This Thursday could be a key moment for Europe, with the ECB meeting and the beginning of the European council. We could get a positive surprise on the time extension of PEPP, but the constraints on the “top-up” are significant. There is some tentative progress on the “rule of law” spat but hurdles abound. The Council meeting could bring about the denouement of the Brexit saga.
Lagarde couldn’t have been clearer that risks are now tilted to the downside and that the economic recovery was losing momentum. Given today’s meeting, we expect an expansion of PEPP and further policy measures clearly now cannot be ruled out.
The ECB is focusing on the proactive management of NPLs, linking the dividend policy to the impact of Covid19 on credit quality. Estimates suggest an increase in delinquency rates of up to €1.4 Tr in an adverse macro scenario, equivalent to 5.7% of the capital ratio. At a round table organized last week by the Bundesbank, Banco Santander chairman Ana Patricia Botín argued that the dividend veto is one reason why the banking sector is not sufficiently resilient “in terms of its ability to attract capital.”
The ECB has left its policy stance unchanged after today’s GC meeting. The tone of the press conference was a touch less dovish than expected and President Lagarde has not signaled any large swing in policy in the near term. The overall message was clear: the ECB is monitoring current developments (including the EUR) and assessing the efficiency of the current policy measures before acting with more accommodation
We do not expect ECB policy action this week, but guidance is that the ECB has its finger on the trigger for more PEPP (Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme). Communication will not be easy, but EUR appreciation, record low core inflation and Fed policy should make for very dovish tones. We expect €500bn more PEPP in December, but inflation expectations urgently need attention too. Front-end rates will likely be supported by FX concerns, but credit risks are increasingly underpriced in by the market. Beyond verbal intervention, we think the ECB has limited options to weaken EUR for now.
Last week in financial markets saw the euro rise above the $1.20 threshold. ECB chief economist Philip Lane intervened recalling market participants that the exchange rate “mattered”. The single currency traded down to $1.18 shortly after the comments. Currency appreciation amid near-zero inflation in the euro area is unwelcome for future price developments. Christine Lagarde’s message next Thursday after the governing council will likely echo Lane’s comments.
Peter Allen Goves (MFS Investment Management) | The overall macro picture has not changed significantly since the June meeting. The economy continues to recover and the inflation outlook is muted. We still see enough flexibility in the Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme (PEPP) to combat any unwarranted tightening in financial conditions. The June targeted longer-term refinancing operation (TLTRO) was a successful exercise and the extra liquidity added (around €550bn) is seen as enough to support the private sector into the recovery phase (or at least reduce liquidity crisis). Overall, we do not believe there is a strong need for further action from the European Central Bank (ECB) at the current juncture. If anything, the ECB communication will be closely watched.
Ofelia Marín-Lozano (1962 Capital SICAV) | The starting point is much more solid than in 2008, when the banks emerged from many years of double-digit credit expansion and high rates. In addition, European banks have significantly improved their equity base, which is double, or even almost triple, the levels reached a decade ago in all their solvency ratios. The ratio of higher quality capital to risk-weighted assets, (CET1 or common equity tier 1) has risen from levels below 6% in 2011 to over 14% today.
Olivia Álvarez (Monex Europe) | The ECB delivers on market expectations and steps up the total amount of quantitative easing under PEPP purchases by €600 billion. The rise outperformed the consensus call by at least some €100 billion, bringing along a stronger-than-expected market reaction. The program firepower, worth €1.35 trillion now, is set to channel the main recovery mechanism by the ECB, which is vocally reinforcing its accommodative stance amid the current recession environment.
BofA Global Research | We cut our Euro area GDP forecast to -8.3% this year and +4.6% next. The recovery will be weak, permanent income losses big. Fiscal stimulus is not enough to boost consumers and capex. Deficits will still be very big, c 17% cumulatively in 2020/21. The Franco-German initiative helps sentiment earlier than growth. ECB help will remain crucial. PEPP has to double, at least.