Norway’s government has proposed making the biggest changes to the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund in decades, increasing its risk by investing about $90bn more in stock markets and cutting the amount of oil money it can use in the budget.
The $900bn oil fund should be able to invest 70 per cent of its assets in equities, up from the current 60 per cent, as the centre-right government backed proposals by both the fund itself and an expert group.
The shift, which needs parliamentary approval, would be significant for global markets as the oil fund on average already owns 1.3 per cent of every listed company. The increase in equities would come at the expense of bonds, as the oil fund, which has an investment horizon of a century or more, tries to increase its returns.
At the same time, the Norwegian government is aiming to reduce the amount of money from the fund Oslo is allowed to use in budgets. Under the so-called spending rule introduced in 2001, the government is allowed to take up to 4 per cent of the fund each year – which is meant to be equivalent to the real return from investments. This would be reduced to a maximum of 3 per cent in the future under the new proposal, as the outlook for returns has fallen.
India’s economic growth is likely to remain muted in the first quarter of this calender year with the GDP likely to grow at 5.7% in the January-March period amid subdued activity, says a report.
According to the global financial services major Nomura, following subdued growth in the first quarter, a V-shaped recovery is on the cards due to remonetisation, wealth redistribution and the lagged effects of lower lending rates.
“We expect growth to remain subdued in the first quarter of 2017 as the activity level remains below its recent peak,” Sonal Varma chief India economist at Nomura said in a research note. Nomura expects economic growth to remain in a downtrend.
As per the report, from 7.3% GDP growth in the July-September 2016, the October-December 2016 quarter GDP growth is likely to slow to 6% and further to 5.7% in the first quarter of 2017 (January-March).
“We expect GDP growth to slow from 7.3% in Q3 2016 to 6.0 % in Q4 and 5.7% in Q1 2017,” it said.
Amid a fresh escalation in a row over its bailout conditions, Greece’s stubbornly high unemployment rate is showing no sign of improvement.
The country’s jobless rate – which is the highest in the eurozone and has been above 20 per cent for six years – stuck at 23 per cent in November despite a general uptick in its economic prospects at the end of 2016.
It comes as the country’s creditors in the EU and the International Monetary Fund have publicly clashed over their respective forecasts for the state of the economy and the level of austerity attached to Greece’s three-year bailout programme this week.
The IMF has been accused by Athens and Brussels of an “overly pessimistic” view on the Syriza government’s ability to hit a 3.5 per cent budget surplus target over the next decade, which has led it to a wrong-headed forecast on Greece’s “explosive” debt dynamics.
The Fund’s latest report on the Greek economy suggest its debt-to-GDP mountain could reach 275 per cent over the next two decades without major debt restructuring. Unemployment meanwhile will only fall to 21.7 per cent this year, while the country’s long-term growth rate was downgraded to 1 per cent, IMF economists predict.
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.
The European Central Bank rejected U.S. accusations of currency manipulation on Monday and warned that deregulating the banking industry, now being openly discussed in Washington, could sow the seeds of the next financial crisis.
Arguing that lax regulation had been a key cause of the global financial crisis a decade ago, ECB President Mario Draghi said the idea of easing bank rules was not just worrying but potentially dangerous, threatening the relative stability that has supported the slow but steady recovery.
Draghi’s words are among the strongest reactions yet from Europe since U.S. President Donald Trump ordered a review of banking rules with the implicit aim of loosening them. That raises the prospect of the United States pulling out of some international cooperation efforts.
“The last thing we need at this point in time is the relaxation of regulation,” Draghi told the European Parliament’s committee on economic affairs in Brussels. “The idea of repeating the conditions that were in place before the crisis is something that is very worrisome.”
The ECB supervises the euro zone’s biggest lenders.
Andreas Dombret, a member of the board of Germany’s powerful central bank, the Bundesbank, said that reversing or weakening regulations all at once would be a “big mistake”, because it would increase the chance of another financial crisis.
“That is why I see a possible lowering of regulatory requirements in the U.S., which is under discussion, critically,” said Dombret, who is also a member of the Basel committee drafting new global banking rules.
