- Corporate investment in the US is diminishing
- Current monetary policy have lead investors back into risk assets
- Despite their weak yields, bond markets remain attractive
As it is becoming increasingly clear that the central banks’ expansive monetary policy is not leading to a sustainable recovery in economic activity, the recent rally on the equity markets is based yet again on fragile foundations. This is the view of Guy Wagner, Chief Investment Officer at Banque de Luxembourg, and his team, published in their monthly analysis, ‘Highlights.’
The global economy is continuing to grow at a modest pace. In the United States, growth is largely due to the increase in personal disposable income spurred by weak oil prices, the favourable job market and a slight increase in wages, whereas corporate investment is diminishing. In Europe, economic growth rates are weak but positive. In Japan, the expected escalation in wages has not materialised, increasing the likelihood of a fresh government stimulus programme despite the already excessive level of public debt. The extension of the quantitative easing programme in Europe and Fed Chairman Janet Yellen’s reticence on future interest-rate hikes in the United States have led investors back into risk assets again.
The US S&P 500 index even closed the first quarter in the black, although the other indices lingered in the red. “As it is becoming increasingly clear that the central banks’ expansive monetary policy is not leading to a sustainable recovery in economic activity, the recent rally on the equity markets is based yet again on fragile foundations,” says Guy Wagner, Chief Investment Officer at Banque de Luxembourg and managing director of the asset management company BLI - Banque de Luxembourg Investments.
Further quantitative easing measures in Europe
Given the weakness of inflation in Europe, the President of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, announced further quantitative easing measures in March: the ECB’s headline rate is being cut from 0.05% to 0%, the volume of its debt purchases has been ratcheted up from 60 to 80 billion euros per month, and the programme has been extended to include buying up investment-grade corporate bonds. The ECB also cut its deposit rate and launched a new bank-lending programme to enable banks to refinance on very favourable terms provided they then lend it on to revive economic activity.
Despite their weak yields, bond markets remain attractive
Bond yields saw little change in March. Over the month, the 10-year government bond yield inched up in Germany and in the United States, but dipped in Italy and in Spain. “In Europe, the main attraction of the bond markets lies in the prospect of interest rates going, because the ECB’s negative interest policy could be expanded during 2016,” believes the Luxembourgish economist. “In the United States, the higher yields on long bond issues give them some residual potential for appreciation without having to factor in negative yields to maturity.”
No strengthening of the euro in the near future
Against the dollar, the euro appreciated in March. Janet Yellen’s dovish words on future interest rate rises in the United States weighed on the dollar and nudged the euro/dollar exchange rate to the upper end of the last 12 months’ fluctuation bracket. “The expansion of the ECB’s quantitative easing programme does nothing to suggest a strengthening of the euro in the near future,” concludes Guy Wagner.