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01 Jun 2018

Europe’s policy storm: what it means for your bonds investments

In early 2018, as we looked down the road ahead, we expected to see rising US yields, and – with a lag – a similar dynamic in Europe. Indeed, because of the strong economic momentum in the US, Treasury yields have been rising. But now, Europe’s path is taking a different turn.

Political turbulence in Italy has pressured Eurozone bond yields. And to some, seeing the two-year Italian bond yield spike 35 basis points in one day rang unpleasant echoes of 2011-2012. At that time, in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis as Eurozone economies experienced widening deficits and were pressed to tighten their fiscal belts, the region dipped again into recession. This sparked a sell-off in sovereign debt in the periphery economies.

But we believe that we’re treading a very different path today. By mid-2016, Italy’s and Spain’s spreads over German bunds were neck and neck. But Italy’s spreads are now twice as high as Spain’s, whereas 2012’s sell-off was more uniform.

Markets are presently far more discriminating, with investors judging individual markets on fundamental metrics. Moreover, while fear that the Eurozone might fall apart drove the 2012 sell-off, this time it’s Italy’s specific situation that’s pushing up risk.


Political turbulence in Italy has hit the eurozone bond market in recent weeks 


                           chart 1

Source: Lyxor International Asset Management, ThomsonReuters Datastream. Data as at 30/05/2018 Past performance are not reliable of future performances. 


Could the Italian political storm put the eurozone itself at risk?

It’s certainly concerning that Italy’s traditionally pro-European population has turned increasingly Eurosceptic. Both La Lega and its coalition partner, the Five Star Alliance want to challenge the European Union, and spending promises in their manifesto would almost certainly break EU fiscal rules.

So far, the spread of contagion to Portugal, Spain or Greece has been more limited. Albeit Spain is suffering from its own problems, with its Prime Minister forced out of office by a no confidence vote in parliament on Friday 1st June. Mariano Rajoy's government is thus being replaced by a minority government led by PSOE's Pedro Sanchez. With less than a quarter of the seats in the lower house, political instability and inaction is likely.

The relative resilience of these other markets also suggests that countries that received financial assistance (either fully or only for their financial sector) may be on a better footing today (both in terms of public finances and economy growth) and are arguably better able to cope with another bout of market stress. 

In our view, the real make-or-break situation doesn’t lie in the future with Italy. Rather, it’s already happened – with Greece.

For Greece to have left the Union would have opened Pandora’s Box. But it is Mario Draghi’s forceful July 2012 statement that remains with us today: “The ECB is ready to do whatever it takes to preserve the euro. And believe me, it will be enough.”

Whether the ECB would have made another similar statement today is debatable. 


US and Europe on diverging paths

Both on the short-end and the long-end of the yield curve, the gap between the US and the Eurozone is already widening; in the near term, we expect this to continue. In addition to benefiting from fiscal stimulus and high exposure to rising oil prices, the US economy is operating at full capacity and inflation is likely gain pace further.
So three more rate hikes may well be on the cards for 2018.

>>View our US Floating Rate Note ETF


Europe is still experiencing relatively high growth, with the region’s economy firmly in expansionary territory. But inflation is still below expectations, and the ECB is rightfully expressing a dovish monetary stance. We believe refinancing rates are not going to move higher before H2 2019, as that the shift in monetary policy will be very gradual.

Ultimately, the market deems it unlikely that Italy will opt to leave the EU, and Italian spreads have already eased down somewhat. However, this problem isn’t about to go away. We expect the political situation in Italy to generate protracted uncertainty, with spreads remaining elevated compared to their early-2018 levels.

So, for now, the paths diverge. But we maintain our conviction – and our hope – that the Eurozone moves forward as one.


Options left to fixed income investors


We believe investors have a number of options in this environment. The natural choice might be to look to peripheral European economies where yields are higher and appear to give some insulation. However, these are higher risk and there may be contagion if the problems in Spain and Italy escalate. As such, the protection is likely to be limited.

If the situation in Italy gets worse, few Eurozone fixed income markets will escape the turmoil, the highest rated market would prove more resilient. Another way to avoid it may be to look outside, like US Treasuries. The UK is also often ignored in this context, yet UK bonds are paying a much higher yield than Germany (1.26% versus 0.37% - Source: Bloomberg to 30 May 2018).

Investors can also look to go short the fixed income market. This helps those who are mandate-constrained and need have a fixed income allocation.

Looking ahead, the combination of political turmoil and changing sentiment from the ECB can only be a recipe for higher yields for non-core sovereign bonds whereas German Bund 10 year yield has dropped below 0.5%. This is an uneasy time to be a Eurozone fixed income investor.


