need to try and strike a balance between reassuring European partners about Italy’s permanence in the eurozone, and the 5SM’s and NL’s overt intolerance towards European Union rules on budgets and immigration.
In the weeks before the resolution of the crisis, Italian bond yields rose to levels only seen at the peak of the debt crisis in 2012, dragging yields on other peripheral euro-zone economies’ debt higher. The spread between Italy’s 10-year government bonds and Germany’s equivalent-maturity bonds also soared, passing the 330 basis point mark. The political vacuum seems now to have been filled; however, the spread remains at levels which signal significant market concerns around the country. The end of the ECB’s bond-buying is an additional factor of concern as they could prompt a significant increase in Italy’s borrowing costs.
Italy’s overall macroeconomic environment has improved remarkably over the past years: real GDP grew by 1.5% in 2017 and looks set to expand further in the 2018-19 period, the current account surplus currently stands at around 3% of GDP and its debt service cost has dropped to below 4% of GDP, down from above 6% before the introduction for the single currency. However, at 132% of GDP, Italy’s stock of public debt is huge, and the ongoing political turmoil poses a threat to the country’s stability. Indeed, should the political crisis morph into a sovereign debt crisis, debt costs would soar and debt service become unsustainable.
If Italy defaulted on its debt (which is not Dun & Bradstreet’s baseline scenario given Italy’s strong domestic investor base), the survival of the eurozone would be irreparably compromised. There is also a risk that concerns over a possible referendum on the euro, repeatedly contemplated by the 5SM and the NL but eventually scrapped from their election manifestos, could trigger a flight of deposits from Italian banks, many of which remain saddled with high levels of non-performing loans.
Although the darkest hour of Italy’s politics seems to be over, tensions between the Italian government and the EU, as well as within the government itself, are highly likely to persist; political uncertainty will likely remain elevated in the quarters ahead and the risk of early elections constantly looming.
After the longest political crisis in Italian history, a new cabinet of ministers was appointed on Saturday. Technically, the new government needs the confidence vote of both chambers of the Italian parliament, but it seems likely that the vote will go in favour of the odd alliance between the 5stars movement and the Lega.
In the closing moments of his BBC TV commentary for the 1966 FIFA World Cup Final, Kenneth Wolstenholme said "They think it's all over," but in reality it was not! This is, more or less, what is happening now. Most Italians are happy that it is over and we are back to normal, however, in realty this is only the beginning.
Local elections are scheduled for the 10th of June, and both the Lega and M5S will campaign on different and opposite barricades. Campaigns can easily turn ugly in Italy, and the first objective of the new government will be to survive these next few weeks without any major clash between the two parties.
In fact, the new local elections will be the first referendum against Europe and the Eurozone.
As Italians, we always have difficulty owning up to our responsibilities, that is the way we are, and we have become experts in the art of shifting the blame onto others. Germany has, for many reasons, been the perfect target since the end of WWII.
The notion of external control was actually one of the factors that convinced Italian lawmakers and politicians to join the European Union in the first place. This is because, if anything goes wrong, or is hard to swallow and unpopular, the blame falls on the EU as an external body- and obviously the Germans!
This may be a hopeless situation... but it is not serious, like in the 1965 movie directed by Reinhardt.
I do not think that the Eurosceptic have been strengthened from the last Italian elections. The truth is that most people are not ashamed to feel anti-EU (given that the EU has served as a punching ball and a symbolic cradle-of-all-evil over the past decades). Two non-traditional political movements are only going to cash in on this feeling.
Italy’s political climate will have a consequential effect on the Eurozone and the European Union. I am convinced that the Lega is aware that we cannot leave the EU or the Euro (I cannot speak for the M5S since I do not think they have any policy or line at all), but they are also aware that the other Euro partners cannot afford Italy’s break from the Euro or the EU.
