- They expect another six-month extension of QE at EUR80bn per month
- The underlying inflation situation warrants further easing
- Tthe forecast for 2019 should be very close to 2% for inflation
Fabio Balboni, European Economist at HSBC and his team expect the ECB to announce another six-month extension of QE at EUR80bn per month at its 8 December meeting. He believes that due to the recent rise in bond yields, this may only require increasing to 50% (from 33%) the limit for bonds without Collective Action Clauses (CACs). Nothing is certain, however, and there is a risk the ECB opts to wait a few months before extending, announces a shorter extension, or opts for another form of monetary stimulus altogether, although they think this is unlikely.
In their view, the underlying inflation situation warrants further easing. Despite a waning drag from energy prices, core and services inflation remain muted and they see few signs of emerging pressures in the key drivers of inflation (wages, pricing behaviour of firms). "We think financial markets got carried away about the European re-inflationary consequences of the US election result, as reflected by the rise in 5yr-5yr forward eurozone inflation swap rates." He notes.
He believes though, that the ECB will be reluctant to withdraw the monetary stimulus before it sees signs of domestic inflation emerging in the eurozone and will be wary of repeating its 2011 mistake, when it tightened prematurely. Recent speeches, including by ECB head Mario Draghi, have hinted at possibly changing the policy mix, to achieve the most effective stimulus. "But we think the ECB currently has little alternative to QE. Deeper negative rates have potential negative implications for banks' profitability. Bolder measures, like purchasing equities or NPLs (to spur bank lending) are unlikely at this stage."
Although the marginal benefits of QE on financial conditions might be waning, it still plays a crucial role supporting fiscal policy via lower government bond yields. And calls for more outright fiscal expansion from the ECB and the European Commission have fallen on deaf ears, particularly in Germany where fiscal headroom exists.
The ECB will publish new forecasts in December. Not much has changed on the economic front since the last meeting, so they don't expect any major revision to its growth and inflation forecasts. The ECB will, however, present for the first time its forecast for 2019, which Balboni suspects will be very close to 2% for inflation.
"The ECB might also address the question of tapering, using its new 2019 forecast as a hook to say how it intends to unwind QE. However, it's unlikely they will want to tie their hands on a set date for tapering and the eventual exit should be well flagged." He concludes.