Moody’s: 2019 euro area sovereign outlook is stable, supported by still healthy growth

Moody’s: 2019 euro area sovereign outlook is stable, supported by still healthy growth

Frankfurt am Main, January 08, 2019 — The outlook for euro area sovereigns in 2019 is stable as economic growth will remain healthy in the region and the aggregate government debt burden eases slightly, says Moody’s Investors Service in a report published today.

The report, “Sovereigns — Euro Area: Stable 2019 outlook balances still healthy growth and some deleveraging against political risks and structural issues,” is now available on Moody’s subscribers can access this report via the link at the end of this press release. The research is an update to the markets and does not constitute a rating action.

Most rating actions in 2018 were positive, and, as of today, 15 euro area sovereigns have stable rating outlooks, while four have positive outlooks. For the first time since 2007, no euro area sovereign has a negative outlook.

“While economic growth in the euro area will slow in 2019, at 1.9% it will remain robust enough to be credit supportive,” said Steffen Dyck, a Vice President and Senior Credit Officer at Moody’s. “However, mounting trade tensions and a slowing global economy are among prominent external downside risks to the benign macro-economic conditions we see for the euro area this year.”

Uncertainty over a potential escalation in protectionism and heightened concerns about the direction of economic policy arising from political fragmentation could have a negative impact on both sentiment and investment.

Despite the rapprochement between the US (Aaa stable) and the EU (Aaa stable) in July last year, further US tariffs on vehicles and parts remain a risk. Germany (Aaa stable) and Slovakia (A2 positive) would be the most exposed given the openness of their economies.

Moreover, Brexit uncertainty remains high. The euro area sovereigns most exposed to a no-deal Brexit through trade and financial linkages are Ireland (A2 stable), Belgium (Aa3 stable), the Netherlands (Aaa stable), Cyprus (Ba2 stable) and Malta (A3 positive).

Within the euro area, rising political fragmentation continues to change traditional parliamentary balances. This gives rise to uncertainty regarding policy direction at the national level and limit the prospects for meaningful reforms intended to bolster the resilience of the euro area to shocks.

Following significant improvements since 2011, Moody’s expects no material change to euro area aggregate fiscal and government debt metrics.

Around half of the euro area sovereigns will show fiscal deficits in 2019, and the euro area wide fiscal deficit will widen slightly to 0.9% of GDP. While the region’s government debt burden will continue its gradual decline, at 84% of GDP it is still much higher than the levels recorded prior to the global financial crisis. Elevated government indebtedness will remain a rating constraint for a number of euro area sovereigns such as Italy, Portugal and Spain.

Source: Bloomberg


Trump Blasts Federal Reserve as U.S. Economy’s `Only Problem

President Donald Trump blasted the Federal Reserve, blaming it for the plunge in the stock market, following reports he has considered firing Fed chief Jerome Powell.

“The only problem our economy has is the Fed. They don’t have a feel for the Market, they don’t understand necessary Trade Wars or Strong Dollars or even Democrat Shutdowns over Borders,” Trump said in a tweet Monday. “The Fed is like a powerful golfer who can’t score because he has no touch – he can’t putt!”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin sought to reassure financial markets over the weekend that Powell’s job is safe.

Mnuchin said in a pair of tweets Saturday evening that he’d spoken with the president about the matter, and he quoted Trump saying he didn’t believe he had the authority to remove the central bank chief.

Mick Mulvaney, the incoming White House chief of staff, said Sunday he’d spoken to Mnuchin and that Trump “now realizes he does not have the ability” to fire a Fed chairman. Prolific tweeter Trump hasn’t directly addressed the issue himself.

Trump’s latest attack on the Fed follows a report by Bloomberg News on Friday that Trump had consulted advisers many times in the prior few days over the possibility of firing Powell, a move some of those people warned could badly backfire.

Top U.S. financial regulators assured Mnuchin during a hastily organized call Monday that they are seeing nothing out of the ordinary in markets despite the recent stock slump, according to a person familiar with the discussion.

Mnuchin spoke with officials from the Federal Reserve, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. The regulators briefed Mnuchin on their plans for monitoring markets during the government shutdown, and the state of markets, said the person.

Trump’s dissatisfaction with Powell and the Fed, which he’s expressed numerous times in the past few months on Twitter and in interviews, appears to have boiled over after Wednesday’s interest-rate hike and one of the worst single-week U.S. stock market losses in a decade.

Ahead of the central bank’s two-day meeting, Trump again attempted to jawbone the independent policymakers in a tweet that warned against “yet another mistake.”


