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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.”



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.


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


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


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


China Death Toll Rises to at Least 80 from 56: Virus Update

By Bloomberg News
(Bloomberg) — 
The novel coronavirus spread further as China reported an increase in fatalities and infections, and the country extended the Lunar New Year holiday for an unspecified period of time.

Canada confirmed its first case while the U.S. announced a fifth. President Xi Jinping on Saturday ordered a faster response, sending teams into hard-hit areas to push local officials to strengthen prevention and containment.

More than 2,000 cases have been reported in 15 countries and territories.

  • About 2,051 cases in China, at least 56 deaths: Tracking the outbreak
  • Track business and travel disruptions
  • QuickTake: Learn more about the virus

Here are the latest developments:

China reports rise in Hubei deaths (9:19 a.m. HKT)

Another 24 people have died in Hubei province, according to China’s CCTV. The latest information brings the total death toll in mainland China to 80, based on latest information.

The report said 371 new cases have been confirmed in the province as of Jan. 26. Wuhan, which is at the center of the virus outbreak, is located in Hubei.

China CDC advises extending holiday (5:01 p.m. HKT)

Gao Fu, head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters that the agency is advising that the Lunar New Year holiday ending Jan. 30 be extended due to the virus. The decision will depend on how the situation develops, he said.

Beijing will lengthen the winter break for schools from kindergarten to college, People’s Daily reported, citing the city’s education bureau.

Hong Kong confirms sixth virus patient (4:50 p.m. HKT)

A Hong Kong health official confirmed the sixth case of the coronavirus in the city.

The South China Morning Post earlier reported that the man had been to Wuhan and arrived in Hong Kong by high-speed rail. He will undergo more tests. It was not known when he returned from China, the newspaper said.

Protest over proposed quarantine center (4:15 p.m. HKT)

Government plans to use a newly built, unoccupied public estate in the New Territories district of Fanling for possible patients under quarantine and medical staff drew an angry response from residents and district councillors.

A couple dozen masked people barricaded a road in Fanling in protest at the government proposal to use Fai Ming Estate as an emergency medical facility. Some of the protesters said the building is too close to their homes, while others complained that approved applicants would lose their flats in the estate.

China says pathogen’s transmission is increasing (4:25 p.m. HKT)

Chinese authorities on Sunday told reporters the virus isn’t yet under control despite aggressive steps by authorities to limit movement for millions of people who live in cities near the center of the outbreak. Officials said information on the new virus is limited even though the pathogen was identified relatively quickly, and its transmission is increasing.

The government said it will hold daily press briefings on the situation.

China bans wildlife trade (2:36 p.m. HKT)

China banned the shipping and sale of wild animals starting Sunday and said it will quarantine breeding sites. Trade will be forbidden in markets, supermarkets, restaurants and online, the market supervision administration, agricultural ministry and forestry bureau said in a statement.

It also warned people against consuming wild animals. The new coronavirus was first found in people who shopped or worked at a so-called wet market in the central city of Wuhan, where live animals were sold.

China has tightened controls on the sale of exotic animals, considered nourishing in some parts of the country, though some are still sold surreptitiously.



Greece Rages Against Turkey’s Heft in Libya Peace Talks

Athens opposes Libya’s maritime accord with arch-rival Turkey
Greek premier, Germany’s Merkel discussed Libya on FridayBy Eleni Chrepa and Paul Tugwell

(Bloomberg) — Greece warned it may try to block any Libyan peace deal that doesn’t resolve a dispute over regional maritime borders, as Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis met with military commander Khalifa Haftar ahead of a Berlin conference on the country’s future.

The Greek government, which won’t take part in the Berlin summit, will not accept any political deal for Libya that doesn’t annul an agreement the country struck with Greece’s rival Turkey on maritime borders, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in an interview on Thursday.

“Greece will veto, even at foreign-minister level before it makes it to head-of-state level,” any Libya agreement that doesn’t annul the pact with Turkey, Mitsotakis said.

Greece may not get that chance.

Mitsotakis was left off the invitation list for the peace talks in Berlin this weekend, where German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo will join Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the two leaders who’ve been calling the shots on Libya.

The politicians in Berlin are seeking a deal on foreign intervention after Russia and Turkey failed to persuade Haftar on a visit to Moscow to agree to a ceasefire.

Migrant Trafficking

The battle to secure control over the government has reduced oil-producing Libya to near-failed state status, with the country becoming a center for migrant trafficking across the Mediterranean.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday that Turkey plans to issue new exploration licenses in the eastern Mediterranean following the maritime deal with Libya, a step likely to add to tensions with Greece and the European Union. Erdogan, who backs Fayez al-Serraj’s government in Libya, said Friday that Haftar is not reliable.

“We encouraged Commander Haftar to participate in the Berlin process with a positive spirit,” Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias told reporters after a meeting in Athens. “We expect Germany to safeguard the European position for Libya matters.”

Greece “will do whatever it takes” to protect its sovereignty if Turkey begins hydrocarbon drilling in waters Greece claims as its own, Mitsotakis said, adding that he doesn’t believe the situation in the Aegean will escalate.