The current anti-European feeling will undoubtedly be used as a bargaining chip for other purposes, for example, to stop immigration or, even better, to accelerate the process of moving immigrants from Italy. If Germany and the EU play this the hard way it could be fun to watch, although, as an Italian, it will be painful. On the flip side, it could be the perfect opportunity to change the EU, although, while Lega and M5S are calling for a new and stronger Europe, nobody knows (including Lega and M5S) what a “stronger Europe” really means. My idea of a stronger Europe … I fear it is exactly the opposite of the idea of the Lega.
The situation is unpredictable, some of the measures that form part of the “Contract” between Lega and M5S could have a beneficial impact on our economy, although the Italian debt will skyrocket and in the long term, this would have a devastating effect.
The real problem will be the Italian State rating and the Italian bank rating. If the new government leads to a downgrading, the ECB will not be allowed to acquire our State bonds. Due to this, quantative easing measures will cease to help our growth, and the banks will collapse.
Italian economics are already not brilliant (that is lawyerlish for awful). We are the slowest growing European member, our private sector has never driven, and our banks … well our banks are declining.
We are already a supermarket for foreign corporations; Chinese, Indian, USA and other European companies have already acquired most of the jewels of the crown in terms of brand know-how, and excellence. Despite this, if anything goes wrong, we will become a discount or outlet!
On the other hand, our history shows that Italy always manages to survive, after all, on April 25th each year we celebrate the victory against nazi-fascism in WWII.
Giuliano Noci, Professor of Strategy and Marketing, Politecnico di Milano School of Management:
Following a week of political uncertainty in Italy, international financial markets are recovering well. Analysts expect that the announcement of a new government and the unlikelihood of fresh elections indicate that no further disruption will occur.
However, the root causes of how Italy landed in this particular political situation – where the young Five Star movement and Matteo Salvini’s League won more than half the votes in parliament – must not be ignored.
Both parties – although internationally scorned for Eurosceptic views – were able to gain the support of the Italian population, playing on both their emotions and feelings of insecurity. Both delivered well-designed storytelling campaigns via social media rather than mainstream media – a technique neglected by other parties.
The population’s insecurity has two main manifestations. Firstly, the feeling that the EU did not do enough to help Italy during the mass immigration of refugees of Syrian war. Secondly, the sense that the EU is failing Italy in important economic areas. Five Star promised a basic income for the unemployed whilst they train and upskill, and the League pledged to reduce the burden of fiscal taxation on companies by introducing a flat tax system.
So, are the parties reaching the core of Italy’s problems and setting out the right solutions? This is a question which deserves careful consideration. In my opinion, the parties were wrong to use aggressive tactics to fuel the debate about whether to remain in the EU. However, they were very right to suggest that the European Union must significantly change the rules of the game. We are seeing problems not only in Italy, but in Greece, Spain and perhaps even France in the imminent future.
These are signs that the Eurozone is not working, which is most likely because the Euro project is incomplete. Although we have a unique currency, there is no unique system for managing the risk of banks or the unbalanced, heterogenous economic systems of each country.
In the long run, a lack of reforms will create a bigger problem for the Eurogroup than Italy’s political situation. Change must come from within the EU following this situation and discussions of structural reforms in the banking sectors, as well as a safety net fund, must begin.
If no change occurs, the 2019 EU elections are likely to be just as complex as Italy’s.
Stephen Jones, Chief Investment Officer, Kames Capital:
Following Macron’s victory, the eurozone was the ‘good news’ story of 2017 as the area’s economy burst into life and global investors returned in droves. This year has seen economic momentum collapse sharply and, perhaps more than coincidentally, populist pressures have brought the fault lines back to the fore. For the moment this is an Italian issue but these pressures exist in most eurozone nations.
Equity markets have weakened on these changes but Italian worries have largely reinforced a trend already in place. Elevated ratings, and analysts offering a very rosy earnings outlook, left markets vulnerable to poor news and a variety of geo-political developments have emerged to offer that challenge; fat profits were there to be taken.