Almost half of S&P 500 stocks in a bear market

Hurt by worries about global growth, the S&P 500  on Monday fell as much as 1.89 percent before reversing course and ending the session with a 0.17 percent gain, trimming its loss so far in December to 4.44 percent.

The S&P 500 index has been in a correction since October, defined by many investors as a drop of 10 percent or more from a high. It has not crossed the 20 percent threshold, widely viewed as the definition of a bear market.

However, 245 stocks in the S&P 500 – 49 percent of its components – on Monday had fallen 20 percent or more from their 52-week highs. Another 127 S&P 500 stocks had fallen 10 percent or more from their 52-week highs, but less than 20 percent.

Reuters Graphic

(Graphic: Half of S&P 500 stocks in bear market –

The index on Monday was down about 11 percent from its Sept. 20 record high close.

Apple Inc (AAPL.O), until recently Wall Street’s most valuable company and the largest component of the S&P 500, has declined 27 percent from its record high on Oct. 3, accelerating the index’s losses as investors fret over cooling demand for iPhones.

Pessimism has spread beyond the S&P 500 to smaller companies across the U.S. stock market, with hundreds of stocks hitting lows for the year on a daily basis in recent sessions.

Reuters Graphic

(Graphic: Stocks hitting 52-week lows –

S&P 500 components deepest in bear market territory include Nektar Therapeutics (NKTR.O), Coty Inc (COTY.N) and General Electric Co (GE.N), each down more than 60 percent from its 52-week high.

Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O), which in late November dethroned Apple as Wall Street’s largest company, is down 8 percent from its Oct. 3 record high.

Reuters Graphic

Moody’s: Shift to digital public services offers significant opportunities for EU sovereigns

Frankfurt am Main, December 10, 2018 — Digital technology has the potential to improve the institutional strength of European governments, as well as offering cost-savings and increasing tax revenue, Moody’s Investors Service said in a report today. However, current levels of digitalization among European sovereigns is uneven and shifting to a greater use of technology will be costly.

The report, “Sovereigns — Europe, Digitalization offers public administrations significant opportunities amid short-term challenges”, is available on Moody’s subscribers can access the report using the link at the end of this press release. The research is an update to the markets and does not constitute a rating action.

“Digitalization will be a major driver of reform in Europe’s public administrations in the coming years,” said Olivier Chemla, a Moody’s Vice President – Senior Analyst and author of the report. “The trend offers opportunities and challenges to European sovereigns, with the large economies of Germany and Italy poised to gain the most, given their relatively low levels of digitalization.”

Although digitalization is a policy priority in Europe, progress varies across the continent: Estonia, northern European countries and Spain score highly on the European Commission’s Digital Economy and Society Index. By contrast, south-eastern European countries, as well as Germany and Italy, have particularly low scores. The UK is also below the EU average.

Moving public services onto digital platforms has the potential to improve countries’ institutional strength, one of the four factors in Moody’s assessment of sovereign creditworthiness. Improvements could be seen in transparency, accountability, service provision and governance.

Digitalization also has the potential to enhance the tax authorities’ operating capacity, including monitoring of real-time revenue collection, cross-checking of information, audits and big data analysis. Preliminary results indicate increased tax collection and enhanced effectiveness across countries and levels of development. Beyond “traditional” activities, digitalization increases the international dimension of taxation, with the challenge to define precisely the tax base related to the digital economy.

Digitalization can help to cut the administrative burden and reduce public spending in the long-term, although there it is hard to assess precisely the magnitude of potential savings and costs.

Against the backdrop of high public debt and the need to rebuild fiscal buffers after the financial crisis, digitalization offers governments a unique tool to implement tighter cost controls and achieve sizeable budget savings.

However, shifting from a traditional model to a digital one requires significant investment and recurring maintenance resources. Governments will carry costs related to the shift.

Moreover, its impact on the labour market and government welfare spending could be substantial, particularly as it displaces the traditional job-for-life model in the public sector.

The composition of the civil service will likely evolve towards higher value-added jobs, in line with the tasks public administrations will have to perform in the future.

Subscribers can access this report via this link:

Cyprus, Israel, Greece, Italy close to East Med pipe line deal

Nov. 25, 2018 (Xinhua) — Four Mediterranean countries, Cyprus, Greece, Italy and Israel are close to an agreement to construct the world’s longest undersea pipeline to transfer natural gas from the eastern Mediterranean energy fields to Europe, a Cypriot government source was quoted as saying on Sunday.

“An agreement is expected to be reached soon among the countries involved in the project. After the deal is concluded, it will take about five weeks for its provisions to be examined by the European Union”, the government source told Cyprus state broadcaster.

The source was commenting on a report by an Israeli newspaper which said that the deal has already been struck.

