Every month IREF publishes a Newsletter on Financial and Banking Features that are affecting the EU.
They are authored by IREF Senior Fellows Gordon Kerr and John Butler, with Prof. Enrico Colombatto, experts with first-hand insight into financial markets and their interplay with government policy.
You can subscribe to the Newsletter (for free) by entering your email address in the box on the left.
Despite our regular reports highlighting some of the challenges facing those tasked with managing the euro, public concern about government debt levels appears to have subsided to its lowest level since 2008. This low level of public awareness is due to a combination of factors; the natural (...)
WP 2018-05. Executive Summary.
Given the tremendous success of technology companies in the last 15 years, nobody is surprised by the continuing enthusiasm among investors, entrepreneurs, and policymakers for disruptive financial technology (“fintech”). However, banking regulators and rule-makers have always (...)
Despite the widely held view that the European sovereign debt crisis, and the euro itself, have been stabilized, we are not alone in the opinion that the deep problems not only remain but have probably been exacerbated by the ECB’s actions. Far from being addressed, these problems have only (...)
The collapse in January of Carillion PLC, the UK’s second largest construction and outsourcing company has attracted considerable media coverage. Carillion was principally engaged in public sector contracts to build (and in some cases operate) hospitals, prisons, roads, and part of the new (...)
The Interest Rate Outlook
Despite their shortcomings, European banks do not seem on the verge of collapse and few commentators, analysts or policymakers think that there will be any systemic wobbles in 2018. We do not necessarily disagree; with ECB interest rates still zero to negative and a (...)
Brief technical overview Let us begin with a definition of the terms ‘digital currency’ and ‘cryptocurrency’.
Digital currency – any currency that exists on a ledger. This term includes all the world’s major currencies as well as cryptocurrencies. Notes and coins are the physical form of euros, (...)
The ECB has lost confidence in bank industry efforts to reform or replace Euribor; but finding a replacement, and designing transitional arrangements will not be a straightforward task. It also risks highlighting the uncomfortable truth that the volume of unsecured interbank lending is (...)
Although there never seemed much doubt that Mrs. Merkel would be elected for a fourth term as Chancellor of Germany on September 23rd, it is not clear whether she will be strong enough to help the EU authorities push through banking union before any pro-nationalist political parties gain real (...)
Ten years on from the late summer collapse of first Paribas’ money market funds and then the failure of the UK’s Northern Rock bank, the media have published a raft of reviews reflecting on the past decade of banking reforms.
Central bankers were quick to use the anniversary to make grand (...)
Electoral victories for Mark Rutte of the Netherlands in March, followed by Emanuel Macron’s presidential ascent in France in May and his landslide Parliamentary victory in June, have encouraged the view that closer integration of Europe’s banking and financial system is quite likely. The (...)
The contrast between the actions of the Spanish and Italian governments in the past two months could hardly be more marked. As we reported in June, the Madrid government allowed the relevant European authority – the Single Resolution Board – to apply the bail-in rules to failed Banco Popular. (...)
Bail-ins Expected after Banco Popular fails in Spain. Chewing gum accounting
Just as elections of political leaders have become difficult to predict, it is becoming harder to guess which of Europe’s beleaguered banks will be bailed out and rescued, or allowed to fail thus exposing creditors (...)
Given the effort being invested into the banking turnaround story by the European authorities, and in particular the European Banking Authority, and the cohesive international supervisory effort being spearheaded by Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis which we reported in March, you would have (...)
Last month, we reported on compliance failures at very senior levels of the Bank of England, resulting in the resignation of Charlotte Hogg. There was another scandal, also involving the Bank of England and Barclays Bank, which was breaking just as we were going to press. We decided to defer (...)
We believe that the ECB is presently using monetary policy in effect to conduct fiscal, as well as monetary policy. Elected politicians should be up in arms; that they are not would imply either that they do not understand this or that they simply accept it. This may provide an interesting (...)
