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Time to open the other box?...

Economic Outlook

Home / Perspectives / Economic outlook: Time to open the other box?…

Neil Williams, Group Chief Economist
07 June 2016
Economic OutlookEconomics
  • eo-june-16-thumbnailFinancial markets have calmed since the spring. But, with macro & earnings recoveries below par & vulnerable, central banks daren’t remove the tide of liquidity covering the sharp rocks beneath. After seven years, though, their monetary tool-boxes look bare.
  • The Fed having raised rates once is the test-case for whether central banks can ever ‘normalise’ monetary policy. We expect it to try, hiking twice more, but peaking out early at just 1%. This suggests another two years of negative real rates, in the US & UK.
  • Deflation-prone Japan & the euro-zone can’t be sure of that. The euro-zone is halfway down the Japan route. It too may be accelerating QE & running negative rates, but has yet to loosen the fiscal reins. Its sharp defi cit reduction, though, suggests it can.
  • ‘Helicopter money’ is considered a next step. The absence of a euro-zone-wide fiscal agency precludes a unified giveaway akin to the US tax-rebate cheques. But, it could still be done nationally, with reform back-end loaded to allow growth & protect ratings.
  • A complication is the UK referendum. Brexit can still be avoided, but exit-fears could extend beyond June & the UK. With the EU’s haven status questioned (& as the ECB runs QE), this could benefit the USD - putting an extra, early brake on the Fed’s normalisation.
  • And with general elections due next year in France, Germany, & potentially Italy & The Netherlands, they may have little sympathy for a quick, ‘no-strings’ UK deal. The (new) UK Chancellor may yet have to forego returning to budget surplus by 2019/20.
  • China’s dilemma is to cut borrowing costs while property transactions outpace new starts by about two-to-one. There too, the result is probably fiscal expansion. The big macro risk is a policy face-off between US rate hikes & renminbi devaluations.
  • But, with growth under threat, funding costs low/negative, & infrastructure needs high, it surely makes sense for stubbornly slow-growth Europe & Japan to relax fiscally - using the aggressive QE they’re doing anyway to cap any rise in bond yields?...

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Neil Williams Group Chief Economist Neil joined Hermes in August 2009 and is responsible for Hermes’ economic research. He has a forward-looking approach to generate investment strategy ideas. Neil adopts top-down methods – macro and market analysis to identify interest rate and credit value, and sovereign default risk. Neil began his career in 1987 at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), becoming its youngest ever Head of Economic Policy. He went on to hold a number of senior positions in investment banks - including Director of Bond Research at UBS, Head of Research at Sumitomo International, Global Head of Emerging Markets Research at PaineWebber International, and, before coming to Hermes, Head of Sovereign Research and Strategy at Mizuho International. Neil has 29 years’ industry experience and earned an MA in Economics in 1986 from Manchester University, having the previous year completed his BSc (Hons), also in Economics, from University College Swansea.
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