The Cypriot government source said that Cyprus is also looking into all possible alternatives.

“A lot will depend on the results of the drilling of ExxonMobil that is currently underway”, the source added.

The European Union has funded a 100 million euro (113 million U.S. dollars) feasibility study and has voiced its backing to the project.

The drilling is carried out by ExxonMobil in association with Qatar petroleum in Cyprus’ offshore block 10, within the island’s exclusive economic zone,some 95 nautical miles off its south shores.

The consortium has planned two more drillings after the current one, also within Cypriot block 10.

One of the alternatives Cyprus is examining is building a two-train liquefaction plant, a much more expensive project of 10 billion euros, compared to a cost of up to 6.2 billion euros for the building of the pipeline.

A possible discovery of a sizeable gas field will boost Cyprus’ plans for a liquefaction plant along with its participation in the East Med project.

Cyprus has discovered two gas fields of a total capacity of 10 to 12 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Israel has tapped four gas fields, with a total capacity of over 40 trillion cubic feet.

The planned undersea pipe to take the gas to Europe will be 2,200 kilometers long. It will start from a point 170 kilometers off the Cypriot south shores and will extent to Cypriot territory, then to Greece, with its terminal planned close to Otranto in southeast Italy.

It will be the longest but also the deepest pipeline, according to gas industry sources.

It will have a capacity of up to 20 billion cubic meters of gas annually and can cover about one fifth of Europe’s need in gas, which is estimated to rise to 100 billion cubic meters by 2030.

Reports in Israeli media have said that the project is expected to begin within a few months. (1 euro = 1.13 U.S. dollars)



Italian Bonds Rally as Salvini Seen Open to Compromise on Budget

Italian Bonds Rally as Salvini Seen Open to Compromise on Budget

By John Ainger

(Bloomberg) — 

Italian bonds climbed after a report that Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini may be open to revisions on a budget criticized by the European Union.

Ten-year bond yields headed for the biggest drop this month and the euro rose after La Stampa newspaper reported Salvini may be willing to lower spending. The European Commission is due to publish its assessment of the budget at 11 a.m. London time, with a rejection potentially leading to fines for the country.

Italy’s 10-year bond yields fell 12 basis points to 3.50 percent, having touched 3.72 percent Tuesday, the highest level since Oct. 19. The spread over those on their German peers narrowed to 313 basis points.

“If the comments from Salvini are true and some sort of compromise is found, sanctions may even be avoided, which would make it likely indeed that the BTP-bund spread retightens back to the 250-275 area,” said Martin van Vliet, senior interest-rate strategist at ING Groep NV.

The euro extended an advance to gain 0.3 percent to $1.1400, as its correlation with Italian bond moves increased. Italy’s FTSE MIB Index rose 1 percent, snapping five days of losses.

If the EU follows through with sanctions, it could levy fines of 0.2 percent of Italy’s gross domestic product, which could increase to 0.5 percent if the government in Rome doesn’t amend its budget.



Nouy Says ECB Stress Test Didn’t Show Banks Need Recapitalizing

Nouy Says ECB Stress Test Didn’t Show Banks Need Recapitalizing

By Nicholas Comfort

(Bloomberg) — 

The ECB’s test of how banks would fare under economic distress didn’t reveal a need to recapitalize any of the lenders, says Daniele Nouy, head of the central bank’s banking supervision arm.

  • As in previous years, the ECB will make “more severe” demands on some banks for how much capital they should hold, while others face “slightly better guidance”

  • “The result of the stress tests are reasonably favorable. We do not have cases like we did in 2016 where there was a need for recapitalization”

  • Stress tests can be improved in order to offer supervisors greater insight into the health of banks

  • On Italian banks, she said: “We monitor the situation of all banks in all countries carefully and obviously the Italian spreads are unwelcome in this perspective, but it is not the last time that we will have to face questions like that”

  • NOTE: The ECB didn’t publish the results of ~60 banks that it examined in parallel to the European Banking Authority’s test disclosed this month


European Banks Split Between the Haves and Have-Nots Is Clearer

European Banks Split Between the Haves and Have-Nots Is Clearer

(Bloomberg Intelligence) — The malaise surrounding EU banks, with limited catalysts and growing macro fears, received little cheer at 3Q. HSBC, Barclays, ING, SEB and StanChart were among our preferred 3Q reports, as BNP, Nordea, UBI and Metro continue to struggle. Revenue expectations remain flat in aggregate, with further provision cuts likely. The capital and payout outlook is also largely unchanged. (11/14/18)

