Trichet and the ECB, Finalizing a Legacy Tuesday, Jan 18 2011 

On October 31, 2011 the tenure of ECB President Trichet will come do an end. In the coming months we will likely hear an increasing drumbeat of noise concerning who will replace Trichet and what policies the new leader of the ECB will embrace. In the meantime, it is likely that Trichet will use the remaining months to tie up loose ends regarding the PIIGS and set a potential course for his successor.

On January 13th, the ECB released its latest statement sending a hawkish tone to the markets and warning that if commodity prices continue to rise the ECB may have to step in a begin raising interest rates in an attempt to stay ahead of the inflationary curve.

During the press conference Trichet reminded the markets that in July of 2008 the ECB was faced with a difficult decision in the face of rising oil prices and not afraid to raise interest rates to maintain price stability..

As Trichet’s tenure as head of the ECB draws to a close we are likely to see him begin to tie up some loose ends so as not to burden the new President and allow him to start with a fresh plate.

This explains the recent push by Europe to get Portugal and Spain to accept bailouts. As noted in a fall speech Trichet warned the PIIGS that they cannot wait to get their respective houses in order and that it must be done quickly or else they risk being left behind.

By getting Spain and Portugal out of the way early in 2011, Trichet can turn his full attention to a very pressing matter, rising inflationary pressures.

Italy will become a wildcard if Burlusconi cannot hold onto power. If the Italian government falls then there will likely be pressure by the ECB and the market to accept reforms or a bailout.

December 2010 ECB inflation came in at 2.2%, slightly higher than the 2% upper band. Recent pressures in the agricultural and commodities sectors indicate that inflation may be stubborn and stay above the 2% level for most of 2011. In that case, Trichet may choose to end his term with a rate hike in order to get ahead of the inflation curve and set the course for hi successor.

During the press conference Trichet noted a clear difference between the building inflationary pressures and problems at the sovereign level by remarking that both areas are separate and distinct risks.

Rising commodity prices fuel inflation risk as consumers purchasing power is eroded through higher prices which in turn translates into rising wages.

The problems at the sovereign level fuel sovereign risk as governments are forced to pay higher rates in order to finance new debt and refinance existing debt.

The question yet to be asked is who will replace Trichet as head of the ECB?

The French are concerned as Trichet is the only French member of the council and his departure represents a loss of decision making power over interest rates.

Right now the ECB council is composed of representatives from France (Trichet), Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria, and Portugal. We may see an olive branch extended to France for support of a hawkish candidate by offering them the position currently held by Gertrude Tumpel-Gugerell, the representative from Austria, when she retires in May of 2011.

Late last year the French began to court the head of the Italian Central Bank as a possible successor in contrast to the head of the German Bundesbank who is a leading candidate.

One needs to ask themselves what favors the Germans asked for in return for their bailing out of Ireland and if the recent large purchases of debt by Japan and China were a negotiating ploy.

Whomever takes the reigns of the ECB following Trichet will be watched closely by the market as a hawk would indicate a continuation of the policies and the potential for interest rate increases. A dove would indicate a break with the policies of Trichet and an indication that interest rates are likely to remain low for some time into the future.

Disclaimer
Communications are intended solely for informational purposes. Statements made should not be construed as an endorsement, either expressed or implied. This article and the author is not responsible for typographic errors or other inaccuracies in the content. This article may not be reproduced without credit or permission from the author. We believe the information contained herein to be accurate and reliable. However, errors may occasionally occur. Therefore, all information and materials are provided “AS IS” without any warranty of any kind. Past results are not indicative of future results.
PAST RESULTS ARE NOT INDICATIVE OF FUTURE RESULTS. THERE IS RISK OF LOSS AS WELL AS THE OPPORTUNITY FOR GAIN WHEN INVESTING IN THE STOCK, BOND, AND DERIVATIVE MARKETS. WHEN CONSIDERING ANY TYPE OF INVESTMENT, INCLUDING HEDGE FUNDS, YOU SHOULD CONSIDER VARIOUS RISKS INCLUDING THE FACT THAT SOME PRODUCTS: OFTEN ENGAGE IN LEVERAGING AND OTHER SPECULATIVE INVESTMENT PRACTICES THAT MAY INCREASE THE RISK OF INVESTMENT LOSS, CAN BE ILLIQUID, ARE NOT REQUIRED TO PROVIDE PERIODIC PRICING OR VALUATION INFORMATION TO INVESTORS, MAY INVOLVE COMPLEX TAX STRUCTURES AND DELAYS IN DISTRIBUTING IMPORTANT TAX INFORMATION, ARE NOT SUBJECT TO THE SAME REGULATORY REQUIREMENTS AS MUTUAL FUNDS, OFTEN CHARGE HIGH FEES, AND IN MANY CASES THE UNDERLYING INVESTMENTS ARE NOT TRANSPARENT AND ARE KNOWN ONLY TO THE INVESTMENT MANAGER.
Before making any type of investment, one should consult with an investment professional to consider whether the investment is appropriate for the individuals risk profile. This is not intended to be investment advice or a solicitation to purchase any of the securities listed here. I will not be held liable or responsible for any losses or damages, monetary or otherwise that result from the content of this article.