These risk markets setbacks have, however, taken the steam out of rising short rate and long yield forecasts and will probably succeed in ensuring that quantitative easing is continued in Europe for longer than might otherwise have been the case. When the dust settles, this should underpin equity markets, allowing progress to be made afresh and from safer levels; the positive earnings outlook offered by analysts have good real-world support.
However, to be clear, this supposes that Italy stops short of turning a drama into a crisis. Those of us of a certain vintage know well enough that Italian politics are not to be trusted.
Jordan Hiscott, Chief Trader, ayondo markets:
I was recently asked If I thought the current situation in Italy, in regard to potentially leaving the EU, was a black swan event. My response was no; a grey swan would be a much more suitable adjective to describe Italy in its current state. The ultimate definition of this would be a risk event that can be anticipated to a certain degree but still considered unlikely. A black swan being an event that is not anticipated in the slightest.
Italy has the third largest economy in the Eurozone and this political turmoil, of once again populist vote, threatens the unity of the bloc. But the situation is further exacerbated by the perilous state of Italian banks. Indeed, this is nothing new and they have been in the poor shape for a while, and the only surprising part to me is that the market hasn’t been paying attention to this, until now.
The culmination of the situation is we now have a perfect storm. Another type of a coalition government has been formed and the cynic in me looks at Italian politics on a historical basis and questions if this is this indeed the end of an unstable ruling government or in the colloquial sense, papering over the cracks? This is coupled with a worsening financial situation for the nation’s major banks. The move on Italian two-year treasury yields last week was nothing short of astounding, with the range and volatility more akin to a cryptocurrency than of a bond from a first world country.
The Italian stock market is now almost completely unchanged on a five-day basis, given it was down over 7% at once stage last week. In addition, to confirm this, EURUSD has moved from a low of 1.1520 last week to 1.1750. The next move will be key, but from my perspective I’m finding it hard to feel positive, even from a mean reversion perspective, for the pair, given the length and weighted negative implications surrounding Italy at present.
April LaRusse, Fixed Income Product Specialist, Insight Investment:
In contrast to the European sovereign crisis, Italy is now an idiosyncratic story. Across Europe, the previous crisis hit countries such as Spain, Greece and Portugal are all on an improving path, reaping the rewards of structural reforms implemented after the crisis. In Italy, pension reforms were certainly a positive step, but the country failed to undertake the deeper changes needed to sustainably raise potential growth.
The two key parties are proposing a range of expansionary fiscal measures, cutting both income and corporate taxes and proposing a minimum citizens income of €780 per month. Although more controversial measures, such as asking the European Central Bank (ECB) to write off up to €250bn of Italian debt, have been dropped, investors will be well aware that these were considered serious policy proposals by elements of the new government.
Debt/GDP will start to rise once again and credit rating agencies are likely to start to downgrade Italian debt, in contrast to the rest of Europe where credit ratings are improving. This leaves us cautious on Italian spreads, especially in an environment where we believe the ECB will be winding down its quantitative easing purchases.
David Jones, Chief Market Strategist, Capital.com:
There is a familiar feel to the catalyst behind the increased levels of volatility that traders and investors have seen across all markets, leaving some wondering if we are going to have another Eurozone crisis along the lines of that involving Greece from 2016. At this stage that does seem like an overly-pessimistic view, but it’s not hard to understand why safe-haven buying is the order of the day.
An oft-repeated phrase from past Eurozone crises was “kicking the can down the road”, referring to deferring that country’s debt obligations. This time around it feels as if the political can, rather than the financial one is being kicked into the long grass - and this is what is spooking markets. One of the main worries for traders is another election in a few months could result in a populist government that wants to renegotiate Italy’s debt with the EU. This is running at around 130% of the country’s GDP - the second highest level after, you guessed it, Greece.
