Cash & Liquidity Management
Published  6 MIN READ

Relative Normality On Horizon — But Divergent Monetary Policy Pathways Likely

Exclusive insight for TMI subscribers! Northern Trust Asset Management share a monthly market commentary for treasurers.

Eurozone Market Update

The European Central Bank (ECB) is not as far along the hiking cycle as the Fed or Bank of England (BoE) and has some catching up to do. Focussing on core inflation, not headline rates, it also went for a 50 basis point (bp) rate rise, in line with market expectations and taking the deposit rate up to 2%. The ECB’s approach was seen as hawkish. Clear in its intent and viewing market expectations as too low, the ECB said that ‘based on the substantial upward revision to the inflation outlook, [it] expects to raise [rates] further’. The market responded by repricing both February and March meetings to reflect strongly anticipated 50 bp hikes. The ECB surprised the market by announcing that, from the beginning of March 2023, the asset purchase programme (APP) portfolio — but not the pandemic emergency purchase programme (PEPP) — will decline on average by €15 billion per month until the end of the second quarter of 2023. Peripheral and credit spreads reacted negatively to the hawkish statement, causing the Italian 10-year yield to jump over 30 bps — the biggest move since 2020. The core government bond yield also rose significantly, led by the front end yield, which caused yield curves to flatten.

UK Market Update

The BoE hiked rates by 50 bps in December, bringing the base rate to 3.5%. This was widely expected and already priced in by many. However, the real interest lay in the voting pattern of the Monetary Policy Committee. A divergence of views emerged, with reactions against an increasingly likely stagflationary UK scenario compounded by housing woes. The vote split — two, six and one members voting for rate hikes of 0 bps, 50 bps and 75 bps, respectively — was perceived as dovish, in contrast to the hawkish approach of the ECB. The implied peak rate for 2023 in the UK rose 13 bps over the month, ending December at 4.70%. Interestingly, where ‘mortgages’ had been the November meeting’s watchword, December’s focus switched to concerns around ‘wage growth’. The broad conclusion is that peak tightness has passed for now. In inflationary terms, December Consumer Price Index (CPI) data dipped from 11.1% to 10.7%. BoE projections revised the second quarter 2023 CPI downwards by 0.75%. Only supporting data can add confidence to its approach.

US Market Update

At their December meeting, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) unanimously voted to raise interest rates by 50 bps as expected, downshifting from four successive 75 bp hikes. This brings the upper bound of the Fed’s target to 4.5%. Another 50 bp hike is still anticipated for February, with 25 bps an unspoken possibility thereafter. U.S. monthly CPI inflation was at 0.1% in November versus the expected 0.3%. Core inflation for November was at 0.2% versus the projected 0.3%. Core Personal Consumption Expenditures Price Index expectations were revised upwards to 3.2%-3.7% for 2023. All this will raise expectations of a pause from the Fed before the BoE and certainly the laggard ECB, both of which will be watching Fed moves closely.