FRANKFURT: European Central Bank President Mario Draghi will have a tricky task next Thursday: give just enough clues about the bank’s next move but not fuel undue expectations that could perturb markets.
China will also be in spotlight in the coming week, reporting third quarter GDP figures on Wednesday, with data likely showing steady growth at 6.7 per cent, as increased budget spending and a property boom offset stubbornly weak exports.
The ECB is facing weak growth and super-low inflation, which means Draghi will have to persuade investors that the ECB is ready to pull the trigger on more stimulus at the same time that he preserves an escape route since the bank has already done unprecedented easing and its room to manoeuvre is limited.
The question to decide is whether to extend an 80-billion euro per month asset purchase programme, due to run out in March, or start dialling back stimulus.
It will be tough call as the hawks, including Germany, the bloc’s biggest economy, oppose any further easing. But a decision is seen as premature as the Eurozone economy is humming along, giving Draghi some time refine options.
A Reuter poll on Thursday found economists expecting no change in the coming week’s meeting but a tweak of policy in December.
On the macro front, industrial production is rebounding, confidence is holding up, government budgets may provide a touch more stimulus next year and oil prices are nudging higher, lifting up inflation prospects.
Draghi has already said that inflation could rise to ECB’s target of close to 2 per cent by late 2018 or early 2019, an unusually upbeat projection.
Yet the bank has warned that underlying price pressures still lacked a convincing upward trend and its projections were predicated on “very substantial” monetary support, signals analysts said pointed to an extension of asset buys.
Technical constrains, such as low bond yields and asset scarcity, have also eased in recent weeks, giving the ECB time to adjust the asset buying scheme’s parameters.
“Macro developments since the September meeting have not put the ECB in a hurry to present additional monetary actions,” ING economist Carsten Brzeski said.
“The possible lack of sufficient supply for bond purchases would only be a pressing issue at the beginning of next year,” Brzeski said. “This means that addressing the scarcity problem will, strictly speaking, only be required if and when the ECB is definitely determined to extend quantitative easing beyond March 2017.” Still, markets expect asset buys to be extended by 6 months by and see even more cheap funding for the bank sector, decisions most likely to come in December.
The Chinese government has been battling to get its economy back on steadier footing while gently pressing with painful and politically sensitive reforms to cut industrial overcapacity and ballooning debt.
Although growth has appeared to stabilise, economists warn that it has become too reliant on government spending and a housing market that is showing signs of overheating.
“The stabilisation in industrial production growth, the upturn in the real estate market and monetary loosening could help reduce pressures on corporates and local governments,” Christine Peltier at BNP Paribas said.
“However, their solvency is not improving, their debt levels have become even more excessive over the last year and their capacity to service their debt remains weak,” Peltier said. “In this context, credit risks in the financial sector continue to increase and the performance of commercial banks deteriorates gradually.” Debt is around 250 per cent of gross domestic product and excessive credit growth is signalling an increasing risk of a banking crisis in the next three years, the Bank of International Settlements warned recently.
Growth, falling to a 25-year low last year, is also expected to ease further as foreign trade shrinks and the excessive reliance on debt is bound to ease.
The Canadian economy meanwhile rebounded in the quarter, giving the Bank of Canada some space to hold policy steady on Wednesday.
Still, with energy prices persistently low, global trade generally weak, and US demand relatively soft, Canadian rates are likely to stay low for even longer than earlier thought.