The obviously immediate casualty was the euro. It had hit a three-year high against the US dollar as recently as February this year. Since then it’s dropped back by around 8% to its lowest level since last July. There is a double-whammy behind traders’ decisions to sell euros. Clearly any uncertainty about Italy’s debt repayments and the country's commitment to the single currency doesn’t inspire confidence - plus this year already we have seen a resurgence in popularity for the US dollar after its slide in 2017 was the worst performance for more than a decade. It can always be argued that the market reaction is overdone - but whilst Italy’s political future remains uncertain, it’s a brave trader who calls the bottom of this slide.
European stock markets have also been hit. The Italian market is the obvious biggest casualty and is now down by 13% in just one month - but the German and UK markets are also lower as investors adopt the familiar “risk-off” approach at the slightest whiff of a possible euro crisis. Many world stock markets already had some fragility when it comes to investor sentiment after the sharp falls seen in February and an ever-increasing oil price - it is difficult to see these recent losses being made back quickly.
While some sort of “dead cat bounce” can’t be ruled out in the days ahead, as long as this political can-kicking continues, then investors are likely to remain cautious about taking on risk - so it could be a summer of European-inspired volatility across all asset types.
Tertius Bonnin, Investment Analyst, EQ Investors:
This had been a slow moving car crash in which the signs have been there for all to see; populist parties were the clear winners of the March election (nearly three months ago) and the two largest parties, the Five Star Movement and the Northern League, had been negotiating a framework for co-governance since. Surprisingly, a number of market participants had expressed that they didn’t anticipate the “change” in attitude of the two famously Eurosceptic parties towards the euro. It should be noted that Italy isn’t new to political uncertainty, with Italian voters seeing 62 governments since 1946.
The Italian President’s veto of the proposed finance minister, Paolo Savona, and the subsequent increase in the probability of another election caused a kneejerk reaction in the markets on Monday. These moves spilled into the Tuesday session as the Monday was a bank holiday in the US and UK. Trading volumes on the Monday were therefore relatively thin in comparison. Tuesday saw huge spikes in key barometers of relative risk such as the Italian-German government bond spread (difference in yield) and the Italian two year bond yield. Global banking stocks, considered most sensitive to a change in economic activity, also sold off. Despite the so called PIGS (Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain) taking significant knocks, investors in relatively safe government bonds (German bunds, UK gilts and US treasuries) benefited from a “flight to safety” whereby panicked investors moved capital into less risky assets.
There had briefly been calls by the Five Star Movement’s leader to impeach President Mattarella. Under Article 90 of the Italian constitution, parliament may demand the president to step down after securing a simple majority. Italy’s constitutional court would theoretically then decide whether or not to impeach Mr Mattarella. Given the president had not violated any Italian laws, this route appeared relatively futile. On this impasse, the populist coalition appeared to have collapsed and the market took a collective sigh of relief as the Italian President moved to appoint ex-IMF director Carlo Cottarelli to run a short-term technocratic administration until the next set of elections. It should be noted that the Five Star Movement, the Northern League and Berlusconi’s party all said they would have vetoed this.
It is likely this development fed into the Northern League’s decision to call for fresh elections at a political rally, having seen an uplift of circa 8% in opinion polling. Investors once again panicked that the risk of future elections had the potential to not only reinforce the populist parties’ positions in both parliamentary chambers, but become a de facto referendum on Italy’s euro membership. After 2017 being relatively benign year for political risk, investors had been caught asleep at the wheel in terms of pricing in uncertainty in the political sphere.
By Friday the situation had turned around once again after the Italian President provided more time for the Five Star and Northern League parties to form a government; the former designate Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte was sworn into office while the key Finance Minister role went to a seemingly more pro-European, Giovanni Tria, who headed the Economy Faculty at Rome’s Tor Vergata University. Paolo Savona, the former candidate vetoed for this position will now serve as Minister for European Affairs in a sign that the new administration’s focus will be on fiscal expansion plans and rolling back reforms, rather than investor angst around fresh elections and euro membership. This rollercoaster ride in political uncertainty has been tracked by the spike in yield of the supposedly risk-free Italian government bond.
