Charting the Markets: The ECB Meets, The World Awaits
The wait is almost over.
It's been 42 days since ECB President Mario Draghi signaled in Malta that more stimulus would be needed in December to counter barely existent inflation. Now it's down to the details. Draghi isn't the only central bank chief in the spotlight. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen appears before the congressional Joint Economic Committee a day after she said she's confident in the outlook for U.S. economic growth, paving the way for a policy shift on Dec.16.
The euro is hovering above its lowest level since April on expectations the ECB will increase stimulus today. Since the ECB last met on Oct. 22 the common currency has sunk almost 5 percent against the dollar. In that time only one of its major 31 peers - the Russian ruble - has fallen against the euro. Goldman Sachs says a "dovish surprise" from Draghi will drive the euro down to about a 12-year low of $1.03. Some strategists warn the euro could bounce higher if Draghi disappoints. Barclays, Bank of America Merril Lynch and Standard Chartered are among six institutions forecasting a drop to parity in the first quarter of 2016.
German two-year bond yields are barely changed from Wednesday's record low, ahead of the ECB announcement. Since Oct.22 two-year yields have fallen from minus 0.25 percent to minus 0.43 percent. Currently the ECB is unable to buy bonds yielding less than its deposit rate of minus 0.2 percent, leading investors to price in a cut today to at least minus 0.3 percent. When the ECB last met $1.38 trillion of eurozone sovereign debt had negative yields. By Wednesday that figure had risen to $2.14 trillion, a third of the region's bond market.
European stocks gain for the first day in three as investors count down the minutes to the ECB decision. The Stoxx Europe 600 Index has jumped almost 6 percent since the October meeting. The only industry group - out of 19 - to have fallen in that period is basic resources. European stock markets are some of the world's best performers in 2015. France's CAC 40 has jumped 15 percent, Italy's FTSE MIB has surged 19 percent and Germany's DAX is up 14 percent, helped in part by the prospect of further easing from the European Central Bank. In comparison, the S&P 500 Index is up 1 percent.
Mark Barton is a presenter on Bloomberg TV. Follow him on Twitter @markbartontv