Mitsotakis also held a call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday to discuss the issue.
Greece should have been invited to the Berlin summit, Mitsotakis said. “We should be in Berlin to discuss the future of a country whose stability is of interest to Europe, and of particular interest to Greece,” the premier said.

Greece’s participation in the conference had never been considered, German Government Spokesman Steffen Seibert said at a news conference in Berlin on Friday.

Berlin shared Greece’s concerns about the maritime dispute, which was already being dealt with in separate European forums, he added.“This conference doesn’t deal with that issue.”(Updates with foreign minister comment in 10th paragraph, Merkel call in 12th)–With assistance from Sotiris Nikas and Raymond Colitt.


Erdogan Says Turkish Energy Exploration to Follow Libya Deal

Erdogan Says Turkish Energy Exploration to Follow Libya Deal

Thursday, January 16, 2020 02:09 PM

Turkey will issue new exploration licenses in the eastern Mediterranean now that it’s set a maritime border with Libya, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday, a step liable to exacerbate strains with Greece and the European Union.

Erdogan’s remarks underlined Turkey’s determination to press its claims in contested waters of the energy-rich eastern Mediterranean, where European nations, Egypt and Israel have built a forum to promote their interests. Turkey insists it has rights to energy finds there due to its claims to Cyprus’s north, which it seized in 1974. Greece, Cyprus and the EU oppose Ankara’s drilling operations within the island’s exclusive economic zone.

Tensions over the conflicting claims have escalated since Turkey and Libya signed a contentious agreement in November that delineates maritime borders and affirms claims of sovereignty over areas of the Mediterranean. Turkey’s demands could make it more difficult and costly to build a planned natural-gas pipeline that could link the eastern Mediterranean basin with European markets through Cyprus, Greece and Italy.

Leaders From Israel, Cyprus, Greece Sign EastMed Gas Pipe Deal

“From now on, it is not legally possible to carry out any exploration activity or construction of a pipeline in areas between Turkey and Libya without the permission of both countries,” Erdogan told a televised conference in Ankara. “We will issue licenses for these areas and start exploration work in 2020.”

Greece, Cyprus and Egypt see the deal with Libya as a brazen Turkish bid for dominance in the contested waters. Libya is also in conflict with Greece over off-shore exploration licenses Athens issued for waters south of Crete, which is located between Turkey and Libya.

Turkey extracted the maritime agreement from Libya’s internationally recognized government in exchange for military assistance in the North African nation’s civil war. Ankara and Moscow are now trying to bring the warring sides to a truce, which would also protect the accord.

The eastern Mediterranean has been one of the world’s most prolific spots for major gas discoveries during the past decade. Noble Energy Inc. found the Leviathan gas field in Israeli waters in 2010 and Italy’s Eni SpA discovered the giant Zohr deposit off the Egyptian coast in 2015. Exxon made a discovery off the southwest coast of Cyprus last year.

Turkey Starts Naval Drills in Disputed Mediterranean Waters

Turkish drilling ships are currently operating off Cyprus in waters declared by Turkey as its own economic exclusive zone, under agreements with the northern Turkish Cypriot state, which is recognized only by Turkey. The EU is weighing sanctions against Turkey over its oil and natural-gas exploration off Cyprus, and Cyprus wants the International Court of Justice to resolve its dispute with Turkey.


The IMF Leaves, But Greece’s Rescue Isn’t Over

Wednesday, January 8, 2020 04:28 PM

The announced closure of the International Monetary Fund’s office in Athens feels like a landmark, even though Greece, unlike many other crisis-hit nations in recent decades, was emphatically not bailed out by the IMF. It’s a moment to reflect on whether Greece really has been bailed out by anyone.

Technically, Greece is no longer a country in crisis. It’s more indebted relative to its economic output than any other European Union member state: Its debt-to-GDP ratio stood at 180.2% at the end of the second quarter last year, compared with an EU total of 80.5%, and there is no significant downward trend. But the European Commission sees the debt burden as sustainable and projects that it will drop to 100% of GDP by 2041. A 2018 deal, which smoothed out Greece’s repayments, helped greatly with that.

Other indicators look bad but not catastrophic. Unemployment is down to 16.4% from a 2014 peak of 27.8%. The economic growth rate is finally in positive territory, projected by economists tracked by Bloomberg to reach 1.7% for 2019 and 2% this year.

From the IMF’s point of view especially, there’s little left to do in Greece. Last year, the country made an early repayment of 2.7 billion euros ($3 billion) on its relatively expensive debt to the IMF. Now, it only owes the fund, which made its last disbursement to Greece as long ago as 2014, a mere $6.3 billion out of a total of $340 billion in external debt.

But in effect, the crisis and the rescue efforts have cast Greece, an EU member since 1981, down to the economic level of some of the newest member states. Its per-capita GDP, adjusted for purchasing power parity, has stabilized at a little more than two-thirds of the average EU level, about the same as in Latvia or Romania. The high taxes forced on Greece by creditors have created an informal economy about as big, relative to GDP, as in these and other Eastern European countries.

According to Elstat, Greece’s national statistical agency, net migration has been positive in the last few years, but that’s more of a problem than a happy development. Greeks have been leaving the country of about 11 million at a rate of more than 100,000 a year since the crisis started. The outflow only has been offset by the arrival of migrants from the Middle East and Africa during the recent refugee wave — a burden Greece struggles to process.