We would also love to hear more of Your Thoughts on this, so feel free to comment below and tell us what you think!
Business Insider spoke with Dharshini David, economist, broadcaster, and author of "The Almighty Dollar." David talked about why the Euro hasn't challenged the Dollar as an international currency, despite being used by more people than the American currency. She also talked about how the Yuan could become the world's dominant currency.
S&P Global Ratings said that its top 50 rated European banks turned a corner last year, a decade after the start of the financial crisis, and are likely to continue down this brighter path in 2018, according to the report, ‘The Top Trends Shaping Major European Banks In 2018’.
Idiosyncratic developments aside, there was clear forward momentum, culminating in a raft of positive rating actions (outlook changes and upgrades) across a number of European banking systems in the third and fourth quarters.
"These actions reflected principally our view of improving economic risks, helped by massive monetary stimulus from central banks, and supportive industry risks, notwithstanding the emergence of fundamental long-term business model challenges," said S&P Global Ratings credit analyst Giles Edwards.
Elsewhere, for example in Sweden and Germany, our concern about looming asset bubbles receded somewhat. What's more, for a few banks, we recognized a strengthening in their balance sheets, typically improving capitalization or a growing bail-in buffer.
We start 2018 with no fewer than 15 of the top 50 European banks carrying a positive outlook and only three with negative outlooks on the issuer credit ratings (ICRs), suggesting that this should be another year of generally positive ratings developments.
Under this supportive base case, here are trends we expect to play out in 2018:
|Slightly improving profitability, aided by improving economic activity, sustained low NPA formation, and efficiency measures to offset weak revenue growth.
|Improved dividend-paying capacity.
|Generally stable balance sheets owing to solid economic conditions, modest net lending, NPA stock reduction, and given substantial enhancements in capitalization and funding.
|Copious issuance of subordinated instruments to ramp-up bail-in buffers.
|Further divestment of government stakes in banks such as ABN, AIB, Bankia, and Belfius, rescued in the financial crisis.
|Possibly, the improvement in fortunes of some currently underperforming major banks: Barclays, Commerzbank, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Standard Chartered, and Royal Bank of Scotland.
"However, European banks' progress in areas like NPA reduction and debt issuance and the emerging improvement in economic activity could yet be undone if political risks rise or market conditions deteriorate significantly," Mr. Edwards said.
Furthermore, we continue to monitor the long-term challenges that European banks face:
|Optimizing business models to ensure sufficient and sustainable profitability,
|Leveraging the benefits of the digital era while fending off nimble emerging challengers,
|Delivering effective measures to avoid disruption and franchise damage from cyberattacks and customer data mismanagement.
(Source: S&P Global Ratings)
The pound hit an eight-year low against the euro a few weeks back, with the official exchange rate at €1 to £1.083. At some airports, such as Southampton, travelers were being offered just €0.872 to £1. This represents a 15% reduction in value against the euro since the UK decided to leave the EU and comes as Brexit negotiations are dominating the headlines.
Adaptive Insights VP of United Kingdom and Ireland, Rob Douglas, argues that market fluctuation like this is exactly why businesses need to change their financial planning to be as agile and adaptable as possible. He comments:
“While for many it will be those going holiday that are top of mind as the pound devalues, a much greater concern is how businesses will deal with this fluctuation. Not only will businesses likely be dealing with much greater sums of money and therefore potential loss, but as margins are reduced and prices potentially increased, there will be a knock-on effect across the UK economy that everyone needs to be prepared for.
