ETF Securities Research Blog

The ECB: To infinity and beyond?

Co-author: Martin Arnold – FX & Macro Strategist

We believe the ECB decision to extend its Asset Purchase Programme (APP) while reducing the monthly amount by EUR20bn is extremely prudent and forward looking, reflecting rising inflation risks on the back of higher oil prices and the increasing prospect of higher fiscal spending next year. What’s more we believe the ECB is applying a precautionary approach to the potential inflationist risks associated to the rise of populist parties in Europe.With over 70% (by GDP) of the Eurozone having scheduled elections in 2017/18, political uncertainty is likely to keep gains for the Euro limited. Such political uncertainty, and in the absence of genuine economic reform, is also likely to force the ECB to do more in terms of yield curve management in order to buttress failing banks.

Both external and internal factors have been exerting pressures on the ECB to extend its quantitative easing. While the bond rout that followed the victory of Trump led more Eurozone government bond yields to exceed the deposit facility rate (-0.4%) – the minimum rate to be eligible for the ECB’s APP – increasing the amount of bonds available for purchase, the changes over the APP technical aspects (namely, widening the maturity range from 2yr-30yr to 1yr-30yr and accepting bonds yielding below the deposit rate) reveal the ECB’s concern that the bond rout could reverse.

After extending its QE policy until December 2017 and broadening the base of assets the central bank can buy, the ECB has further enhanced its commitment to supporting growth in order to engender inflationary pressures. Although the inflation picture has improved, there is significant uncertainty, and the ECB is likely to continue to use different stimulus measures to help boost demand, putting further downward pressure on the Euro.

Although late to the QE party, the ECB has shown a strong desire to strengthen the transmission mechanism that would allow the ‘easy money’ to get to the real economy, by buttressing bank balance sheets. In this way, yield curve targeting, like the Bank of Japan can further support bank balance sheets by steepening yield curves, and help funding get to the areas of the economy that need it most.

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