Today the ECB announced it will offer 442 Billion Euros of 12-month loans to banks at the current Euribor rate of 1.57%.
This is a massive issuance with a minimal rate of interest! In context it's equivalent to one third of all sovereign issuance in the Eurozone this year, and should go a long way to unlock European credit markets. Since October 2008 the ECB has lent to banks for terms of 6 months against eligible collateral; yet this new issuance is a sizable boost.
Today was the first of three auctions scheduled for this year, with the others set for September and December. The increase in lending is bullish for European recovery, which the Central Bank has forecast to decline 4.6% this year before returning to mild growth next year. We'll be monitoring the extent to which these monies reach Main Street. Should mortgage rates compress it could significantly improve the consumer's health. Despite increased business and consumer sentiment readings from Europe's largest economies (German, France, and Italy) retail sales and exports -as well as home prices and sales, are at depressed levels with little signs of sequential improvement across most of Europe.
We've had a bearish bias on Europe generally but have strategically traded European countries from a fundamental and quantitative set-up this year as we anticipate greater divergence between the major EU economies as the global recovery process continues to drag on. We're currently short Italy via the ETF iShares EWI and have recently traded the Swedish and German markets on the long side, and the Swiss market on the short side.
Disclosure: Short EWI