“Businesses need to be able to bend and flex to changes in exchange rates, while minimising the impact on customers and staff. For many, however, this is not a reality. Recent research shows that over half (60%) of CFOs say it takes five days or more to generate new scenario analyses, enabling them to model the impact of market movements such as this, and yet the majority would like it to be a day or less. This unmet expectation by CFOs sheds a light on the need for a different kind of financial planning that focuses on agility and active planning in nearly real-time to keep pace with the rapid changes in today’s businesses.
“For the UK, uncertainty and volatility is likely to become the new norm, which means businesses need to be prepared for the unknown. While being agile will allow businesses to be more responsive, ‘what-if’ scenarios are also fundamental for businesses to understand the potential consequences of the changing market. After all, many would not have predicted that the pound and euro would reach parity.”
At the current rate of fluctuation, with socio-political uncertainty reeking chaos in the markets, the pound’s performance leaves little to desire. Currency experts are now warning that further in 2017 we could see the pound hitting the same value as the euro.
According to the Sun, analysts have advised towards this possible plunge due to the general election, which resulted in a hung parliament, and the closing on the Brexit deadline.
Holidaymakers that are worried about the potential currency volatility ahead are being told to buy half their currency now and half closer to their break, as the pound could even break below the euro.
Finance Monthly has heard Your Thoughts on the possibility of a British value parity with the euro and included a few of your comments below.
Jonathan Watson, Chief Market Analyst, Foreign Currency Direct:
The prospect of the GBP/EUR exchange rate reaching parity or 1 GBP = 1 EUR has been raised many times over the course of recent events, before and after the Referendum vote. Throughout 2017 analysts have been split as to which direction rates will take, I believe there are two key features which explain why we are here and which will ultimately shape the likelihood of it being achieved.
Parity was almost reached in December 2008 when GBP/EUR hit 1.0227, since then the July 2015 high of 1.4345 had seemed to indicate such lower levels were confined to history. However, since 2016 and the result of the EU Referendum, politics has become the big driver on Sterling. Political concerns too have reached Europe and the failure of Le Pen and Gert Wilders to win any victory has seen the Euro strengthen. There is a German election in September and potentially an Italian vote too to be called in September, but, for now it seems the Euro has survived and this has helped it gain against the politically scarred Pound.
Economic data is the second factor and here too we see the Eurozone outshining the UK growing 0.5% in Q1 2017 against the 0.2% for the UK. Divergence in monetary policy is also key as the UK and the Bank of England could potentially raise interest rates to combat rising Inflation, threatening consumer spending and lowering GDP. Meanwhile the European Central Bank are looking to withdraw stimulus and maybe raise interest rates in the future, helping to further boost the positive sentiments towards the Euro.
Ultimately the prospect of parity is not going away and the outcome of the UK election is vital to determining how likely, as it effects who is on the UK side of negotiations with the EU and how strong their mandate is.
We are only 2 months into the Article 50 window and just coming up to the one year anniversary of the vote on the 23rd June. We have in the grand scheme of history just begun on this path and looking at what is ahead the prospect of parity for GBP/EUR this year remains a very real possibility.
Owain Walters, CEO, Frontierpay:
Ahead of the election, some analysts warned that the value of sterling will reach just £1 to €1. The political uncertainty following the election hasn’t eased the short-term risks to the Pound. However, I would argue that this result will, in the long term, be good news for sterling.
What I believe we will see next, as the Conservatives are forced to form a coalition with the DUP, is that Theresa May’s plan for a ‘hard Brexit’ will be diluted, if not taken off the table entirely. Since the vote to leave the European Union last year, the currency market has, on the whole, not responded well to the dialogue around a “Hard Brexit” and with the influence of a more liberal party in a new coalition government, the idea of a ‘softer’ Brexit will provide support to the Pound and we will see a period of strength.
The significant losses that the SNP has seen will also reduce the chances of a second Scottish independence referendum. While the notion of another Scottish referendum hasn’t done irreparable damage to the pound, taking it off the table at least for the foreseeable future will certainly give the Pound an extra boost.