All views & opinion, Lyxor Equity & SG Cross Asset Research/ Equity Quant team, as at 30 May 2018 unless otherwise stated. Past performance is no guide to future returns


Why Lyxor for  fixed  income?

       Why lyxor

*Source: Lyxor International Asset Management. Data as at 31/01/2018. Statements refer to European ETF market.

Risk Warning

FOR QUALIFIED INVESTORS ONLY– This document is reserved and must be given in Switzerland exclusively to Qualified Investors as defined by the Swiss Collective Investment Scheme Act of 23 June 2006 (as amended from time to time, CISA).

This document has been provided by Lyxor International Asset Management that is solely responsible for its content.

Lyxor $ Floating Rate Note UCITS ETF - Dist- Lyxor Index Fund, domiciled in Luxembourg and Lyxor EUR 2-10Y Inflation Expectations UCITS ETF - Acc, Multi Units Luxembourg domiciled in Luxembourg are collective investment schemes approved by the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority FINMA (FINMA) as (a) foreign collective investment scheme(s) pursuant to article 120 of the Swiss Collective Investment Schemes Act of 23 June 2006 (as amended from time to time, CISA) for distribution in Switzerland to non-Qualified Investors as defined in the CISA.The above mentioned Exchange Trade Fund(s) (ETF(s)) is/are listed on the SIX Swiss Exchange.

This document is reserved and must be given in Switzerland exclusively to Qualified Investors as defined by the Swiss Collective Investment Scheme Act of 23 June 2006 (as amended from time to time, CISA). 

Financial intermediaries (including particularly, representatives of private banks or independent asset managers, Intermediaries) are hereby reminded on the strict regulatory requirements applicable under the CISA to any distribution of foreign collective investment schemes in Switzerland. It is each Intermediary’s sole responsibility to ensure that (i) all these requirements are put in place prior to any Intermediary distributing any of the Funds presented in this document and (ii) that otherwise, it does not take any action that could constitute distribution of collective investment schemes in Switzerland as defined in article 3 CISA and related regulation.


Any information in this document is given only as of the date of this document and is not updated as of any date thereafter.This document is for information purposes only and does not constitute an offer, an invitation to make an offer, a solicitation or recommendation to invest in collective investment schemes.  This document is not a prospectus as per article 652a or 1156 of the Swiss Code of Obligations, a listing prospectus according to the listing rules of the SIX Swiss Exchange or any other exchange or regulated trading facility in Switzerland, a simplified prospectus, a key investor information document or a prospectus as defined in the CISA. An investment in collective investment schemes involves significant risks that are described in each prospectus or offering memorandum. Each potential investor should read the entire prospectus or offering memorandum and should carefully consider the risk warnings and disclosures before making an investment decision. Any benchmarks/indices cited in this document are provided for information purposes only. This document is not the result of a financial analysis and therefore is not subject to the “Directive on the Independence of Financial Research” of the Swiss Bankers Association.

The Representative and the Paying Agent of the Fund(s) in Switzerland is Société Générale, Paris, Zurich Branch, Talacker 50, CP 5070, CH-80218001 Zurich. The prospectus or offering memorandum, the key investor information documents, the management regulation, the articles of association and/or any other constitutional documents as well as the annual and semi-annual financial reports may be obtained free of charge from the Representative in Switzerland. In respect to the units/shares of the Fund(s) distributed in and from Switzerland, place of performance and jurisdiction is at the registered office of the Representative in Switzerland. This document does not contain personalized recommendations or advice and is not intended to substitute any professional advice on investments in financial products. 

Conflicts of interest 

This research contains the views, opinions and recommendations of Lyxor International Asset Management (“LIAM”) Cross Asset and ETF research analysts and/or strategists. To the extent that this research contains trade ideas based on macro views of economic market conditions or relative value, it may differ from the fundamental Cross Asset and ETF Research opinions and recommendations contained in Cross Asset and ETF Research sector or company research reports and from the views and opinions of other departments of LIAM and its affiliates. Lyxor Cross Asset and ETF research analysts and/or strategists routinely consult with LIAM sales and portfolio management personnel regarding market information including, but not limited to, pricing, spread levels and trading activity of ETFs tracking equity, fixed income and commodity indices. Trading desks may trade, or have traded, as principal on the basis of the research analyst(s) views and reports. Lyxor has mandatory research policies and procedures that are reasonably designed to (i) ensure that purported facts in research reports are based on reliable information and (ii) to prevent improper selective or tiered dissemination of research reports. In addition, research analysts receive compensation based, in part, on the quality and accuracy of their analysis, client feedback, competitive factors and LIAM’s total revenues including revenues from management fees and investment advisory fees and distribution fees.

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