The Bank of England is the focus of two separate news items. Firstly, the BBC has apparently uncovered a videotape evidencing that the Bank strongly pressured commercial banks to falsify Libor submissions in 2008. If true, this contradicts denials we reported in 2012 when such allegations (...)
Unicredit’s well-publicised rights issue was reported by the press as a resounding success. Underwritten by Morgan Stanley and UBS, the €13bn issue, priced at a 38% discount to the bank’s theoretical value before the rights, closed early. Some big Italian investors publicly declared their (...)
Regulators Provide Misleading Reassurances as to Bank Solvency
February 10th was the fourth anniversary of David Cameron’s “Bloomberg Speech” in which he promised an ‘in or out’ EU membership referendum if re-elected in 2015. This year, the EU’s Commissioner for Financial Stability, Financial (...)
Criticisms of bank stress tests continue to mount, particularly as banks continue to struggle. A new problem recently emerged: the marked shortfall between the market capitalisation of most European banks and their book values.
This should soon lead to a new stress test methodology. This (...)
Purely for geopolitical reasons, namely frustration at the failure of the governments of individual member states to respond to repeated calls for “structural reforms”, your authors had taken the view in recent months that the ECB might increase interest rates this year.
Our views are changing. (...)
Central Banks Pray for Electoral “Shocks”. Forced to Nationalise Monte dei Paschi, Italy Looks in Trouble, but Cleverly Plays its Sicilian Defence.
How will Central Banks cope with 2017 shocks? Perhaps new rules, one-off solutions, doubtless lots more QE. Populism will (...)
The Eventual Impact of Rising Bond Yields. Further Cracks Appearing in the ‘Global Consensus’ of Bank Supervision.
Global Bond Market Yields are Rising
The ECB’s recently announced 6 month extension of its QE programme reminds us that the speed at which the programme will (...)
The European Banking Can Nears the End of the Road
“The key thing to know about Lehman Brothers is that it did not cause the financial crisis, it revealed the financial crisis”
The Credibility of Central Banks is Irreparably Damaged. Critics of Policy Grow as More Evidence (...)
As QE becomes widely discredited, German policymakers end their uneasy truce with the ECB. Banking woes deepen.
Central Banks under fire for crossing the line into fiscal policy. Claudio Borio, head of monetary and economic research at the Bank for International (...)
The absence of structural reforms brings the effectiveness of ECB policy increasingly into question. The Financial Stability Board claims that banking reform is largely complete. Despite a quiet summer, there is plenty of evidence that it (...)
Post Brexit, Sterling weakens. Brexit will retest Central Banks’ Firepower. Will Scotland’s Resurgent Independence Campaign Want to Keep the Pound?
The reaction of financial markets to the Brexit vote was well covered by the press. After initial sharp falls, stock markets throughout the (...)
Brexit Fervour Underscores the Weakness of Economic Forecasting.
Increasingly Outlandish Economic Arguments on Both Sides of the Brexit Debate. The Bank of England’s intervention is questionable.
As apolitical neutral observers, your authors seek to draw attention to (...)
Central Banking – Embracing the Blockchain
In a recent speech, Bank of England deputy governor Ben Broadbent opined that the key innovation underlying Bitcoin is not the unit of account itself but blockchain – the digital settlement ledger in which all transactions are recorded chronologically (...)
The European Commission accepts that EU law requires accounts to provide a “true and fair view” of assets, liabilities, financial position and profit or loss as specific indicators of financial health of companies, including banks. That is something that that IFRS accounting (...)
Bank share prices recover after further falls early February. However, credibility of ECB increasingly questioned as it considers further expansionary policies.
Fears of a renewed banking crisis, which had seemed a possibility in January, abated in February. By March 7th, (...)
Jittery January Markets - Does the ECB have Contingency Plans? The ECB must be aware that investors’ confidence in stock markets, particularly bank shares, dropped in January. If contingency plans exist, they are likely to fall short of purchasing non-performing loans.
The media consensus in (...)
Central Banking – The Bank for International Settlements again Questions Prevailing Central Bank Policies.
