Italy Overtakes Spain As Weakest Link

Lior Alkalay - Contributor - Forex

Among the big four Eurozone economies, i.e. Germany, France, Spain and Italy, it’s clear which two are the growth drivers. Of the others, that is Spain and Italy; Italy was considered to be the more stable. Spain’s bonds were deemed riskier and its banking sector weaker. But that is a thing of the past. As it stands today, Italy has overtaken Spain to become the weakest link among the Eurozone’s largest economies, with a banking sector desperately in need of a bailout. And if Italy’s banking crisis is a rerun of Spain’s, we can certainly expect some troubles in the Eurozone and, consequently, for the Euro.

Spain vs. Italy in Two Charts

When we compare data on the Italian economy vs. the Spanish economy, we can see an interesting picture emerging. When we examine the trend in bankruptcies filed for both economies, it’s clear that both countries had relatively the same trend in bankruptcies until very recently. Bankruptcies in Italy have started to surge while bankruptcies in Spain have been decreasing.

Spain vs. Italy Bankruptcies
Chart courtesy of Tradingeconomics

In the bond markets of the two countries, a clear divergence is occurring. Credit Default Swaps for Spain and Italy, which had moved in tandem in the past (with higher risk premiums for Spain), started to diverge back in 2014. Credit Default Swaps for Italy are now much higher. Continue reading "Italy Overtakes Spain As Weakest Link"

BoJ Ready for Helicopter Money?

Lior Alkalay - Contributor - Forex

Helicopter money, that’s the big talk in the past week. The term helicopter money refers to a case where the government hands out money to citizens and funds it through printed money. The last time helicopter money was relevant was back in 2009. That’s when Ben Bernanke, then Federal Reserve Chairman, literally opened up the printing press and poured massive amounts of liquidity into the bond market, in tandem with a massive fiscal stimulus plan from the US government. Now, investors are speculating that the BoJ is ready to unleash a similar move, in coordination with the Abe government. And with the BoJ monetary policy meeting scheduled for this Friday, investors have high hopes. Are these hopes in place?

Kuroda Vs. Abe

In the past several months, BoJ watchers have been routinely underwhelmed by the BoJ’s statements. The BoJ slashed deposit rates to -0.5% and increased its QE program to a whopping ¥80 Trillion. But since those two announcements deflation has returned, yields on Japanese Government Bonds plunged to record lows and Japan’s GDP growth marked a modest 0.1% annually. And still, no monetary bazookas have been announced. Continue reading "BoJ Ready for Helicopter Money?"

Brexit: The Pound Will Survive, The Euro Will Not

Lior Alkalay - Contributor - Forex

Friday, June 24th will be remembered as a Black Day for the British Pound. On that day, investors, shocked by the “leave” vote for Brexit, pushed the Pound off a cliff, toward its worst daily loss since 1985. And yet, despite the Pound being at the eye of the storm after the Brexit vote, it’s not the Pound’s future that investors should fear.

Brexit Impact On The Pound Sterling

The impact Brexit will have on the Pound should be divided into two ranges—short to mid-term and long-term.

In the short to mid-term, it’s undeniable that the Pound will face significant and broad pressures—monetarily, fiscally and economically. The Bank of England will likely need to deploy extra liquidity measures to assure stability in the financial system which, effectively, is monetary easing. From a political standpoint, uncertainty has increased dramatically. On Friday, the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, resigned, and his “heir apparent” is still unclear. But even more, troubling is the future of Scotland within the United Kingdom. The Scots will be compelled to cast another vote, this time on their willingness to leave the United Kingdom and stay with the European Union. Continue reading "Brexit: The Pound Will Survive, The Euro Will Not"

What's Really Happening With The Japanese Yen?

Lior Alkalay - Contributor - Forex

The Japanese Yen is making headlines, again. The Dollar-Yen trade pierced through the 110 support level and the Bank of Japan's credibility is at stake. It's only a matter of time before the BoJ swings its "sword" and slice rates again, or at least, so it seems. But while Yen strength has caused quite a stir in Japan, its origins, this time around, are rooted elsewhere.

Wall Street is flat, European bourses are falling and China isn’t out of the woods just yet. Japanese corporates keep hoarding cash and, of course, they need to park it somewhere. That “somewhere” is their default choice; i.e. repatriate the cash and buy into the safety of Japanese Government Bonds.

Chart of the Japanese Yen
Chart courtesy of Bloomberg Press

As illustrated in the chart, when comparing the Bloomberg Japan Sovereign Bond Index with S&P500 and Nikkei 225, demand for Japanese Government Bonds has been strong. Japanese Government Bonds beat both the S&P500 and the Nikkei 225 for the passing year. And that’s even more interesting when you consider the negative yields—it actually costs to hold Japanese Government Bonds.

How long can Japanese corporates keep repatriating funds and pay for the "privilege" to hold Japanese Government Bonds? Continue reading "What's Really Happening With The Japanese Yen?"

Euro Out Of The Woods?

Lior Alkalay - Contributor - Forex

No doubt the most dramatic event of the FX market this past week was the ECB decision. Draghi, it seems, has finally "cut the mustard." He delivered a powerful response to the latest softness in Eurozone inflation. Essentially, the ECB expanded its QE program to €80Bln of purchases a month and pushed the deposit rate lower into negative territory. But if you expected these moves to play right into the bears' hands (as it has in times past) you might be in for a surprise.

Eurozone: The Good vs. Bad

When the Euro ended up higher in the aftermath of the ECB decision many were caught off guard. Some claimed the Euro's reprieve was the result of Draghi's rhetoric which suggested no more "bazookas" anytime soon.

But what seems more probable is that Draghi's words might just be the consequence rather than the cause. That is the consequence of some green shots that had started to appear in the latest Eurozone data. Those readings suggested that printing money until the apocalypse was not necessarily needed. That's what we call the "good news."

Below are two important indicators for the Eurozone; the balance of trade and industrial production. Both indicators are keenly scrutinized for this export-oriented region.

EU Industrial Production vs. EU Balance Of Trade
Chart courtesy of Tradingeconomics

The balance of trade figure has upticked higher and reaffirmed its rising trend from 2012. This suggests that the Eurozone exports more goods than it buys. Continue reading "Euro Out Of The Woods?"