The rouble climbed to its strongest level since July 2015 on Monday morning, as the Russian Central Bank’s pledge to weaken the currency struggles to convince markets.
The rouble had already been appreciating as oil prices have recovered over the last twelve months, and growing optimism since Donald Trump’s victory in the US election has helped it become the best-performing emerging market currency since the vote, up just shy of 10 per cent.
President Trump’s calls for a normalisation of relations with Russia raised hopes of a relaxation of economic sanctions and encouraged international investors to return to the country.
The central bank has promised to spend more than Rbs113bn ($1.9bn) on foreign currency purchases this month to help slow the rouble’s climb, in an effort to boost the government’s spending power.
However, economists have been sceptical the bank would be able to have a big impact on the currency, and it has continued to rise a further 1.6 per cent since the announcement, including a 0.5 per cent rise this morning to take it to 57.99 per dollar.
The Bank of Japan’s holdings of Japanese government bonds has topped 40% of the outstanding balance for the first time, the central bank said Wednesday.
The BOJ has been snapping up JGBs in large quantities since it implemented drastic monetary easing measures in April 2013.
Statistics released by the bank show that its JGB holdings stood at about 358 trillion yen ($3.19 trillion) as of the end of January, or about 40% of the outstanding total of some 894 trillion yen.
Last September, the BOJ switched its policy focus from quantity to interest rates, aiming to keep long-term rates at around 0% to achieve its inflation target. Nevertheless, its JGB holdings continue to rise, with the bank sticking to its annual target of 80 trillion yen for JGB purchases.
With the amount of such bonds circulating in the market declining, “the bank will reach the limits of its bond purchase program as early as the first half of 2019,” said Takenobu Nakashima of Nomura Securities.
Marine Le Pen’s plans to take France out of the euro would consign the country to impoverishment, one of the European Central Bank’s most senior French officials has warned.
Benoît Cœuré, executive board member at the ECB, called the notion of a ‘Frexit’, a choice for “impoverishment” that would “threaten the jobs and savings of the French people”.
Ms Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front, is vowing to hold a referendum to take France out of the eurozone and redenominate the country’s €2tn of outstanding debt into a new franc after 18 years of membership should she become the country’s new president in May.
Should a Frexit occur, “debts incurred by French businesses and households would increase”, warned Mr Cœuré.
“Inflation, which would no longer be restrained by the ECB, would eat into savings, the fixed incomes of households and small pensions”, he added.
Despite Ms Le Pen’s assurances of an “orderly” exit, the French central banker said “leaving the euro would mean taking risks which have unpredictable consequences”.
The prospect of surging popularity for Ms Le Pen and the apparent demise of one of her main rivals for the job, the right-wing Francois Fillon, has sent the country’s 10-year bond yields to an 18-month at the start of the week.
Investors have dumped French debt, demanding the highest premium in four years to hold its benchmark bonds over Germany’s, as the likes of S&P Global Ratings have warned a Frexit would result in a likely downgrade of France’s sovereign borrower status.
With less than three months since the start of the first round presidential vote, Mr Cœuré said he could “not contemplate” a French vote in favour of leaving the euro, with the latest polling showing around 68 per cent of French people still back membership of the single currency area.
Amid promises by Ms Le Pen to restore monetary sovereignty to France and reverse the forces of globalisation, Mr Cœuré defended the euro, arguing it had proven to have had “greater benefits for the disadvantaged and the vulnerable”.
Former Reserve Bank of India Governor C Rangarajan today said banks cannot escape from the responsibility of controlling Non-Performing Assets (NPA) in their balance sheets.
At a panel discussion on ‘Union Budget-2017’, Rangarajan also said that though the adverse impact of demonetisation will wear off as the currency availability improves, some affects will not go away even as sectors like real estate will have to rethink their business models.
“The banking system is undoubtedly under stress. How to resolve that particular problem is only through capitalisation. Please remember even in good old Basil-I, the capital is 8 per cent of the risk weighted assets.