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.
A three-in-one, that’s why its called Super Thursday.
All three come at 1200GMT
Governor Carney’s press conference follows at 1230GMT
1. On interest rates – the Bank is pretty much unanimously expected to keep rates unchanged (0.25%) and the asset purchase target at £435bn (I have seen just one analyst expect the target to lower).
It is worth noting the UK economy is showing better than expected signs:
Growth is stronger than it was expected to be after the yes vote on Brexit. There are plenty of expectations around for slower growth ahead as the impacts of Brexit become clear, but these have not been evident in the official data. I’ll admit to being in ‘you are all doomed, just you wait’ camp, but the evidence so far has been opposite this (i.e. don’t listen to me!). Yesterday I posted the view of the UK’s National Institute of Economic and Social Research – they are pretty much of the same view as me, & they’ve been eating humble pie too: NIESR has progressively revised up its short-term estimates for British economic growth since the referendum, thanks in large part to consumers who kept on spending
Unemployment is falling (at an 11-year low if I recall correctly)
Inflation is ticking higher, and will perhaps overshoot the topside target (2% is the target). BoE Governor Carney is on record as saying the bank will not be overly tolerant of an inflation overshoot.
Despite these better signs the Bank is expected to be remain in ‘wait and see’ mode, watching more data, especially on business activity and consumer spending. In November Governor Carney said the Bank had a neutral policy bias, so I’d expect a clear indication of a shift in the bias before any policy move on rates or QE. This (a shift in policy bias) is something to watch for from the Bank today.
2. The minutes will be scoured for hints of how the Monetary Policy Committee members voted and reasoned, looking for signs for the future direction on rates and QE
3. The Quarterly Inflation Report will be a big key focus. It will include the BoE’s latest forecasts for growth & inflation. The most recent Bank update to these forecasts was way back in November;
The Bank of Japan is poised to upgrade its three-year economic growth outlook in the final days of January in light of strong recent indicators, though stronger inflation forecasts will be a harder sell.
The central bank will compile its quarterly outlook on economic activity and prices at a two-day policy meeting beginning Monday. The report will outline the BOJ’s forecast for each of the three years through fiscal 2018,
The last report, released in November, pegged gross-domestic product growth at 1% for fiscal 2016, 1.3% for fiscal 2017 and a slim 0.9% for fiscal 2018. Discussions this time are expected to center on the first two years, with the fiscal 2017 growth forecast thought to be headed for the mid-1% range.
Signs for an upgrade are strong. The BOJ in December boosted its outlook for Japan’s economy as a whole for the first time in 19 months. Such goods as smartphone parts and automobiles are driving up exports and industrial production, while consumer spending on durable goods such as cars is on the rebound as well. Changes made late last year to the GDP calculation method will also give the figure a boost: companies’ research and development spending, which has shown consistent growth over the years, now counts as investment.
BOJ Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda said at a World Economic Forum panel discussion Jan. 20 that he expects Japan’s economy to grow by around 1.5% in fiscal 2016 and fiscal 2017, significantly exceeding the country’s potential growth rate.
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.
The value of corporate and government debt that trades with a sub-zero yield has dropped below $10tn, a substantial decrease from September when investors piled into the fixed-income market, according to Tradeweb.
Roughly $9.6tn of bonds trade in negative territory, down from nearly $14tn four months ago and $10.7tn near the end of December, as rising inflation expectations and hopes of a rebound in economic activity propels yields higher, Yields rise as bond prices fall.
European and Japanese sovereign debt comprise the vast majority of negative-yielding securities, while some $514m of euro-denominated corporate bonds also trade with a yield below zero. That figure is down from $916m in September.
The rise of negative-yielding debt was spurred by central bank stimulus meant to accelerate lacklustre economic growth. Inflation expectations have climbed in the wake of Donald Trump’s election, as investors await promised government stimulus, tax cuts and a weaker regulatory regime that may prompt a more hawkish Federal Reserve.
The declining value of debt trading with a negative yield also reflects a stronger US dollar, which makes foreign obligations appear smaller when converted back to the greenback.