The last meetings of the Federal Reserve and the Bank of England have fuelled sharp moves in the major currencies. The euro has extended its year highs against the dollar (it’s over 1,08 against the greenback) and on Thursday it appreciated over 1.3% against the pound (the exchange rate is at 0,86). Is near a new “currency war”?
Articles by Francisco López
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The Spanish economy grew at a rate of 3.2% in 2016, although signs of a slowdown are beginning to appear. Almost all the external factors which had boosted GDP growth latterly (the so-called tail winds) may disappear over this year.
The prolonged period of low interest rates in which we find ourselves has caused a complete shift in the mortgage market. Last year, coinciding with the key reference 12-month Euribor’s entry into negative territory, fixed rate mortgage loans represented over half the new loans contracted (53.3%), according to figures released by the Spanish Mortgage Association.
The 12-month Euribor, which is the reference used for the majority of variable rate mortgages in Spain, has been in an uninterrupted downwards trend since 2012 and is about to complete one year in negative territory. Analysts consensus is that the Euribor has already touched bottom, and that it will begin to rise gradually from the second quarter.
The Spanish banking sector’s stock market rally has been suddenly cut short. The listed banks’ index had risen over 45% since the minimum levels of June 2016 until the first week of January. But since then, it is seeing a correction. Two matters of concern for investors are the impact of the floor clauses ruling on the banks profit and loss account, as well as the problems of the Italian banks.
Every national and international economic organisation and the most trustworthy research houses agree in predicting a deceleration in the Spanish economy in 2017, due mainly to the slowdown in private consumption.
The German authorities have come out en masse to criticise the public bailout the Italian government is planning for Monte dei Paschi. For many observers, this decision implies “direct public aid” which goes against the European directive on banking solutions and restructurings.
Just minutes after the the EU ruling on ‘floor clauses’ was released, the banks in Spain’s blue-chip Ibex 35 index ended up dropping over 10%. But most of the lenders recovered ground by the end of the session. Afi estimates the ruling will affect the banking sector as a whole to the tune of some 4.5 billion euros.
Analysts are predicting a positive 2017 for European equities, not least because they are currently undervalued compared with US stocks. But there are risks on the horizon due to political instability (elections in France, Germany and Holland, plus the effects of Trump and Brexit), and uncertainty over the timing of the Fed’s rate hikes.