So Rs 10,000 crore (capital infusion to banks in 2017-18 as mentioned in the budget) should not be compared with Rs 1 lakh crore or Rs 2 lakh crore,” he said. “I think that the general scene is that the capital provided is not adequate…I think this cannot let the banks
escape the responsibility for the non-performing assets that they have in their asset portfolio.
In surprising comments that may rekindle a verbal currency war between president Trump and Europe, German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble told German newspaper Tagesspiegel that in his opinion the Euro is “too low” for Germany, echoing criticism from Trump’s trade advisor Peter Navarro, who last week told the FT that Germany was exploiting its US and EU partners by using a “grossly undervalued” euro to create a vast trade surplus. The comment placed Germany, alongside China and Japan, in a category of countries that the Trump administration has accused of currency manipulation for competitive advantage.
As the FT reports on Sunday morning, Schauble acknowledged that the ECB had to set monetary policy for the eurozone as a whole, but said: “It is too loose for Germany.” A recent chart from Morgan Stanley confirms that on a PPP basis, the EUR is over 40% undervalued for exporting and current surplus powerhouse Germany on a standalone basis, however for many of Europe’s peripheral countries it still remains expensive.
What was more curious about Schauble statement is that the German finance minister blamed the European Central Bank for the low exchange rate.
While Bank of Japan officials see no grounds for Donald Trump’s accusation of currency devaluation, they still worry that the bank’s unique measure to control long-term rates could become the next target as the president continues his rhetorical battles.
“I have no idea what he is saying,” said one baffled BOJ official after learning about the criticism Trump leveled against the central bank.
Bond investors seem similarly perturbed. Yields on 10-year Japanese government bonds temporarily rose 0.025 percentage point Thursday, hitting 0.115% — the highest since the BOJ announcement of negative interest rates Jan. 29, 2016. The climb also reflects market anxiety over whether the central bank will continue buying up JGBs at the current pace.
BOJ Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda refuted Trump’s accusation in the Diet on Wednesday, saying Japan’s monetary policy is designed to defeat persistent deflation and not to keep the yen weak. “We discuss monetary policy every time Group of 20 finance ministers and central bankers meet,” he said. “It is understood among other central banks that [Japan] is pursuing monetary easing for price stability.”
In fact, U.S. monetary policy is chiefly responsible for the yen’s depreciation against the dollar. The Federal Reserve in 2015 switched to a tightening mode after keeping interest rates near zero for years, judging quantitative easing to have worked its expansionary magic on the economy. The gap between American and Japanese rates is now the widest it has been in around seven years, encouraging heavier buying of the dollar — the higher-yielding currency — than the yen.
Press reports suggest that China’s central bank has ordered banks to limit new loans in Q1.
Fitch revised the outlook on Nigeria’s B+ rating from stable to negative.
Russia announced details of the FX purchase plan.
Brazil’s central bank confirmed it will simplify the reserve requirement system for banks.
S&P cut the outlook on Chile’s AA- rating from stable to negative.
Mexican announced another hike in fuel prices will take place on February 4.
Mexican President Pena Nieto canceled a planned meeting with President Trump as tensions flare
In the EM equity space as measured by MSCI, Mexico (+5.1%), Russia (+4.5%), and Poland (+4.0%) have outperformed this week, while UAE (-1.5%), Hungary (-0.1%), and South Africa (flat) have underperformed. To put this in better context, MSCI EM rose 2.2% this week while MSCI DM rose 1.1%.
In the EM local currency bond space, Colombia (10-year yield -17 bp), the Philippines (-16 bp), and Peru (-10 bp) have outperformed this week, while Poland (10-year yield +18 bp), South Africa (+13 bp), and Korea (+7 bp) have underperformed. To put this in better context, the 10-year UST yield rose 3 bp this week to 2.50%.
In the EM FX space, MXN (+2.7% vs. USD), CLP (+1.1% vs. USD), and ZAR (+0.9% vs. USD) have outperformed this week, while TRY (-2.7% vs. USD), HUF (-0.7% vs. EUR), and COP (-0.4% vs. USD) have underperformed.