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Japan – A Curious Conundrum Tuesday, Oct 12 2010 

I apologize for the lack of posts over the past few days but the move made by the markets last week has drawn more than a passing interest and caused me to delve into deep thought.

As I mentioned in the Week in Review the move last week by the Bank of Japan to cut interest rates and enact a new quantitative easing program along with the lack of moves by Indonesia and Australia coupled with the immediate rally in equity markets looks increasingly like a coordinated global intervention to push up equity prices to help Japan.

Looking at other Asian markets there is a flood of hot money roaring through these markets like a tsunami. For someone who was and still is bullish on the equity markets I have to take pause here. The Thai Bhat has rallied down below a crucial support level at 30 and there are calls from the business community to help stem the appreciation in the Bhat as this is hurting FDI and exporters just as the political climate is showing signs of stabilization.

This is more than a short-term issue and this flood of money will cause unintended consequences in 2011 as the Asian growth machine continues to lead the world out of the recession.

Strong growth across Asia, ex-Japan, is fueling inflationary worries as increased purchasing power is driving demand in local markets. The increased demand for products is beginning to fuel the flames of inflation.

But there is a thorn in the side of the central banks as they attempt to stomp out inflation before it takes root and that is Japan.

Continued slow economic growth in Japan is hampering efforts by other Asian central banks to stem the flow of hot money into their capital markets.

A rise in interest rates by Asian central banks would risk creating an enormous carry trade between Japan and the other Asian countries possibly adding further to flows of hot money into Asian equity markets.

But what has me most concerned was a simple picture a few weeks ago of a young Japanese woman putting up a poster extolling the virtues of investing in JGB’s. My concern here is twofold. First, as Japan enters into an environment where their aging population must increasingly redeem their JGB’s and foreign capital markets are unlikely to chase yield in Japan the only pool left to tap is the younger generation. By doing so this pulls money that would go into consumption or the Japanese equity markets.

If the younger generation decides to follow in the path of their parents and buy JGB’s it is unlikely that local participation in the equity markets will rise and create a new bull market in Japanese equities. Just as well, consumption figures will remain low and if consumption does not increase then it is likely that deflation will continue well into the future.

Disclaimer
Communications are intended solely for informational purposes. Statements made should not be construed as an endorsement, either expressed or implied. This article and the author is not responsible for typographic errors or other inaccuracies in the content. This article may not be reproduced without credit or permission from the author. We believe the information contained herein to be accurate and reliable. However, errors may occasionally occur. Therefore, all information and materials are provided “AS IS” without any warranty of any kind. Past results are not indicative of future results.
PAST RESULTS ARE NOT INDICATIVE OF FUTURE RESULTS. THERE IS RISK OF LOSS AS WELL AS THE OPPORTUNITY FOR GAIN WHEN INVESTING IN THE STOCK, BOND, AND DERIVATIVE MARKETS. WHEN CONSIDERING ANY TYPE OF INVESTMENT, INCLUDING HEDGE FUNDS, YOU SHOULD CONSIDER VARIOUS RISKS INCLUDING THE FACT THAT SOME PRODUCTS: OFTEN ENGAGE IN LEVERAGING AND OTHER SPECULATIVE INVESTMENT PRACTICES THAT MAY INCREASE THE RISK OF INVESTMENT LOSS, CAN BE ILLIQUID, ARE NOT REQUIRED TO PROVIDE PERIODIC PRICING OR VALUATION INFORMATION TO INVESTORS, MAY INVOLVE COMPLEX TAX STRUCTURES AND DELAYS IN DISTRIBUTING IMPORTANT TAX INFORMATION, ARE NOT SUBJECT TO THE SAME REGULATORY REQUIREMENTS AS MUTUAL FUNDS, OFTEN CHARGE HIGH FEES, AND IN MANY CASES THE UNDERLYING INVESTMENTS ARE NOT TRANSPARENT AND ARE KNOWN ONLY TO THE INVESTMENT MANAGER.
Before making any type of investment, one should consult with an investment professional to consider whether the investment is appropriate for the individuals risk profile. This is not intended to be investment advice or a solicitation to purchase any of the securities listed here. I will not be held liable or responsible for any losses or damages, monetary or otherwise that result from the content of this article.