Unlike Eastern European countries, however, Greece has never received much of a remittance inflow from its emigres. In fact, such transfers of funds have even dropped since the crisis-driven mass emigration started.

Greece also has less flexibility to foster economic expansion than the Eastern European nations: Agreements with creditors forced it to run primary budget surpluses, and even despite low interest rates, its financing needs are much higher than the Eastern Europeans’ because of the sheer size of its debt pile. Romania, for example, has a government debt-to-GDP ratio of just 34%.

What’s more, unlike their Eastern European counterparts, Greek banks are saddled with enormous amounts of non-performing loans, which aren’t declining fast enough to allow banks to expand credit. The Greek banking system’s bad-loan ratio stood at 42.1% in September, the latest month for which data are available. In Romania, that ratio is below 5%.

Greece, in other words, isn’t just starting from a low base like the Eastern Europeans — it’s doing so while dragging around a ball and chain. The center-right government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis is trying to offload the bad debt from banks’ books and lower taxes, but Greek governments’ flexibility in fixing the economy will be limited long beyond Mitsotakis’s tenure.

In a way, the restrictions are fitting payback for what went wrong in Greece. In a September 2019 speech, Poul Thomsen, director of the IMF’s European Department, said Greece’s crisis was different from the contemporaneous ones in Spain, Ireland and Portugal. In those countries, adoption of the euro drove a private credit expansion that led to an “unsustainable demand boom.” In Greece, by contrast, it was the government that feasted, raising pensions and social transfers by 7% of GDP between the single currency’s adoption and the onset of the crisis. That, in Thomsen’s view, explains Greece’s bad fortune in facing a greater fiscal tightening than Europe’s other crisis victims.

By extension, Greece’s political elite must learn to live with the long-term restrictions. An obsessive spender needs to be separated from his credit cards. Contrary to what’s often assumed, Greece’s private creditors were punished, too, for supporting the government’s appetites — they took a major haircut in 2012.

In other words, a lot has been done to minimize moral hazard on the part of Greek politicians and private investors. But it still exists for the IMF and the EU, which have collectively worked out the punishment that came as part of Greece’s financial rescue. They won’t be responsible for any of the mistakes they made during the bailouts — underestimating the depth of the crisis, demanding the draconian tax increases, insisting on budgetary tightness even as it translated into continuing economic decline.

The IMF is getting paid back ahead of time. Yields on the bonds issued by the European Stability Mechanism to support Greece, are negative, so Europe can well afford to be lenient on Greece’s repayment terms. The Greek crisis has delivered tough lessons to Greece’s elite and to bankers. But the IMF and the European Union are free to handle the next crisis in the same bungling ways, battering the victim but taking on little of the cost.

Of course, the world doesn’t have to be fair, but Greece’s institutional creditors should consider shouldering more of Greece’s burden. If the Mitsotakis government, and perhaps its successor, make substantial progress in getting Greece’s economy to grow again and Greek emigres to come home, nominal debt cuts shouldn’t be ruled out. It’s not wrong to make Greece wear its ball and chain, but making it do so indefinitely is excessive.


Our Guide to What the World’s Top Central Banks Will Do Next Year

(Bloomberg) —

It was the year central banks jumped back into the fray, cutting interest to deal with a slowdown driven by a trade war and subsequent decline in manufacturing.

Some, like the Federal Reserve, had at least made some headway on rate hikes before 2019, creating room to loosen amid the weakest growth since the financial crisis. But others, like the European Central Bank, found themselves in a more difficult position and had to cut benchmarks further below zero, stoking resentment about subzero rates.

2020 looks like it might be a quieter year for monetary policy. Fiscal may take up some of the lifting work, and growth prospects are looking a little brighter.

The economic numbers are mostly mixed rather than positive, though. On balance, the monetary policy bias still leans to the dovish side. While the big guns are set to hold fire, others, especially in the emerging markets, are projected to cut again.

What Bloomberg’s Economists Say: “A moment of calm in the global economy is obscuring a serious challenge for the world’s central banks. Low rates for most and negative for some means policy space is severely depleted. We don’t think the next downturn is coming in 2020. When it does come, central banks won’t have all the answers.” — Tom Orlik

Here is Bloomberg Economics’ quarterly review of 23 of the top central banks, which together set policy for almost 90% of the global economy.

Chairman Jerome Powell

U.S. Federal Reserve

  • Current federal funds rate (upper bound): 1.75%
  • Forecast for end of 2020: 1.75%

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell has left no doubt that interest rates are on prolonged hold, saying Dec. 11 the current stance “likely will remain appropriate” unless the Fed’s favorable outlook for the economy sees a material reassessment. He spoke after policy makers kept interest rates steady in a 1.5% to 1.75% target range following three consecutive cuts, and published forecasts showing 13 of 17 officials projecting no change in rates through 2020. That would keep them on the sidelines during a presidential election year.

That said, the U.S. central bank isn’t entirely fading into the background. Strain in money markets has pushed it to buy Treasury bills to restore ample reserves in the banking system. Some investors argue it will need to broaden the scope of those purchases to short-dated coupon-bearing securities. Powell said they were not ready to take such a step, but would do so if necessary.