Press reports suggest that China’s central bank has ordered banks to limit new loans in Q1. The PBOC reportedly emphasized its concern about mortgage lending. Reports also suggest that it may make some lenders pay more for deposit insurance. If reports are true, then we would expect the economy to slow as we move through 2017. For now, China is not one of the major market drivers but this news would clearly be negative for risk and EM.
With President Donald Trump’s litany of executive orders grabbing the limelight, investors turn their attention back to central banks and economic data next week.
Here’s what to watch in the coming days.
The minutes of the Federal Reserve’s December monetary policy meeting showed that the central bank could be forced to lift rates higher than expected if Congress passes Donald Trump’s economy-boosting tax cuts. So, when the Fed meets next week investors will be watching the Federal Open Market Committee’s statement for the Fed’s view on the US economy and inflation.
Economists widely expect the central bank will leave interest rates unchanged, noting that the absence of a press conference with Fed chair Janet Yellen leaves little room for major shifts in policy. “The February FOMC meeting should come and go with little market implications,” Tom Porcelli, economist at RBC Capital Markets, said. “The Fed is likely to continue to strike a positive tone on the economy and they may upgrade their inflation characterization toward a slightly more hawkish slant in the wake of headline CPI now breaching 2%.”
Meanwhile, the Bank of Japan’s meeting next week marks the one-year anniversary of its adoption of negative interest rate policy. The central bank is not expected to change its policy but it will provide updates on economic growth and inflation.
“Next week’s BoJ meeting should reveal a resolute central bank in its yield curve control framework,” Mazen Issa at TD Securities, said. “We expect the BoJ to be side-lined on all fronts. Speculative ‘taper talk’ is premature though we think this dynamic will need to be reassessed in the coming months.”
Elsewhere, the Bank of England is also expected to leave policy unchanged and update its forecasts as it unveils the inflation report. Economists expect the BoE to maintain a neutral stance on policy.
A new report from Standard Chartered estimates capital flows out of China totalled almost $730bn in 2016, a near-record level.
Analysts Shuang Ding and Lan Shen estimated outflows had moderated in December to $66bn, down from November’s $75bn.
Beneath the headline figure foreign direct investment flows turned positive for the first time in eight months with a $3bn inflow, while non-FDI outflows remained unchanged from the previous month at $69bn.
The analysts estimated December’s outflows brought the annual total for 2016 to $728bn, close to the previous year’s record high of $744bn.
They also estimated China’s foreign exchange reserves had fallen $41bn last month to end the year at $3.01tn as depreciation of the euro, yen and pound against the greenback. That reduced the dollar value of China’s holdings in those currencies by about $13bn.
Feeling “humiliated” by events since demonetisation, RBI employees today wrote to Governor Urjit Patel protesting against operational “mismanagement” in the exercise and Government impinging its autonomy by appointing an official for currency coordination.
In a letter, they said autonomy and image of RBI has been “dented beyond repair” due to mismanagement and termed appointment of a senior Finance Ministry official as a “blatant encroachment” of its exclusive turf of currency management.
“An image of efficiency and independence that RBI assiduously built up over decades by the strenuous efforts of its staff and judicious policy making has gone into smithereens in no time. We feel extremely pained,” the United Forum of Reserve Bank Officers and Employees said in the letter addressed to Patel.
Commenting on “mismanagement” since November 8, when note ban was announced, and the criticism from different quarters, the letter said, “It’s (RBI’s) autonomy and image have been dented beyond repair.”
At least two of the four signatories — Samir Ghosh of All India Reserve Bank Employees Association and Suryakant Mahadik of All India Reserve Bank Workers Federation — confirmed the letter. The other signatories are C M Paulsil of All India Reserve Bank Officers Association and R N Vatsa of RBI Officers Association.
The forum represents over 18,000 employees of the RBI across the ranks, Ghosh said.