Patrick Leahy, CFO, JML:
If the political events of the last two years have shown us anything, it is that situations that are improbable are certainly not impossible. Sterling/euro – or even sterling/dollar – parity is not out of the question. Whether you are an importer or exporter of goods or currency, CFOs across the country would rather the whole thing settled down and we had some certainty; but that’s unlikely. So what can you do?
Being in the FMCG market, JML’s short-term retail price is fixed, and it takes a good year to adjust prices. Just look at the large drop in sterling, post Brexit; it is only now that the inflation effect is really starting to trickle through to business and consumers. So, as a CFO with no concrete forecast on what will happen with the rates, you must try to minimise the impact any movement has on your pricing and margin strategy.
As a net importer, UK businesses and especially retailers are always susceptible to falls in rate, pushing up our costs, reducing margins, or lowering volumes. In some ways, the best strategy any business can have to manage exchange risks is to sell to other parts of the world – it’s a natural hedge. But, it is not that simple, because margins in each country are important and you can’t always point to your exchange gains when discussing gross profits with your invoice discount provider.
For retailers, the key is to not overstretch yourself if hedging on currency movement. Regularly and accurately forecasting your business performance is key to achieving this. It’s impossible to know exactly what your currency requirements are in 12 months’ time, but you know you will have some. You might win and lose on currency movements along the way but by slowly building your hedged positions you will have minimised the risks and helped the business achieve its margin along the way.
We would also love to hear more of Your Thoughts on this, so feel free to comment below and tell us what you think!
Credit Suisse delivered a strong and consistent performance in the first quarter, despite adapting to market changes as a result of the Swiss National Bank’s decision in January to discontinue the minimum exchange rate of the Swiss franc against the euro and introduce negative short-term interest rates.
The bank reported net income of CHF 1.1 billion (€1.05 billion), reflecting an increase of 23% compared to the first quarter of 2014.
Credit Suisse reported strong client momentum in Private Banking & Wealth Management with strategic net new assets of CHF 18.4 billion (€17.5 billion) in the quarter. Wealth Management Clients contributed CHF 7 billion (€6.7 billion), driven by strong inflows from Asia Pacific, the Americas and Switzerland. The bank reported total net new assets of CHF 17 billion (€16.2 billion), including CHF 1.4 billion (€1.3 billion) of outflows due to the ongoing regularisation of its asset base.
The first quarter also saw Credit Suisse launch its new advisory offering Credit Suisse Invest, focusing on improving flexibility and transparency for clients.
The second quarter will see the succession of Tidjane Thiam as the new CEO of Credit Suisse. He takes over from Brady Dougan, who steps down at the end of June, after a 25-year career at the bank, including eight years as CEO.
After intense speculation over the possible consequences if Greece defaulted on its loan payments, the country has successfully made a €750 million ($834 million) payment to the International Monetary Fund one day before its first deadline.
Worries were rife within the international community, extending to speculation that the country would have to leave the eurozone. It was difficult to predict what effect this would have on the economy of other countries.
It is for now unclear how the Greek government – currently lead by Alexis Tsipras of Syriza - sourced the money. Currently Greece owes €320 billion ($360 billion), €240 billion of which is due to European bailouts. The country currently has a 177% debt-to-GDP ratio.
The Eurogroup today made an official statement on the situation, "We welcomed the progress that has been achieved so far. We note that the reorganisation and streamlining of working procedures has made an acceleration possible, and has contributed to a more substantial discussion. Once the institutions reach an agreement at staff level on the conclusion of the current review, the Eurogroup will decide on the possible disbursements of the funds outstanding under the current arrangement.”
For now, Greece has eased some fears of a complete liquidity crisis. The euro is currently trading below $1.12 level, undoubtedly affected by the financial situation. Eurogroup chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem said there needs to be further specific agreements in place before Greece receives any further payments. Crisis averted, for now. But for Greece's economy there is a long way to go.