What Bloomberg’s Economists Say: “The Fed is comfortably on hold for the foreseeable future, as policy makers are less concerned by the risks which justified their ‘insurance cuts’ in the latter half of 2019 — trade tensions, below target inflation and sluggish global growth. The threshold is high for policy adjustments in the near term, particularly for rate hikes, and the impetus to stand pat will increase as the U.S. election draws nearer.” — Carl Riccadonna

President Christine Lagarde

European Central Bank

  • Current deposit rate: -0.5%
  • Forecast for end of 2020: -0.5%

The ECB has pledged to step up stimulus again if needed, yet officials have publicly signaled that they favor a pause after Mario Dragh pushed through a contentious package in September to aid the slowing euro-zone economy.

Policy makers are increasingly pointing to the detrimental side effects of the institution’s negative deposit rate — such as squeezed bank profitability and risks to financial stability — and Christine Lagarde, Draghi’s successor at the helm of the institution, has promised to assess them as part of the first strategic review since 2003.

Economists and investors expect rates to stay on hold and QE to continue through the whole of 2020 and beyond. But the central bank may yet be tested again if the economy falters under trade uncertainties or the bloc’s manufacturing meltdown spreads to the services sector.

What Bloomberg’s Economists Say: “Mario Draghi used the end of his tenure to shape the Governing Council’s response to the persistent slowdown in the euro-area economy. President Christine Lagarde’s first press conference confirmed policy makers are unlikely to change course over the next year. They will focus instead on their strategic review. We expect the new round of bond buying to go on for two years.” — Maeva Cousin & David Powell

Governor Haruhiko Kuroda

Bank of Japan

  • Current policy-rate balance: -0.1%
  • Forecast for end of 2020: -0.1%

The outlook for the Bank of Japan in 2020 is looking a little brighter after the launch of a government spending package to support growth and some signs of improvement in the global economy. That’s likely to keep the bank on hold for now. With its key rate already in negative territory and assets on its balance sheet worth more than the nation’s economy, the hurdle to move again is high despite guidance the bank says is tilted toward easing.

Still, Governor Haruhiko Kuroda will carefully monitor developments in the U.S.-China trade talks and the economic hit from a sales tax increase in the autumn. Some economists are starting to doubt if the impact of the tax hike really will be smaller than on previous occasions as is hoped by policy makers. But it may still take a damaging jump in the yen to move the needle at the BOJ.

What Bloomberg’s Economists Say: “The Bank of Japan heads into 2020 with significant less weight on its shoulders. That’s not to say the inflation and growth picture has improved. But with a fiscal stimulus package in the pipeline and JGB yields comfortably within the target range, there’s much less urgency. We expect the BOJ to keep its current policy framework unchanged through 2020, barring an unexpected shock.” — Yuki Masujima

Governor Mark Carney

Bank of England

  • Current bank rate: 0.75%
  • Forecast for end of 2020: 0.75%

The Bank of England will finally get a new governor in 2020, bringing to an end an often chaotic search for a successor to Mark Carney.

Boris Johnson’s decisive win in December’s election both cleared the way for his government to take the nation out of the European Union on Jan. 31, and also name the U.K.’s top regulator Andrew Bailey as the Canadian’s successor. Bailey, who starts on March 16, will have to cope with a global slowdown and a persistent dearth of investment. Most worryingly, another Brexit deadline is already looming, with the U.K. needing to secure a trade deal with the EU by the end of next year unless Johnson asks for an extension.

For now, concern about the outlook means two of the BOE’s nine policy makers want to cut interest rates. All eyes will be on whether Johnson’s win, as well as Brexit developments, change the picture.

What Bloomberg’s Economists Say: “Weak growth momentum and below target inflation means the Bank of England is likely to maintain its dovish bias in early 2020. But if our forecast plays out and the combination of looser fiscal policy and reduced Brexit uncertainty lift growth next year, we expect the central bank’s tone to change. We have penciled in a rate increase in 4Q2020.” — Dan Hanson

Governor Stephen Poloz

Bank of Canada

  • Current overnight lending rate: 1.75%
  • Forecast for end of 2020: 1.75%

Governor Stephen Poloz ends 2019 with the highest policy rate among major advanced economies at 1.75%, and is expected to hold that title until his seven-year term comes to an end in June. The Bank of Canada has cited two big reasons for resisting the global easing trend: inflation has been near its 2% target for well over a year and policy makers are wary of fueling a further increase in debt.

One main downside from the central bank’s outlier status has been a stronger currency that is hurting exporters. But pressure on the Bank of Canada to match rate cuts by the Federal Reserve and others is easing. There are signs the world economic outlook is stabilizing and markets are paring back bets that global monetary loosening has much left to go. That makes the Bank of Canada’s diverging policy path less of a risky bet for Poloz’s eventual successor.

