Friday, December 07, 2007
Europe is yesterday's news. No, Macro Man is not commenting on the long-gone period of European geopolitical hegemony, nor indeed about the 2006 European economic recovery. For once, he is being literal, as yesterday saw rate decisions from the Bank of England and ECB.
The BOE cut rates 0.25%, finally reacting do the deterioration in financial and economic conditions. It is almost certainly the first of several cuts, particularly as borrowing is unlikely to be cheaper without substantially lower base rates. Today's Times carries an interesting table on the front page showing the sharp increase in "arranging fees", which means that the ultimate cost to borrowers continues to rise- thus necessitating more BOE easing if it is to have an impact.
Unsurprisingly, the pound got whacked on the back of the announcement, and cable is now down more than 2% since the fateful Economist cover a week ago. Interestingly, cable is approaching fairly key support, as depicted in the chart below, and EUR/GBP is close to breaking out as well. Perhaps after allowing for a tactical pullback, it will be time to re-activate the strategic sterling short dicsussed in January.
In the Eurozone, the ECB unsurprisingly left rates unchanged. But ECB president Trichet left markets in no doubt that the bank is nowhere close to even contemplating the onset of an easing campaign. Particularly telling were the bank staff's economic forecasts: while 2008 growth range was revised down by 0.3%, the inflation range was forecast up by half a percent, to 2-3%. An inflation forecast whose most optimistic outcome is the top of the ECB's acceptable range is pretty darned hawkish.
While markets have been surprisingly receptive this month to selling the euro on the basis that the ECB will have to revert towards a more dovish stance, Macro Man is wondering if these trades aren't perhaps a few months premature. The ideal time to sell euros is probably on the downside of the inflation "hump", when the ECB is more likely to change tone. As the chart below illustrates, the hump may just be getting started.