Where next for euro government bonds?
Fixed income fund manager Tom Sartain examines what investors can expect from euro government bond markets after the ECB begins its expanded QE programme.
20 February 2015
In January, the European Central Bank (ECB) announced a bold expansion of its asset purchase programme. Now that markets have had time to digest the news, investors want to know where eurozone government bonds will go next and where the opportunities lie in today’s low yield environment.
In summary, our views are that:
• The sheer size of the expanded stimulus plan and the quasi open-ended nature of the schedule came as a surprise to the market. We believe this will prove more impactful in raising inflation expectations than markets are anticipating.
• Markets are too pessimistic on the near-term growth outlook for the eurozone. Prior to January’s announcement data were already starting to turn. The asset purchases will act as a further boost to economic progress.
• The ECB’s decisive action could shift the supply-demand balance for certain parts of the European bond market; some assets will be clear beneficiaries from the programme.
• Although the monetary policies of the eurozone and stronger economies like the US and the UK are moving apart, key aspects of bond pricing will remain closely linked. Historically, inflation risk premium (the amount of return demanded by investors for offsetting inflation risk) and term premium (the return demanded for moving further along the yield curve) are highly correlated between these markets.
There remain many unanswered questions regarding the practicalities of the expanded asset purchases. Exactly how the purchases will be undertaken is not yet fully understood; it could be via reverse auction or directly in the secondary market. The split of the bonds to be bought in terms of maturity is also not clear. Finally, there is little detail on how the ECB will avoid causing dislocations in the yield curve. Some bonds will be easier to buy than others, and market participants are likely to try to capitalise on the ECB’s buying activity. This could lead to some significant distortions.
Yields are likely to move higher, but will remain lower than historical standards.
When the small print is digested, we think 2015 will present a number of opportunities for active managers. Long dated bonds in non-core economies, inflation linked euro bonds, agencies and covered bonds are all on our radar as potential major beneficiaries from the presence of a large buyer in the market.
Against a backdrop of very low or even negative yields on many eurozone bonds, Italian and Spanish yields offer a positive yield and a steep curve. This is attractive when combined with a central bank which has committed to significant asset purchases in these markets. We expect yield spreads – the differential between a bond’s yield relative to Bunds - will continue to converge between eurozone countries, but will stay wider than the levels experienced in the years leading up to the financial crisis.
In the medium term, yields are likely to move higher, but will remain lower than historical standards. European yields will stay lower than those of faster growing economies such as the US, but if the market begins to demand higher yields from US Treasuries, because the Fed Funds rate is moving higher, then investors in European assets will demand the same.
The principal systemic risk from a euro perspective comes from Greece and its possible ‘Grexit’. The market remains nervous of the situation in Greece, and should events unfold in a disorderly fashion, any expanded asset purchases will not be enough to prevent investors seeking a meaningfully higher risk premium on euro area assets.
- Fixed Income
- Europe ex UK
- Thomas Sartain
- Quantitative Easing
Important Information: The views and opinions contained herein are those of Schroders’ Investment team, and may not necessarily represent views expressed or reflected in other Schroders communications, strategies or funds. This material is intended to be for information purposes only and is not intended as promotional material in any respect. The material is not intended as an offer or solicitation for the purchase or sale of any financial instrument. It is not intended to provide and should not be relied on for accounting, legal or tax advice, or investment recommendations. Reliance should not be placed on the views and information in this document when taking individual investment and/or strategic decisions. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future results. The value of an investment can go down as well as up and is not guaranteed. All investments involve risks including the risk of possible loss of principal. Information herein is believed to be reliable but Schroders does not warrant its completeness or accuracy. Some information quoted was obtained from external sources we consider to be reliable. No responsibility can be accepted for errors of fact obtained from third parties, and this data may change with market conditions. This does not exclude any duty or liability that Schroders has to its customers under any regulatory system. Regions/ sectors shown for illustrative purposes only and should not be viewed as a recommendation to buy/sell. The opinions in this material include some forecasted views. We believe we are basing our expectations and beliefs on reasonable assumptions within the bounds of what we currently know. However, there is no guarantee than any forecasts or opinions will be realised. These views and opinions may change. UK: Schroder Investment Management Limited, 31 Gresham Street, London, EC2V 7QA, is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. For your security, communications may be taped or monitored. Further information about Schroders can be found at www.schroders.com US: Schroder Investment Management North America Inc. is an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of Schroders plc, a SEC registered investment adviser and is registered in Canada in the capacity of Portfolio Manager with the Securities Commission in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan providing asset management products and services to clients in Canada. 875 Third Avenue, New York, NY, 10022, (212) 641-3800. www.schroders.com/us