ETF Securities Research Blog

Deflating the ECB’s bond ‘balloon’

European bond yields are hovering near the lowest levels in history, but we believe it is not a bubble in the traditional sense. Yields are artificially low, driven by extraordinary levels of stimulus from the ECB. In this framework, we would characterise the situation as a bond balloon, not a bond bubble.

The critical difference between a balloon and a bubble is what happens at the end: central bankers are keen to deflate the balloon, rather than burst the bubble. The gradual deflation of the bond balloon is a key aspect of what policymakers want to achieve with the unwinding of asset purchase programs. As a result, communication is crucial to forming investor expectations about the path for tighter monetary policy.

We expect the European Central Bank (ECB) to be guarded and very careful regarding its comments about unwinding stimulus at the upcoming policy meeting. We feel that the market has already largely priced in the tapering of the central bank’s bond purchasing programme. As a result, while there could be a brief spike higher for the Euro, it will be temporary. We feel FX markets are continuing to underestimate the cautiousness of the ECB in changing its policy settings. Investors should be wary, as ECB policymakers are already concerned about the rise in the Euro.

At the last meeting policymakers expressed concern ‘about the risk of the exchange rate overshooting in the future’. The Euro has moved higher since and with futures market positioning at the highest level on record, there are downside risks for the Euro against the Pound. The long EUR short GBP trade is overcrowded and currency pair could move back toward more historically average levels around 1.11 if the ECB’s rhetoric at this week’s meeting suggests a pragmatic and gradual approach to paring its asset purchases. If ECB President Draghi continues the narrative from last meeting and doesn’t discuss the issue at all, the negative Euro reaction could be very sudden and sharp. Further downside, toward 1.17 in the coming year is likely as clarity around Brexit negotiations is gleaned.

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