February 2020

26
Feb

World’s Best Stocks of 2019 Are Already Europe’s Worst This Year

World’s Best Stocks of 2019 Are Already Europe’s Worst This Year
  • Greek stocks wipe out about a third of last year’s advance
  • Concerns grow that coronavirus may hit tourism industry
By Tugce Ozsoy and Filipe Pacheco(Bloomberg) —

Investors who made a killing betting on Greek stocks last year are rushing for the exit amid concern the spread of coronavirus could dent the country’s tourism industry.The exodus from the Athens Stock Exchange has already wiped out about a third of its world-beating advance in 2019 and dragged the index down more than 10% this year. It’s now the worst-performing equity gauge in Europe. On Wednesday, a 38-year old woman was hospitalized in the northern city of Thessaloniki, the first confirmed case of the virus in Greece.

While the trajectory of the epidemic remains uncertain, the knee-jerk reaction for investors who flocked into Greek equities last year has to been to take some risk off the table. Tourism and travel receipts account for a fifth of the Mediterranean country’s economic output, according to latest data from the World Travel and Tourism Council.

The Athens stock index posted a 49% surge in 2019, fueled by one of the most attractive valuations in emerging markets and the promise of tax cuts and pro-business policies by a new government. Greece still faces major challenges, including a weak banking sector, high unemployment and a large stock of public debt, the European Commission warned on Wednesday.

“Given the performance that we had last year, it is pretty easy to lock in some profit taking,” said Dimitri Dardanis, the head of institutional equities at Piraeus Securities in Athens. “You can’t escape what is happening elsewhere. You have to ride the wave and, at the moment, there is not much to do.”

The Athens bourse was the second worst-performing equity index in February among 94 gauges tracked by Bloomberg, outstripped only by Lebanon. The losses this week were led by Piraeus Bank, which retreated 16%, followed by Coca-Cola HBC, Titan Cement International SA and Hellenic Telecommunications Organization SA.

“The fact that this is an unfolding story that people are being surprised by, it is not easy to predict what it is going to do to tourism,” Dardanis said. “Globally there is an issue that people do not want to fly. When that is going to impact us is still unknown.”

 

23
Feb

ECB Officials Pressure Governments to Ready Virus Response

European Central Bank policy makers from two of the euro area’s biggest economies said governments must shoulder most of the burden for rebooting economies if the coronavirus has a deeper impact on growth.

France’s Francois Villeroy de Galhau and Italy’s Ignazio Visco were speaking at the Group of 20 meeting of central bankers and finance ministers in Riyadh, where the threat from the outbreak was front and center.

“If we don’t see a rapid V-shaped effect there must be some decision to act in a coordinated way,” Visco told Bloomberg on the sidelines of the G-20. “We must use fiscal policy because monetary policy is already very very accommodative around the world, and it’s uncertain that we can do more on that.”

Villeroy said delegates at the meeting spoke a lot about daily monitoring and contingency plans, even if the central scenario remains for now a V-shaped recovery.

“There was the feeling that if the policy mix needed to be strengthened in the face of coronavirus, it couldn’t be only monetary policy. There is still monetary space but it is more limited than before,” Villeroy told Bloomberg. “It is even true in the U.S., so therefore questions of fiscal space and structural reforms are back in force.”

Trade has been severely disrupted by factory closures in China’s Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak, and companies from Apple Inc. in the U.S. to Europe’s largest tiremaker Michelin have warned that profits could suffer.

The blow is all the more harsh as G-20 delegates otherwise had reason to see the world economy turning a corner. Villeroy noted that “nobody seriously fears a recession,” and the U.S. -China trade tensions that dominated previous meetings have declined.

“If there is one concern about the economy at this G-20, it’s coronavirus,” he said.

Visco said the world economy has two quarters to bounce back from the coronavirus hit before policy makers should unleash coordinated fiscal stimulus. Back-of-the-envelop calculations by finance chiefs at the Riyadh meetings suggest the outbreak could knock by 0.1 percentage point off global growth this year, Visco said.

The hit to the Italian economy could be as high as a quarter of a percent, reflecting the economy’s integration into global value chains and its reliance on tourism.

“I’m already worried now but if we don’t see a material improvement by September, I’d be really worried,” Visco said. “You need two quarters to realize and understand.”

Visco lent weight to his argument by warning there’s a risk of a “mini de-globalization” if pessimism and fears about further supply-chain interruptions leave the economy suffering for a protracted period. “This shouldn’t be ignored.”

Visco said central bankers haven’t discussed joining forces to deliver a coordinated monetary-policy response. The ECB’s deposit rate is already at a record-low -0.5%.