Governor Yi Gang

People’s Bank of China

  • Current 1-year best lending rate: 4.35%
  • Current 7-day OMO reverse repo rate: 2.50%
  • Forecast for end of 2020: 4.35%; 2.35%

Analysts predicting the start of large-scale monetary easing by the People’s Bank of China in 2019 were persistently disappointed, and Governor Yi Gang has indicated he intends follow the modest, targeted path for stimulus in 2020. That said, if weakness in the world’s second-largest economy worsens, then economists expect the central bank to continue to release cash into the system via cuts to the reserve ratio, as has been a preferred method to shore up output this year.

The cautious approach to easing is determined by China’s current battle with a form of stagflation — consumer price gains driven beyond the PBOC’s target of 3% by food coupled with factory prices in decline. Economists currently forecast economic growth to slow below 6 percent next year, a development that Communist Party leaders seem comfortable with. A recent revision to 2018 GDP data means that the long-standing goal to double the size of the economy this decade is more easily in reach. That lifts some of the burden on the PBOC to artificially boost the expansion.

What Bloomberg’s Economists Say: “The People’s Bank of China is pushing down lending rates steadily and incrementally. The drop in the one-year LPR in November underlines its effort to prop up growth and counter disinflationary pressures. A similar fall in the five-year LPR — the benchmark for new mortgage loans — was a surprise and suggests that a cooling housing sector is giving the authorities more room for monetary stimulus.” — Chang Shu

Governor Shaktikanta Das

Reserve Bank of India

  • Current repo rate: 5.15%
  • Forecast for end of 2020: 4.7%

India’s central bank is likely to resume easing interest rates, perhaps in the middle of 2020 and once headline inflation comes off the boil. Costly onions have pushed inflation closer to the upper end of the Reserve Bank of India’s 2%-6% target band, limiting policy makers’ ability to support an economy expanding at its weakest pace in more than six years.

A much higher than expected spike in inflation was the reason for the RBI’s surprise pause on rate cuts in December after delivering 135 basis points of easing in five back-to-back moves this year. However, Governor Shaktikanta Das has made it clear that there’s more space for monetary easing and a lot depends on how these actions are timed.

What Bloomberg’s Economists Say: “The Reserve Bank of India’s shock hold on rates in December signaled that it’s more concerned about a temporary surge in onion prices pushing headline inflation higher than slumping growth. We expect the central bank to keep rates on hold again in February due to the further surge in onion prices since then. RBI’s accommodative stance signals that room for further easing is available.” — Abhishek Gupta

Central bank chief Roberto Campos Neto

Central Bank of Brazil

  • Current Selic target rate: 4.5%
  • Forecast for end of 2020: 4.5%

Brazil’s central bank is closing a monetary easing cycle that has taken its benchmark interest rate to an all-time low of 4.5%. While investors are still debating whether the rate may drop an additional 25 basis points, they mostly agree it should stay near the current level by end-2020.

The unprecedentedly long spell of low interest rates is supported by the fact that inflation expectations remain within the official target for the next couple of years, at least. Latin America’s largest economyis also gaining traction after nearly three years of disappointing performance, but the recovery remains gradual.

What Bloomberg’s Economists Say: “BCB started a new round of rate cuts last July but appears to be close to a pause. Anchored inflation expectations and ample economic slack base our expectation that it will remain at this level through end-2020, absent surprises. An additional, smaller 25bps cut in the February meeting cannot be ruled out if inflation and growth surprise on the downside, or if the currency strengthens until then.” — Adriana Dupita

Governor Elvira Nabiullina

Bank of Russia

  • Current key rate: 6.25%
  • Forecast for end of 2020: 6%

After years of struggle to bring down high inflation, Bank of Russia Governor Elvira Nabiullina is now facing a serious undershoot of her 4% target. Five consecutive rate cuts have so far failed to stoke price growth or do much to boost the sputtering economy, partly because of a delay to government spending in the second half of 2019.

Nabiullina said in December that the effect of easing will take time and the central bank needs to wait to evaluate the impact. Another rate cut is possible at the next meeting in February or later in the first half, but not guaranteed, she said. Russian local-currency government bonds have attracted inflows of about $16 billion this year due in part to faster-than-expected easing. Investors are waiting to see if 2020 will bring more of the same.

What Bloomberg’s Economists Say:  “Sliding inflation will keep one more rate cut on the table in 2020, but policy makers are likely to pause to assess the impact of 150 basis points of reductions since June. If price pressure remains muted, as we expect, the next move could come as soon as March. Signs of a firmer rebound in inflation, as President Vladimir Putin’s fiscal stimulus finally gets going, might put policy on hold for longer.” — Scott Johnson

Governor Lesetja Kganyago

South African Reserve Bank

  • Current repo average rate: 6.5%
  • Forecast for end of 2020: 6.25%

The South African Reserve Bank is facing pressure to ease after the economy unexpectedly contracted in the third quarter and power cuts raised the risk of a second recession in as many years. Inflation is at a nine-year low and close to the bottom of the target range of 3% to 6%.

Still, the Monetary Policy Committee has made it clear that some of the factors weighing on economic growth — such as policy uncertainty and the deterioration of government finances — will probably prevent it from cutting rates. Using monetary policy to compensate for government failures “is not the way forward,” Governor Lesetja Kganyago said at the final MPC meeting of 2019.

