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‘Unprecedented’ bond pressure to hit eurozone next year
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‘Unprecedented’ bond pressure to hit eurozone next year

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‘Unprecedented’ bond pressure to hit eurozone next year

Bond market pressure on the euro zone will be “very significant” in the first quarter of next year, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said on Monday.

Draghi said that in the first quarter of next year, some 230 billion euros of bank bonds are expiring, 250 to 300 billion in government bonds, and that more than 200 billion in collateralised obligations issued by firms will be due in the course of next year. “So the pressure that bond markets will be experiencing is really very, very significant if not unprecedented,” Draghi said in testimony to the European Parliament, and added banks have also other problems, including lack of capital.

European policymakers are striving to set up a firewall around the bloc robust enough to deter market attacks but many investors believe only stronger ECB action, particularly in the buying of euro zone government bonds, will do the trick.

Italy, the euro zone’s third largest economy which has been dragged to the centre of the crisis, has about 150 billion euros in debt falling due between February and April of next year.

Draghi gave no hint that the ECB was about to change tack on its bond-buying programme, although it will later this week offer banks three-year funds for the first time to help ward off a freeze in interbank lending.
“The treaty specifies very closely what our remit is, namely ensure price stability in the medium term. The treaty also forbids monetary financing and … we want to act within the treaty,” he said.

“We know that banks experience now and will be experiencing, even more so, a very significant funding constraint, especially in the first quarter of 2012,” he said.

Draghi also rejected joint bonds issued by euro zone countries, saying they would only be actual after there was more of a fiscal union than is currently the case.

Joint bonds would cut financing costs for the most indebted countries, but likely lift them for the ones with lowest bond yields, especially Germany.

“The more countries release in terms of national sovereignty on their fiscal stance .. the greater are going to be the benefits of any sort of euro bond concept,” the Italian said.
“(But) if you have separate countries that go on and spend on their own, separately and tax on their own, you cannot think about common issuance.”

Turning to the future of the common currency, Draghi dismissed nay-sayers who doubt the sustainability of the euro.
“I have no doubt whatsoever about the strength of the euro, about its permanence, about its irreversibility,” he said.
Draghi also said austerity programmes necessary to cut government debt would cause economic contraction within the single currency area, but only in the immediate future, and even that could be mitigated by economic reforms.

“What we want is that this contraction to be short-term and we want to activate all the channels that would enable confidence to return to markets, spreads to go down, costs of credit to go down, ultimately for job-creation to take off,” he said.

“Euro area economic activity should recover, albeit very gradually, in the course of 2012,” he said, but added there was a danger of recession looming if banks don’t lend to firms and private consumers, and that the central bank would do everything it can.

“What we certainly want to avoid is that serious severe credit tightening that could induce a further slowdown of growth and a possible recession,” Draghi said. “We want to avoid that.”

‘Unprecedented’ bond pressure to hit eurozone next year | Investing | Financial Post

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