“If there’s a need for liquidity assistance, it can be provided through various measures like swaps — of course,” he said. “If you think about interest rates, it’s much more complicated. There are limits which are not explored.”

On climate, Visco said he saw “reasoned considerations” at the meeting in Riyadh that it’s important to pay attention to the risks global warming can pose for financial stability.

“What looked quite new two years ago is now almost a G-20 consensus, so this is a very significant move,” Villeroy said.

21
Feb

EU Leaders Gear Up for Money Clash to Fill Post-Brexit Hole

(Bloomberg) —

The European Union‘s first high-level meeting since Brexit risks ending in acrimony, with member states at odds over how to cover a gaping budget hole caused by the loss of British contributions.

The extraordinary summit in Brussels to nail down a seven-year spending plan kicks off on Thursday afternoon, but no end time has been set and diplomats fear negotiations could drag on through the weekend. Even then failure remains the likeliest outcome.

The trillion-euro budget is a cornerstone of EU policy that lets farmers compete against imports from the developing world, helps poorer states catch up with the rich ones and underpins projects that bind the union together. But it’s also a lightning rod for the tensions running through the bloc and after three years of uncharacteristic unity during the Brexit negotiations, passions are now running high.

“There is a way forward to find an agreement during this summit,” French President Emmanuel Macronsaid on his way into the meeting, adding that he would spend as much time as needed to get an ambitious agreement. “This pathway can take a few days, a few nights, I am ready.”

The outcome of the battle will signal if Europe is prepared to spend more collectively to further its goals, whether it wants to prioritize innovation over handouts to traditional industries and whether it’s prepared to wield its financial muscle to force member states like Hungary and Poland to respect the rule of law.

Britain’s departure from the EU leaves a hole of at least 60 billion euros ($65 billion) in the budget that needs to be plugged by either cutting spending or making others pay more.

But the EU’s shifting priorities also require more money for issues like climate change and migration and those who gain from the traditional focus on agriculture and regional development are fighting to keep their benefits.

Essentially though, the EU is split into two basic camps: those who want to spend more, and those who can see they’ll get stuck with the bill.

Two Camps

The Netherlands, Austria, Denmark and Sweden have argued for keeping the spending ceiling at 1% of the EU’s gross national income and for a permanent system of rebates to limit their contributions. They want to focus on new priorities and to curb the outlay in traditional areas and have called for tougher conditions on adhering to the rule of law.

“Our countries are firm in our priorities. We cannot accept a drastic increase in our fees. We are willing to continue to pay significantly, but there are limits,” Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofventweeted after a meeting with the other three so-called frugal leaders. “It will be a tough negotiation.”

Charles Michel

@eucopresident

I am grateful to the EU leaders for the hard work we’ve done together.

There are many legitimate concerns, but I am convinced that it is possible to make progress.

Everything is on the table in order to decide #EUCO #MFF

15
Feb

Greece’s Investment Grade Still Looks Far Off: Euro Rates Daily

Yield hunters are excited about Greek bonds these days, but the rally in the debt by no means suggests higher probability of a sovereign upgrade to investment grade.While the nation’s economic growth may stay aboveeuro-area average, according to the European Commission, many hurdles still remain to a rating improvement. The debt-to-GDP ratio is the region’s highest, even if it is expected to decline, and the banking sector is still burdened by bad loans, which are to be reduced under the Hercules program.

Moreover, any results of progress made in economic and fiscal policy will only become visible in the longer run. Before any positive change in ratings, credit watchdogs will want to be sure that Greece continues on the reform path and achieves its goals.

After Fitch Ratings raised its credit rating for Greece last month to BB with a positive outlook, the country is still two steps short of investment grade. At other three rating companies, the country is still three notches into junk territory. Even if they were to upgrade the nation by one notch on each review date in the current year, it would still stay sub-investment. In any case, a six-month interval between the reviews is a very short period of time to be able to identify additional structural improvements.

DBRS Fitch Moody’s S&P Global
April 24

October 23

July 24 May 8

November 6

April 24

October 23

Source: DBRS Morningstar, Fitch Ratings, Moody’s Investors Service, S&P Global Ratings

Even if Greece is raised to just one step short of investment grade, it wouldn’t mean that its exit from junk is near. Portugal, which has always had an investment grade at DBRS, had to wait at least two years to win such a rating at S&P Global and as much as six years at Fitch.

Euro Rates Daily is an excerpt from the German language report “Renten am Morgen.” To read the current issue, please click Renten am Morgen: Erhöhte COVID-19-Zahl sorgt für Risk-off

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