The prospect of the country a losing its last investment-grade credit rating at Moody’s Investors Service in 2020 may also prevent easing. While the move is largely priced in, it’s likely to weaken the rand. A downgrade could result in a selloff of between $5 billion and $8 billion of South African bonds, Deputy Governor Kuben Naidoo said.

Governor Alejandro Diaz de Leon

Banco de Mexico

  • Current overnight rate: 7.25%
  • Forecast for end of 2020: 6.5%

Mexico’s central bank slashed the interest rate a full point in 2019 from a decade high after inflation reached its 3% target and economic growth flat-lined. With a muted economic rebound expected in 2020, policy makers are forecast to continue loosening.

While Banco de Mexico expects inflation to pick up slightly in the first quarter of next year, it’s projected to return to near their goal after that. The majority of the board says monetary policy needs gradual adjustment, voting for quarter-point reductions. Policy makers appointed by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador have voted for steeper half-point cuts recently, pointing out that the central bank’s stance remains restrictive even after the easing in 2019. Mexico has the highest real interest rate, or borrowing costs minus inflation, among Group of 20 nations.

What Bloomberg’s Economists Say: “Banxico should continue slowly cutting interest rates in 2020. Lower inflation, subdued pressure on prices and abating inflation expectations support the outlook. Interest rates remain high and cuts imply less restrictive instead of expansionary monetary conditions.” — Felipe Hernandez

Governor Perry Warjiyo

Bank Indonesia

  • Current 7-day reverse repo rate: 5%
  • Forecast for end of 2020: 4.75%

Indonesia’s central bank has been on an aggressive run of easing, lowering borrowing costs by 100 basis points since July in a bid to bolster faltering growth. While Southeast Asia’s biggest economy is holding up quite well compared to others, growing at about 5%, it has felt the effects of a global slowdown and the U.S.-China trade war, with export growth having contracted for 13 straight months.

With the economy expected to grow this year at its slowest pace since 2017, Governor Perry Warjiyo has signaled more rate cuts are in the pipeline, although dependent on incoming information on the health of the economy. At the same time, inflation is subdued by Indonesia standards and is expected to moderate further, prompting Bank Indonesia to set a new inflation target range of 2%-4% for 2020 from 2.5-4.5% this year, pointing to more room for further rate cuts.

What Bloomberg’s Economists Say: “More rate reductions appear to be in the pipeline for 2020, though we expect the pace to slow dramatically. The Federal Reserve signaled an end to its easing cycle, which gives Bank Indonesia less room to maneuver if it wishes to maintain a wide interest rate differential in support of the rupiah.  A truce in the U.S.-China trade war and significant progress on structural reforms, though, could reduce the risk premium needed to attract capital inflows.” — Tamara Henderson

Governor Murat Uysal

Central Bank of Turkey

  • Current 1-week repo rate: 12%
  • Forecast for end of 2020: 11% (BE forecast)

Turkey’s central bank may be about to find out the limits of its easing cycle next year, when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says interest rates should fall to single digits while the inflation rate is expected to go up.

Emboldened by the currency’s stability in recent months, the bank’s Monetary Policy Committee reduced its key rate a total of 12 percentage points, exceeding all forecasts made six months ago. Now the return on the lira adjusted for inflation is barely on par with emerging market peers’ average. It may prove extremely difficult for Governor Murat Uysal to abide by his pledge to maintain a “reasonable” rate of return without upsetting the president, who is adamant that inflation will continue to slow if the bank keeps slashing borrowing costs — something that goes against accepted central bank assumptions.

What Bloomberg’s Economists Say: “The political pressure will be immense with the number of monetary policy committee meetings rising to 12 next year. But the bank may be unable to deliver the president’s orders. High inflation will probably prevent rates from falling by more than 100 basis points, although balance of risks is skewed toward deeper cuts.” — Ziad Daoud

Governor Godwin Emefiele

Central Bank of Nigeria

  • Current central bank rate: 13.5%
  • Forecast for end of 2020: 13.5%

The Nigerian central bank will continue its tight policy stance in 2020 as inflation expectations are picking up. Food prices have been rising due to supply constraints caused by a closure of land borders to stop smuggling. While the central bank sees these moves as temporary, Governor Godwin Emefiele has said he would only consider rate cuts when inflation slows to the upper end of the target band of 6% to 9%. It’s been outside that range for more than four years.

Keeping the monetary policy rate at 13.5% will also help support the naira, which is under pressure due to dwindling reserves. While the central bank is keen to boost economic growth in the continent’s biggest oil producer it’s likely to rather keep using non-traditional policy tools, such as raising lenders’ loan-to-deposit ratios to force them to give out credit and support private-sector output.

Governor Lee Ju-yeol

Bank of Korea

  • Current base rate: 1.25%
  • Forecast for end of 2020: 1.25%

The Bank of Korea is expecting a gradual economic recovery in 2020 as the effects of two rate cuts in the last six months and an expansionary budget feed through the economy and global demand picks up. If the expected recovery fails to materialize, Governor Lee Ju-yeol will face pressure to ease policy further, though the central bank doesn’t have much room for maneuver with the benchmark rate at a record low and household debt at a record high.

Lee has said it’s premature to consider the alternative of taking unconventional measures such as quantitative easing. A majority of economists surveyed by Bloomberg see the BOK either holding rates steady at 1.25% or cutting once to 1% next year. A handful expect two cuts or a hike.

