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532 (71-80)
March 19, 2018
The major European banks have seen their revenues stabilise in 2017, and through further cost-cutting and improvements in asset quality, their profitability rebounded strongly to the second-best figure in the past decade. However, banks continued to shrink, and both total assets and risk-weighted assets fell substantially. This helped capital and leverage ratios to reach new record highs, finally laying questions about the sector’s capitalisation levels to rest, at least on aggregate. Large European banks lost ground versus smaller competitors and also remained far behind their US peers, although they were able to catch up somewhat on this front. [more]
March 16, 2018
Nitrogen oxides emissions (NOx) in Germany plunged by 44% between 1995 and 2016. Road traffic recorded the sharpest decline (-62%). After the decision of the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig, however, certain diesel vehicles can be banned from inner cities. Apparently, there is a conflict of interests between the human right to clean ambient air and the protection of diesel car owners against an erosion of their vehicles‘ value. In our view, this conflict could be resolved over time. To this end, policymakers could, for instance, introduce a Blue Badge for low-emission diesel passenger cars, which is tied to a transitional period for older vehicles. [more]
March 14, 2018
Robust, broad-based global expansion. Synchronised growth across regions and economies, in many cases at above-trend levels. We expect global growth to accelerate to +3.9% this year, marginally above 2017, as fundamentals remain supportive. We expect the US and eurozone to continue growing above potential, but do not anticipate any further acceleration. In China, we expect growth to slow, and are more worried about inflation and financial risks than consensus. 2018 should mark the peak of the current cyclical expansion; growth should decelerate from 2019. [more]
March 13, 2018
Despite the unexpected weakness of domestic demand in H2, sluggish January retail sales and production data and a downshift in industrial surveys in February, we believe that the German economy's boom will continue in 2018, given the elevated levels of these surveys, capacity utilization or order books. The booming economy is reflected in a clear pick-up in agreed pay increases and a strong wage drift. Still, our model shows an only limited pass-through into core inflation, which will rise towards 2%. As the price pressure in volatile components (food, energy) is abating headline inflation will move more or less sideways in 2018/19. [more]
March 7, 2018
Inflation data over the past year – and especially over the past week – have highlighted a critical point. Fluctuations in inflation rates for items that are typically insensitive to the busi-ness cycle — which we refer to as acyclical, such as health care and apparel — can drive the overall inflation trajectory and lead to regime shifts in the market’s inflation narrative. The plunge in wireless telephone services prices last March, followed by a string of downside surprises to other acyclical items, spawned a narrative that structural disinflationary forces would prevent inflation from rising. In the same way, recent stronger inflation data led by acyclical items may have revived the narrative that the Phillips curve is, in fact, alive and well and that risks are tilted toward inflation overshooting the Fed’s target. [more]
March 7, 2018
From the start, the negotiations were ill-fated. To begin with, the SPD leadership rejected a revival of the grand coalition (Groko). Then, the partly diametrically opposed interests of the parties involved, seemingly abundant financial scope and a lack of interest in fundamental reforms on the part of the German population led to a – in many areas – mixed bag of measures which, on balance, aims to further increase governmental control of the business sector and society at the expense of individual freedom. However, at present, the predominant feeling is relief that Germany now has a “decent“ government. But not only the coalition partners may soon wonder whether the price is too high. [more]
March 1, 2018
In the fourth part of our series on the impact of rising yields, we discuss the rising incidence of zombie firms in recent years. Bottom-up data of some 3,000 companies in the FTSE All World index show that the percentage of zombie firms has more than tripled to 2.0% of firms in 2016 from 0.6% in 1996. Such firms are defined as those with an interest coverage ratio under 1x for 2 consecutive years and a price to sales ratio under 3x. That matters because zombie firms are linked to fading business dynamism and because years of low interest rates should have led to fewer such firms, not more. There are early signs we are at a turning point, however. The numbers for 2017, with two-thirds of firms reporting, suggest that zombie firm incidence declined sharply last year. If this proves to be a real trend, it may give central banks confidence that continuing to raise rates and pull away from unconventional monetary policy will have some advantages. [more]
February 28, 2018
2018-2019 will be crucial for the future of EU finances. Compared to previous MFF negotiations, this time the challenges ahead are disproportionally larger, including a large annual budget gap of above EUR 10 bn to be left by the UK's exit from the Union. Our scenario analysis illustrates that Western and Northern European members would see their net contributions deteriorate most in case of a substantial budget expansion in order to cover the UK shortfall as well as additional spending needs. Eastern European members would be hurt most by the alternative of harsh spending cuts to close the Brexit gap in the budget. To complicate matters further, the abolishment of the UK rebate and probably all "rebates on the rebate" will lead to a redistribution of costs among members. Profound discussions will therefore be necessary regarding the prioritization, efficiency, subsidiarity and cost sharing. [more]