1. Barclays, ING Emerge Relative 3Q Victors as Deutsche, RBS StallReturn to Top

1-Day Winners, Losers After 3Q Results Release

The average share price move of the 40-plus European banks on the trading day after they released 3Q results was 0.1%, which masks a very wide spread in performance. Metro Bank fell the most (12%), followed by Jyske (11%), Deutsche (5%) and RBS (4%). The biggest gainers were ING (6%) and HSBC (5%), which posted strong results. Commerzbank, Sabadell and Danske also bounced 5%, though we are less sanguine about the quality of their results. Barclays, Standard Chartered and Intesa all delivered positive surprises and outlooks, we feel, while Nordea, UBI and BNP’s results and commentary — albeit pre-empted by weak share price performance — also disappointed. (11/14/18)

2. DNB, Erste Lead Revenue Growth as Barclays Joins the Top PackReturn to Top

2019 – 2020 Revenue Growth

Expectations for average net interest income and total revenue growth in 2019 and 2020 have been marginally trimmed since mid-year, but are up 0.3% since 3Q earnings. UBS, Barclays, BCP and HSBC have received the largest post-3Q upgrades on net interest income. Average top-line growth is now expected to accelerate from 2% in 2019 to 3% in 2020. Fee growth and interest income growth are expected to be roughly even. HSBC’s return to growth is now baked into 6% expectations that have held steady. DNB and Erste lead expectations, even as consensus continues to moderate for both.

Consecutive good quarterly reports have led to Barclays revenue upgrades, putting it among the top-6 large cap banks on growth. ABN Amro, Natixis, Banco BPM, Nordea and RBS are the main banks expected to report small (1-3%) revenue contractions in 2019. (11/14/18)

3. 2019 Consensus Provisions Have Room to FallReturn to Top

Contributing Analysts Philip Richards (Banks)

The median provision charge for EU banks (including Nordics) is expected to rise from 20 bps (as a percentage of RWAs) in 2018 to 32 bps in 2019, and 40 bps in 2020. We estimate that 2019 consensus charges may tick lower in early 2019, though acknowledge that IFRS 9 may bring some negative surprises, likely back-ended to late-2019. The majority of 2019 expectations have been revised lower since 3Q results, with RBS, Allied Irish Banks, HSBC, Standard Chartered and the French banks taking the largest cuts. (11/14/18)

2019 Provision Expectations Have Room to Fall

4. Consensus CET1 Development Is Marginally NegativeReturn to Top

Change in 2019 CET1 Consensus

Average CET1 expectations for 2019 have fallen 6 bps since the start of 3Q earnings, with Nordea (95 bps), Allied Irish Banks (58 bps), Swedbank (44 bps), UniCredit (41 bps) and Banco BPM (24 bps) leading the fall. Conversely, Intesa (24 bps), Deutsche Bank (19 bps), SocGen and Standard Chartered (both 15 bps) and Danske (13 bps) surprised positively, leading to consensus upgrades. Swedish banks will see further cuts to consensus CET1 as 25% risk-weighting is applied to their domestic mortgage books. Average expected payout ratios remain flat for 2019 and 2020, at 50% and 55%, respectively.

Natixis (107% and a special dividend of 1.5 billion euros likely in early 2019), Nordea (93%), Intesa (80%), SEB and Handelsbanken (75% each) lead the payout ranking for 2019. ABN’s 3Q update on Basel IV impacts cut payout expectations. (11/14/18)

5. European Banks’ Promise of 10% EPS Growth Could Well Be BrokenReturn to Top

Contributing Analysts Tomasz Noetzel (Banks)

Research Note: EU Banks Set To Miss Targets
EPS Growth Trends Require Benign Provisions

Consensus estimates for the European banks suggest that average EPS growth in 2020 could rise to more than 10%, with recovery stories including Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank, Banco BPM, and RBS leading the charge. We believe that revenue pressures will lead to top-line disappointments, leaving overdelivery on cost control as the major determinant of share prices into 2019. Further, we would expect another round of bloodletting within the IB space as MiFID II bites and margin slippage continues. Lower provisions will offset some of the revenue weakness, as will new cost cutting plans. (11/14/18)

6. Cost-Income Targets Let Down Top-LineReturn to Top

The multi-billion dollar investment programs most banks are currently pursuing, as well as weak revenue, suggest to us that the majority of European banks will miss their respective cost-income targets. Consensus shows that DNB, Santander (where a new plan is due) and UniCredit are three of the very limited number of lenders expected to deliver on cost-income ratio targets, which we believe is true. Lloyds’ top-line momentum, with a material pickup in non-interest income needed, suggests that despite being one of the most efficient banks in Europe, it will also miss its efficiency goal. (09/27/18)


Euro-Area Finance Chiefs Keep Pressure on Italy to Alter Budget

Italy signaled it’s not ready to budge on its controversial budget even as euro-area finance ministers called on it to prepare revised spending plans that comply with the bloc’s rules, in a sign that the standoff between Brussels and Rome is set to escalate in the coming weeks.