What Bloomberg’s Economists Say:  “Cautious optimism on growth and continued concerns about financial risk point to a prolonged pause from the Bank of Korea in the year ahead. Governor Lee Ju-yeol has reiterated that the central bank still has some policy space, but fiscal policy will likely take the lead, with another expansionary budget due for 2020..” — Justin Jimenez

Governor Philip Lowe

Reserve Bank of Australia

  • Current cash rate target: 0.75%
  • Forecast for end of 2020: 0.25%

The RBA is closing in on its effective lower bound — estimated by Governor Philip Lowe as a cash rate of 0.25% — when further monetary stimulus will require a shift to unorthodox policy. Lowe has suggested that while he doesn’t expect to have to go the unconventional route, if he did, a version of QE would be his approach.

A consensus is emerging among Australian economists that in the absence of fiscal stimulus — which the government is resisting — the RBA is likely to have to turn to QE at some point. Growth is weak, business and consumer sentiment soft and unemployment is expected to edge higher. Lowe, a self-confessed “glass-half-full optimist,” argues the economy is at a gentle turning point.

So most analysts expect more of the same: a weak economy requiring ongoing RBA stimulus. That’s against a central bank that maintains the worst is over and the economy is likely to gradually improve in 2020.

What Bloomberg’s Economists Say: “It’s hard to see the Australian cash rate going anywhere but lower in 2020. But once at the ELB, QE wouldn’t come automatically. The hurdle would be high. Whilst there’s a strong turnaround in house prices in Australia’s two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, forward looking indicators on the labour market point to 2020 being a year where the RBA takes the cash rate to the ELB, and guides that rates will be held there for a very long time.” — James McIntyre

Miguel Pesce

Central Bank of Argentina

  • Current rate floor: 58%
  • Forecast for end of 2020: N/A

Argentina’s recently-appointed central bank chief Miguel Pesce is facing a daunting task, with an economy in crisis and an inflation rate of more than 50%. He aims to slash price growth to single-digit rates by the end of 2021, and says both monetary policy and a  “social accord” proposed by President Alberto Fernandez’s administration will be part of this.

Fernandez only took office this month, and during the campaign trail, advisers said the central bank would seek to keep the Argentine peso at relatively weak levels in a bid to boost exports and turn the economy around. The strategy would require interventions in the foreign exchange market.

To control inflation, the bank might seek to rein in monetary aggregates while the government tries to strike deals with the productive sector to keep prices stable.

What Bloomberg’s Economists Say: “The new government has a clear focus on growth and poverty relief, and is very likely to use credit as a lever on that front. In the meantime, Economy Minister Martin Guzman has already hinted that capital controls will not be lifted at this time, and that interest rates are not ‘the only tool’ to fight inflation — keeping the risk of price freeze in the air. The bottom line seems to be that interest rates are about to fall both in nominal and (even more so) in real terms.” — Adriana Dupita

President Thomas Jordan

Swiss National Bank

  • Current Libor target rate: -0.75%
  • Forecast for end of 2020: -0.75%

With the euro area locked into an expansive stance, the SNB is all but sure to continue with its policy of subzero interest rates and pledge to wage interventions to stem appreciation pressure on the currency.

With Switzerland’s negative rate policy about to enter its fifth year, opposition, particularly from the banking sector, is mounting. Yet inflation is barely about zero, and SNB President Thomas Jordan has stressed that moving off the rock-bottom rates would increase pressure on the haven franc. The SNB adjusted its tiering system in 2019 in order to ease the pain from negative rates for the financial sector and also to enable another interest rate reduction, if necessary.


Governor Stefan Ingves

Sveriges Riksbank

  • Current repo rate: 0%
  • Forecast for end of 2020: 0%

Sweden’s central bank ended nearly half a decade of negative interest rates this month by raising its benchmark rate to zero. But it will probably stay put throughout 2020, and possibly until 2022, according to its latest rate path.

The final months of 2019 have seen a determination from Governor Stefan Ingves and his colleagues to put the ultra-loose monetary policy experiment behind them. That’s despite the economy heading towards a slowdown and inflation stuck below the 2% target. Having earned the “sadomonetarist” epithet from Nobel laureate Paul Krugman in 2014 for keeping rates too high, the board is now risking similar controversy with its latest move.

What Bloomberg’s Economists Say: “After raising rates to zero, the Riksbank will be slow to make another move. A fragile global outlook will dampen demand in export-oriented Sweden. At the same time, the domestic critique against negative rates has been fierce and that makes new cuts highly unlikely even if the economy worsens. We expect the Riksbank to stay on hold during the remainder of 2020.” — Johanna Jeansson

Governor Oystein Olsen

Norges Bank

  • Current deposit rate: 1.5%
  • Forecast for end of 2020: 1.5%

After four rate hikes since September 2018, Norway’s monetary policy is on hold for the foreseeable future. Yet Norges Bank surprised the market on Dec. 19 when it kept the door open for another raise next year.

