Euro gains favour ahead of ECB bond-buying decision

ECB president Mario Draghi is expected to announce today an end to the institution's asset-purchase programme.
ECB president Mario Draghi is expected to announce today an end to the institution's asset-purchase programme.

Analysts bullish on currency with forecasts of a climb against US$

LONDON • Buy the euro, sell bonds.

That is the takeaway from strategists who expect that European Central Bank (ECB) president Mario Draghi will announce today an end to the institution's asset-purchase programme as the immediate risks surrounding Italian politics subside.

Analysts have become more bullish on the euro following recent hawkish comments from ECB officials, with Credit Agricole forecasting that the shared currency will climb 7 per cent to US$1.26 by the year end. Money market pricing indicates interest rates will rise 15 basis points in September next year.

Traders have been emboldened by policymakers, including ECB chief economist Peter Praet, who signalled last week that the meeting could be pivotal in deciding an end-date to quantitative easing.

"That the ECB's chief economist is still talking about policy normalisation, even as the Italian political crisis rages, reinforces our belief that euro-dollar will get to 1.30 in the next six to 12 months," Societe Generale strategist Kit Juckes wrote in a note to clients. The pair currently hovers around US$1.1750.

JPMorgan recommends going short on longer-dated German bunds and Deutsche Bank prefers selling the front end of the yield curve. Meanwhile, a potential stumbling block to Morgan Stanley's steepening recommendation in bunds or euro interest-rate swaps is uncertainty over the outlook for Italy, according to the bank.

The ECB has also been taking a closer look at three of the euro zone's biggest trading books, according to people briefed on the matter.

It asked BNP Paribas, Deutsche Bank and Societe Generale several months ago to provide information on how they value bonds, stocks and derivatives on their trading books, the people said. The review is now close to a conclusion, they added.

News of the probe was reported earlier by Sueddeutsche Zeitung. BNP Paribas, Deutsche Bank and Societe Generale declined to comment when contacted by Bloomberg News.

The ECB has made no secret of its intention to take a close look at the trading operations of the euro area's largest banks, particularly at how they use the leeway they are given to price hard-to-value assets and liabilities themselves. Such Level 3 instruments represent less than 1 per cent of euro-zone bank assets, ECB data show, but they are considered important to keep an eye on because of the potential risks they pose to financial stability.

Chair of the ECB's supervisory board Daniele Nouy said last month the institution had subjected major trading banks to "a combination of enhanced monitoring, 'deep dives' and on-site inspections" on Level 3 assets, though she was not specific about which firms were targeted.

ECB executive board member Sabine Lautenschlaeger has also talked about collecting information on lenders.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 14, 2018, with the headline 'Euro gains favour ahead of ECB bond-buying decision'. Print Edition | Subscribe