The most important central bank in the world, i.e. the US Fed, made an announcement yesterday that attracted a large deal of attention from investors. The bank withdrew its assurance to remain “patient” before the Fed funds rate would be increased. This paved the way for a possible abandonment of the zero interest rate policy, if economic need be. The new formula goes like this: the Fed funds rate will be raised once the labour market has improved more and the FOMC is optimistic about inflation rising towards the medium-term target of two percent.
The US dollar has appreciated significantly vis-à-vis the euro in the past months. For this trend to continue, at least two developments would have to be in place. Firstly, the US Fed would have to abandon its zero interest rate policy; and secondly, the ECB would have to remain on its path of negative interest rate policy and bond purchases.
We have seen European equities outperform their American peers in the year to date, both in local currency and in euro. Not even the increase of the US dollar relative to the euro of 8% made a difference to that. What is this pro-European optimism based on? After all, the US economy has seen a significantly better development than the Eurozone. The same is true for US companies, which have been recording profit growth, as opposed to Europe, where profits have generally been falling recently. The uncertainties in Greece and Ukraine only add to this scenario.
The share price performance in emerging Europe, i.e. Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Russia, Turkey, and since most recently again, Greece, has not been overwhelming in the past years. Since the middle of 2011 the MSCI Emerging Europe, the most important index for the region, had been locked into a sideways movement, which was topped off by a correction at the end of 2014 as a result of the ongoing political crises. Along with (geo-) political factors, the weakening of the economic dynamics and a lack of reforms had been causing a subdued price performance.
The driving topics on the financial markets are the stabilisation of the oil price, mixed economic indicators globally vs. positive economic indicators for the Eurozone, the temporary decline in escalation risk, and the expansive central bank policies.