Governor Oystein Olsen rejects any notion that he’s “hawkish,” with a message that he expects a stable benchmark rate, possibly for years. But some economists had expected him to lower the probability of a hike in 2020 due to weaker-than-forecast prospects for the Norwegian economy. Instead, the bank kept that chance at 40% amid a weak krone and higher oil prices.

Governor Adrian Orr

Reserve Bank of New Zealand

  • Current cash rate: 1%
  • Forecast for end of 2020: 0.75%

Signs the New Zealand economy may be turning a corner have prompted most economists to scale back expectations for further RBNZ easing in 2020 to just one more cut. That was reinforced when Governor Adrian Orr announced new capital rules for banks that were less onerous than expected, easing fears they could drive up borrowing costs and require an offset from monetary policy.

The government has also announced a fiscal spending package that may relieve pressure on the RBNZ to do more to stimulate growth. That said, downside risks remain and, with room for further rate cuts limited, the central bank has said it will outline its unconventional policy options early next year — just in case they’re needed.

What Bloomberg’s Economists Say: “The New Zealand dollar has appreciated since the November Monetary Policy Statement, and with robust commodity prices is likely to remain above the expectations the RBNZ’s factored into their outlook. A further 25bp cut is likely in 2020, but from there, rates are likely to be on hold for a considerable period.” — James McIntyre

Governor Adam Glapinski

National Bank of Poland

  • Current cash rate: 1.5%
  • Forecast for end of 2020: 1.5%

With benchmark interest rates unchanged at a record-low 1.5% since March 2015, Poland is in the midst of its longest-ever period of stable borrowing costs. Based on the central bank’s comments, the pause will extend for the foreseeable future.

Despite hitting a six-year high this year, inflation remains within the central bank’s tolerance range, while growth of the European Union’s largest eastern economy is the slowest in three years. Thate conflicting forces reduce the chance for any shift in rates, strengthening Governor Adam Glapinski’s long-held position that staying put ensures balanced and persistent economic expansion. Early in December, he noted that inflation will only slightly overshoot next year, adding “so I can only repeat that a change in rates either way isn’t necessary.”

Governor Jiri Rusnok

Czech National Bank

  • Current cash rate: 2%
  • Forecast for end of 2020: 2%

The Czech central bank is among the few in Europe still discussing whether to raise interest rates, but it may end up keeping them where they are for another year. After lifting the benchmark to a 10-year high in May — the eighth increase since summer 2017 — policy makers have stayed put.

Some have called for tighter policy to curb above-target inflation driven by the EU’s lowest unemployment rate, and the bank’s own forecast implies two hikes by the end of March. But the majority on the monetary panel has voted down several motions to raise rates, saying the export-oriented economy may be hit by weaker demand from key trading partners, mainly Germany, and faces geopolitical risks like trade wars and Brexit.

Methodology: Based on median estimate in monthly or quarterly survey, where available, or most recent collected forecasts. All interest rate and forecast data is as of Dec. 19. Some surveys were conducted early December, before latest policy decisions.


Greek Banks May Be Forced to Tap Investors as Politicians Slash Loan Book

(Telegraph) — The Greek parliament has given the green light to a plan to slash mountains of bad loans on the books of the country’s banks, fuelling market fears they will need to raise more money from investors.

The “Hercules” plan to tackle the burden of non-performing loans (NPLs) left over from the debt crisis will trigger losses for lenders and could mean the weaker banks need more capital, according to Greek sources.

Greece’s parliament approved the plan on Thursday. It will package up the loans and sell them on to investors, a process known as securitisation.

The plan is intended to restore the financial health of the banks but the process will lead to some losses up front.

One banking source said the “numbers don’t add up” for one of the weaker lenders unless it turns to the markets for an injection of fresh capital.

The proportion of non-performing loans – bad debt where the borrower has failed to make scheduled payments for a specified period – at Greek banks is 39pc compared to an EU average of 3pc, a huge drag on the country’s financial sector.

Europe’s banking industry has struggled since the financial crisis and plans to create a region-wide banking union have stalled.

Italy has voiced its opposition to the creation of a bailout fund, a key pillar of the banking union proposal, but The Daily Telegraph understands that Greece is also among the countries resisting the plans. Italy fears that the proposal could make a debt restructuring more likely while there are also worries about the cost.

Greece is dominated by four banks – Alpha Bank, Eurobank, Piraeus Bank and National Bank of Greece.

Yannis Stournaras, governor of the Bank of Greece, the central bank, said on the Hercules plan: “All securitisation schemes burn some capital but the problem now is not capital for Greek banks, it is the very high percentage of NPLs, so this is the priority.”

He said that solving NPLs alongside the problem of deferred tax credits would help “increase the profitability of Greek banks by reducing the cost of credit risk and their attractiveness to private investors”.

Solving the Greek banking industry’s bad debt problem is seen as crucial to helping the country’s economic recovery by the new government .

Banks are a key source of financing for businesses in Greece, meaning that the sector’s weakness can restrict credit from the economy. The Hercules plan, which is based on a successful scheme in Italy, aims to reduce the amount of NPLs at Greek banks by around 40pc by the end of the programme.

Optimism over the Hercules plan and the improving economic outlook under the new centre-Right government has helped Greek banking stocks double in 2019. The gains made have helped Athens become the world’s best performer this year.

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