Dovish ECB underpins euro zone bond markets

Mario Draghi backed market expectations for a rise in interest rates late next year

ECB chief Mario Draghi reaffirmed plans to end the bank’s €2.6 trillion stimulus programme this year.

ECB chief Mario Draghi reaffirmed plans to end the bank’s €2.6 trillion stimulus programme this year.

 

Borrowing costs in the euro zone’s biggest economy, Germany, held below six-week highs on Friday, a day after the European Central Bank’s (ECB) president backed market expectations for a rise in interest rates late next year.

Most 10-year bond yields in the bloc were steady ahead of second quarter US economic growth data that many economists expect to show a strong reading.

“In fixed income markets, the main question today is whether the 10-year US Treasury yield...will break the 3 per cent mark in the wake of the US GDP release,” a UniCredit note said.

Markets were reluctant to push bond yields too far in any one direction before Monday’s Bank of Japan meeting, given recent reports that the central bank is debating moves to scale back its massive monetary stimulus.

For now, however, Thursday’s ECB meeting provided some comfort for euro zone bond markets.

ECB chief Mario Draghi reaffirmed plans to end the bank’s €2.6 trillion stimulus programme this year and keep rates low “through the summer of 2019”.

Asked to unpack this formulation, which has given rise to diverging interpretations, Draghi said market expectations were “very well aligned” with the central bank’s own.

Money markets price in a 10-basis-point (bps) rise in the ECB’s minus 0.40 per cent deposit rate in October 2019, in what would be the first hike since 2011.

“There was a dovish spin relative to what one could have expected, given a recent source-based story that some members of the governing council were not happy with the market pricing on rates,” Commerzbank head of rates Christoph Rieger said.

Germany’s 10-year Bund yield was flat at 0.40 per cent, holding below almost six-week highs hit this week at 0.424 per cent.

Two-year German bond yields pulled back from six-week highs touched on Thursday at minus 0.5950 per cent.

Most euro zone bond yields were set to end the week higher for a second week running, with 10-year bond yields in France and Germany up roughly 3 bps on the week.

That reflects an easing in trade-war fears after talks between the United States and European Union this week and speculation about potential tweaks to BOJ policy.

Japan’s 10-year government bond yield slipped off a one-year high on Friday after the BOJ conducted special, unlimited buying for the second time this week.

Most market players expect central bankers meeting on Monday to stop short of making immediate policy changes and to say instead that they will study ways to reduce the side-effects of the prolonged easing, such as hits to banks’ profits.

“The elephant in the room could be the BOJ, which is very hard to assess,” Commerzbank’s Rieger said. – Reuters