The BIS has recently published two reports. In one, appearing to embrace the Austrian School of economic thought, it attributes the weakness of the present advanced economy recoveries to (...)
Problems executing QE cause market confidence in the ECB to dip. What policy changes should we expect from the ECB in 2016?
Reports from the European Banking Authority and Bank of England claim that banks are healthy, but weak measures of capital are (...)
US regulations blamed for banks turning away deposits. Will this add further impetus to non-banking deposit and payment businesses?
Even More Bad news from Deutsche Bank. Can the Bank be Turned Around?
Despite abundant and increasing evidence of loose monetary policies being the cause of emerging market economies moving from boom to bust, there are none so blind as those who refuse to see.
Central Bankers want to abolish cash in order to be able to set substantially negative interest (...)
China devalued its currency by 3%. Financial markets responded disproportionately, but we explain that it is quite understandable, given government policies in the rich countries.
We then investigate the devaluation’s effect on the US and EU financial markets as well as on the currencies of (...)
Ultra Low Interest Rates have destabilized the global Economy whose capital markets now show signs of Illiquidity.
Stress testing of banks by central banking authorities has come to prominence as reliance on the traditional accounting standards has waned. Europe’s banking system was (...)
As the US vs European recovery story swings our way, what lessons can Europe learn from the strong swing to the centre right in Britain’s elections? Is there a possibility of Brexit?
Banks have been hit with more fines, but more importantly, also with Criminal Convictions. Is this banking out (...)
Most media optimism, both in the US and Europe, continues to focus on the dizzy levels of stock and bond markets, but in our view these index levels have been driven up by professionals front-running QE in the US and Europe.
In the past month, a Bulgarian court appointed two experts to (...)
Bank for International Settlements has labelled the impact of recent European quantitative easing as “unprecedented”. Worrying effects are not only the negative interest rates, but also very high price volatilities of asset. This development may soon hit not only economic, but also legal and even (...)
The ECB’s deal with Greece still leaves it exposed. Despite the rhetoric that countries must get their own finances in order, the ECB’s sister agency has started work on a new programme of $319 bn of mutualised debt.
US banks all pass their stress tests. However, that is not necessarily (...)
Is the standoff between the ECB and Greece in any sense subtle, or simply a car crash waiting to happen? We explain why being the first to defect may in fact
benefit Greece. With low sympathy for formal (fiscal) debt forgiveness, we expect pressure to increase further on the ECB.
Only two countries remain opposed to QE, although even they realise that measures about to be implemented are QE in all aspects but the name. Meanwhile, ground is being prepared for ECB to shift blame if “unconventional stimulus” ends up not working.
Russian sanctions work. Or so we are led to (...)
Despite the attention offered by the media to Russian banking and foreign exchange markets, tensions are growing in the ECB. Some ECB Board members are unconvinced of the stance the ECB President is taking, doubting that the introduced policy would be effective, let alone constitutional. We (...)
The Asset Quality Review (Stress Test) results confirm system wide solvency. Yet, regulators announce the rewriting of bank risk models and the ECB plans large scale asset purchases.
Although Scotland voted in September to remain in the United Kingdom, both sides hailed the high voter turnout as recognition of democratic engagement and growing European dissatisfaction with over-centralised, bureaucratic, seemingly unaccountable government. The effect has been to raise (...)
Low interest rates contribute to weak labour markets
A new measure of Unemployment and Labour Market Conditions gains support at the Annual Jackson Hole Conference. Doubts continue about European QE as near-zero interest rates may actually be preventing employment from picking up.
BIS has doubts about monetary policy in the Euro area
Latest BIS Report says that present monetary policies risk permanently destabilizing the global economy. It calls for A New Policy Compass, focussing on the ‘Financial Cycle’, not the Business Cycle.
Banks remain fragile and imbalances (...)
Confidence in the ECB wobbles as commentators on all sides question the effectiveness of supposedly growth stimulating new policies.
Markets and Investment
At least two big takeover deals are being negotiated in Europe now, both with heavy government involvement. The strategies (...)