In case you missed it, the euro was slaughtered like your favorite characters on Game of Thrones, as forex traders got wind of downbeat remarks from ECB officials and the European Commission President himself. What exactly did they say and is the shared currency in for a more brutal selloff?
1. ECB official Couere: Lower deposit rates, front-loaded QE
What’d I tell y’all about unscheduled events sneaking up to surprise forex market watchers? Most forex calendars didn’t really indicate that ECB Board council member Benoit Couere had a testimony lined up. Ehh, it’s not Draghi and it’s just a speech at some college in London, no big deal…
As it turned out, ol’ Benny right here (Yes, I’ve just given him a nickname) thought it was a good time to drop a bombshell on the forex market by talking about the possibility of another deposit rate cut. Now if you’ve been keeping track of ECB monetary policy decisions since last year, you’d know that Governor Draghi and his men have already dragged deposit rates to negative territory, which means that commercial banks and financial institutions are actually paying fees to keep their extra cash parked in the central bank’s vault.
Couere suggested that the ECB could drag deposit rates much lower (more negative? negative-er?) in order to discourage banks from leaving cash in the ECB’s reserves, in effect forcing them to use these funds to increase lending activity instead. Wait a minute, didn’t Draghi say something about deposit rates already at their lower bound? Well, Couere pointed out that this “lower bound” was more of just an arbitrary guideline than a hard figure.
In addition, Couere hinted that the ECB could front-load their quantitative easing operations before summer, which basically means that the central bank might increase the size of bond purchases by this month and the next. Currently, the ECB is conducting large-scale asset purchases to the tune of 60 billion EUR each month and may pick up the pace in May and June before the summer’s low-liquidity doldrums set in.
2. ECB official Noyer: Central bank ready to take further action
To add salt to the euro’s wounds, ECB governing council member Christian Noyer echoed ol’ Benny’s dovish remarks in saying that the ECB is ready to step on the gas with its current stimulus program. Noyer, who also happens to be the head honcho of the French central bank, mentioned that policymakers could take further steps to ensure that euro zone inflation moves closer to the 2% target.
Noyer did acknowledge that the recent asset purchases have done a good job of shoring up price levels in the region, but he also pointed out that the QE program could extend beyond September 2016 if ECB officials don’t see a significant improvement in inflation trends. He cautioned that there is still plenty of economic slack in the region and it doesn’t help that external factors, namely the persistent weakness in oil prices, might continue to keep a lid on inflation.
3. EC President Juncker: Still no aid deal for Greece
Moving on from the euro zone’s economic woes to the region’s debt-ridden trouble child, Greece… According to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, there still has been no agreement made on the reforms that the Greek government must implement to secure their next batch of funds. While the country has been able to cough up enough cash to meet this month’s debt obligations, they’ve got another set of payments due next month!
Now Greece has turned to its creditors to borrow more money to pay for their outstanding loan, but the European Commission and the IMF refuse to extend the bailout unless the anti-austerity Greek government agrees to implement economic and fiscal reforms to reduce spending. This standoff has been going on for months now and with another debt deadline fast approaching, the idea of a Greek debt default and a potential “Grexit” has come up again.
Forex market participants had been crossing their fingers that a compromise would be made in this week’s European Union Council meeting in Riga, but EC President Juncker junked (See what I did there?) speculations that a resolution has been reached. Apparently, the Greek media has been buzzing about a leaked document dubbed the “Juncker Plan” involving a delay in austerity measures and lower government budget targets, but Juncker denied making any kind of proposal. Womp womp.
To make the long story short, a couple of ECB top dawgs just opened the possibility of seeing further easing from the central bank and Greece still has no money to pay its debts. Where to now, euro? Cue GDFR by Flo Rida (ft. Sage The Gemini and Lookas).
Of course all this euro ruckus could simply be an overreaction to recent events, as the shared currency has been propped up by glass half-full expectations for both the euro zone economy and the Greek debt situation for the past few weeks. Who knows, ECB Governor Draghi might try to restore confidence in the region by assuring that a “sustained recovery” is taking hold while Greek creditors and government officials might have a shot at reaching a last-minute agreement, allowing the euro to recover against its forex rivals.
Higher-profile forex market events, such as the next ECB monetary policy statement and Greece’s actual debt payment deadline in the first week of June, could determine where the euro might be headed in the long-run. Until then, be on the lookout for any updates (scheduled or unscheduled!) that could either support or downplay the bearish euro bias.