The finance chiefs’ call comes amid a dispute over budget plans that the EU says go against Italy’s commitments to reduce its debt load. In an unprecedented rebuke, the European Commissionasked Italy last month to submit revised spending plans by Nov. 13, after it essentially rejected the country’s budget for 2019, saying that it constitutes a clear deviation from commonly agreed rules.

Giovanni Tria

But despite repeated warnings, Italian Finance Minister Giovanni Tria told reporters after the meeting in Brussels on Monday with his euro-area counterparts that the government would not change the budget law. The defiance means that even though Italy is willing to engage in talks with the commission over its spending plans, it’s unlikely to make sufficient concessions to appease Brussels.

“We expect a new and revised draft budgetary plan by Nov. 13 and that is a necessity,” EU economic affairs chief Pierre Moscovici told reporters after the meeting. “And the questions we have raised are still on the table.”

Better Explanations

The commission’s call for a revised budget came after months of discord over the spending targets, which sent Italian bond yields to a four-year high last month.

But Tria also expressed optimism that Italian securities would recover. “We hope that the spread will go down when our strategy is better understood,” he said. “And maybe after the dialogue with the commission.”

During Monday’s meeting, the Italian finance chief told his colleagues that the country’s planned deviation was not huge and that EU rules allow for some flexibility, while he reiterated his government’s commitment to reduce the country’s debt load, an official familiar with the discussion said.

But Italy’s willingness to further explain the numbers and policies in the spending plans is unlikely to be enough to address the commission’s concerns.

In a joint statement, the bloc’s ministers said they agreed with the assessment by the commission and called on Italy to engage in “open and constructive dialogue” and to cooperate closely with the commission “in the preparation of a revised budgetary plan which is in line with the stability and growth pact.”

The statement also stressed the importance of sufficient debt reduction, a clear message to Italy, which has the highest debt ratio in the euro area after Greece.

‘Plan B’

Despite repeated warnings, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has said there’s no “Plan B” for the fiscal program, indicating the government has little intention to comply with EU demands.

Once Italy responds to the commission, the EU’s executive arm will have three weeks to publish its final assessment on whether the country’s spending plans are in breach of EU rules. One possible outcome, EU officials say, would be for the commission to bring up to Nov. 21 the publication of a report on Italy’s compliance with EU rules on debt that was originally planned for the spring.

EU Rules

If the report shows that Italy is failing to comply with rules on reducing its debt — which is more than twice the EU limit — then that could trigger the so-called excessive deficit procedure, a process that could eventually lead to financial sanctions for the government in Rome. The penalty could reach 0.2 percent of the country’s annual economic output, which was 1.7 trillion euros ($1.9 trillion) in 2017.

Euro-Area Finance Chiefs Talk Italy Amid Sanctions Threat

Financial penalties proposed by the commission have to be approved by member states, which can block the process. But while Brussels has limited powers over national budgets, governments have in the past sought to avoid an official reprimand because of the stigma and the potential market implications.

Under EU rules, no country should have a budget deficit larger than 3 percent of gross domestic product or debt above 60 percent of output and those that are outside of those limits must set annual targets to show they’re moving in the right direction. While Italy’s deficit is well within the 3 percent limit, the commission has demanded smaller gaps for the country to bring down its debt load.


Italy Budget Deal Could Use `Standby’ on Some Items: Messaggero

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is seeking to mediate between the coalition partners backing Italy’s government and the European Union to ease tensions amid a standoff over the country’s proposed budget for 2019, Il Messaggero reported Sunday.

Among the proposals for compromise: up to 17 billion euros ($19.4 billion) earmarked for the so-called citizens income program and for reform of the pension system could be placed in a separate fund as a “standby,” the newspaper said, without citing anyone.

The funds would then be attributed to the relevant programs “only if the situation permits it,” Messaggero reported. Reform of the pension plan, originally targeted at a cost of 7 billion euros, could fall to 5.5 billion euros.

Conte and Finance Minister Giovanni Tria, “with tacit support” from the government’s main backers, Matteo Salvini of the League and Luigi Di Maio of the Five Star Movement, have also floated a possible “re-modulation” of the citizen’s income program — an aid plan for needy Italians.

The possible adjustments could bring Italy’s deficit to 2.3 percent, compared with the 2.4 percent in the current budget plan, Messaggero reported, citing a person working on the plan.

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