Equities: New extremes and a challenging opportunity set
Discover insights on the future of equity markets in Q1 2024 and navigate the potential recession with strategic investment choices.
Head of Macroeconomic Research
Summary: On Friday, European leaders are due to meet to discuss the recovery package "Next Generation EU" presented by the EC in addition to the standard seven-year budget for the period 2021-2027. There is still quite some way to go towards an agreement, notably regarding the balance between grants and loans and the criteria for allocating money. An agreement on the recovery plan in July, as expected by Chancellor Angela Merkel, is certainly a very optimistic scenario considering current divisions among member states.
Since the beginning of the outbreak, the EU has implemented radical measures by European standards to cope with the crisis:
Issues raised by the EC proposal
When the “Next Generation EU” instrument was first presented by the EC, many overly-optimistic commentators have talked about “Hamilton moment” for the EU. Digging into details, it looks more like a missed opportunity than a real leap forward in European integration. The two major limitations of the proposed scheme are the total amount allocated remain below what the dire economic situation would necessitate, at around 0.9% of EU GDP per year on the period 2021-2024, and it is very ill-timed. Due to the administrative processes, notably approval, the delay of disbursement is extremely long. Less than a quarter of total grants are expected to be spend in the next two and half years with the peak of the stimulus happening in 2023-24, which is way too late for the recovery.
The EC will also have to provide clarifications about exact criteria for allocating money (as mentioned previously). So far, it has only been stated that: “It will be available to all member states but support will be concentrated in parts of the Union most affected and where resilience needs are greatest”. Finally, there is certainly a misunderstanding regarding the EC’s communication concerning new direct EU budget revenues (taxes) that will help the repayment of the EU borrowing for the recovery plan. Since the EU lacks tax sovereignty (Article 311 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU), we don’t see how it would be able to raise taxes to cover the cost the Next Generation EU.
No breakthrough in negotiations this week
What is very surprising is that there is little communication from member states ahead of the meeting. This certainly means that negotiations behind closed doors continue at an intensive path at ministry level and that no country wants to jeopardize them. In a way, it is rather a positive signal.
Over the past few weeks, slight divisions appeared between the Four Frugals with Denmark easing its opposition to the EC proposal, and officially joining the “skeptical” camp which includes Hungary. However, it will take quite a lot of time before reaching an agreement and we believe that the soft July deadline mentioned by Chancellor Angela Merkel is unrealistic. We also need to remember that a long parliamentary process regarding Next Generation EU has started or is about to start in many members states that could significantly slowdown the whole process. A few weeks ago, the Finnish Parliament’s constitutional committee, who was the first to examine the EC proposal, has ruled out it may not comply with the EU law – it is not a major roadblock that political will cannot overcome but it is a “stone in the shoe” of the EC and supporters of the recovery package.
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