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The ECB will not abide by markets

Bonds
Althea Spinozzi

Senior Fixed Income Strategist

Summary:  We believe that the market is ahead of itself regarding ECB's interest rate hikes expectations. The ECB will most likely keep open the possibility to become less accommodative if inflation remains sustained. Still, it will discard interest rate hikes until 2023. It means short-term rates might tumble, forcing the EUR lower. Don't be fooled: positive German yields will soon be a reality across the yield curve as the central banks prepare to normalize monetary policy. Italian government bonds' honeymoon is over as market volatility remains sustained. We expect the BTPS-Bund spread to widen before resuming its decennial tightening trend.


This week, the market has advanced interest rate expectations in Europe. Money markets began to price 9bps of ECB tightening for July, sending shockwaves in the European sovereign space. Two-year German yields rose above the ECB deposit rate of -0.5% for the first time since 2015, in a sign that tomorrow Lagarde will lean against a rate hike in 2022. To foster such suspicions were the higher-than-expected inflation numbers released this week which showed a monthly pick up of 0.9% in Germany and Eurozone inflation rising to 5.1% YoY.

Source: Bloomberg and Saxo Group.

The ECB finds itself in a challenging position ahead of tomorrow's monetary policy meeting. On one side, it will want to retain the option open to fighting inflation. On the other hand, it needs to avoid igniting a deeper selloff in rates markets.

Therefore, the central bank is trapped. With the Federal Reserve and the Bank of England advancing with aggressive monetary policies this year, the euro area's yields will also rise. Additionally, the PEPP program is ending in March, pulling even more economic support and applying upward pressure to rates. That would cause a natural tightening of financing conditions in the euro area, which the ECB would want to monitor.

Therefore we’ll probably see Lagarde pushing back against a rate hike this year, disappointing on the market's hawkish expectations. We could witness a contained rally in European sovereigns, which could tumble the EUR.

Don’t be mistaken: ten-year Bund yields might have become a memory already this week. Any hawkish or dovish shift of the ECB will be mostly felt by the front part of the yield curve. However, it's undeniable that the whole German yield curve willsettle above 0% as the ECB gets ready to normalize its monetary policy. 

Source: Bloomberg and Saxo Group.

Italian government bonds’ honeymoon is over.

The celebrations for the re-election of President Mattarella were short-lived. After a modest tightening of the BTP-Bund spread on Monday, the spread resumed rising yesterday. It shows that the performance of Italian government bonds does not depend entirely on the national political situation. At this moment, they are more vulnerable to central banks’ monetary policies.

Because BTPS carry a higher beta than peers, Italian sovereigns will suffer the most as volatility in rates markets increases. Therefore, we remain constructive on our view that the BTPS-Bund spread will widen to 160bps before resuming its tightening decennial trend.

Source: Bloomberg and Saxo Group.

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