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It’s D-day for Several Central Banks Today


You could almost hear jaw drops in Frankfurt yesterday. European inflation unexpectedly accelerated to 5.1% y/y in January, defying expectations for a base-effect driven decline. Core inflation fell by less than hoped for, to 2.3%. Euro area money markets stepped up rate hike bets ahead of the ECB meeting (today). They now discount a total of +-25 bps rate increases by the end of this year. Short-term bond rates added 1.2-2.2 bps (2y-5y German Bund) and 2.7-3.4 bps (2y-5y swap). The long end outperformed, remaining unchanged or declining 1 or 2 bps. The euro, as ever, fails to really profit from the ongoing yield increase at the front end of the curve. EUR/USD did rise to 1.1305, up from 1.1272, but mainly thanks to the dollar still correcting lower (DXY fell from 96.38 to 95.8). EUR/USD failed to settle within the upward sloping trend channel. US data disappointed (ADP -301k vs +180k expected) but left no permanent traces on markets. US yields struggled, much like they have been doing over the past few days. The curve shed up to 1.4 bps across the curve. The 2y yield extended a gentle topping out pattern near 1.20% while the 10y variant oscillates around the 1.80% pivot. Wall Street shrugged at the data and finished in the green with gains up to 1% (S&P). Futures in early trading (>2% lower in the Nasdaq) paint a completely different picture for today though after tech bellwethers Meta Platforms (Facebook parent) and Spotify delivered bleak guidance. Asian cash trading is mixed with Japan declining 1% but South Korea opens to 2% higher after a few days off. Core bonds eke out small gains. The dollar snaps a three-day decline.

It’s D-day for several central banks today, from the Czech National Bank (75 bps hike expected) over the ECB to the Bank of England. The latter is poised to deliver its first back-to-back rate hike since 2004. Hiking rates to 0.5% would trigger a natural balance sheet roll off too. The 25 bps increase is completely discounted. The key question for sterling is how aggressive the Bank of England will sound and how it sees inflation evolving based on current market policy rate expectations: will it be (more) than enough for a return to the 2% target? Markets have penciled in a total of five 25 bps moves for 2022 with a peak rate of about 1.6% in 2023. This leaves some scope for disappointment. The downside in EUR/GBP – with strong support in the high 0.82 area – should be well protected. The much higher than expected European (core) inflation piles pressure on the ECB, which meets after the BoE. We expect Lagarde to stick to the script outlined in December nevertheless, i.e. shelving PEPP in March, temporarily raising APP and refrain from interest rate hikes this year for the time being. A (verbal) policy U-turn is more likely to happen when it’s backed by new forecasts in March or June at the latest. The lack of central bank commitment will probably hurt the euro more than euro area money and bond markets. EUR/USD’s dollar-driven recovery over the recent days may soon run into resistance. 1.1186 marks the first support (Nov 2021 low).

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The Brazilian central bank (BCB) raised its key Selic rate as expected by 150 bps from 9.25% to 10.75%. The BCB pursued an aggressive tightening cycle since March last year, delivering a cumulative 875 bps rate hikes up until now. However, for its next steps, the MPC foresees as adequate at this moment a reduction in the hiking pace. It refers to the stage of the tightening cycle with the cumulative effects of the efforts made kicking in with a time lag and being visible over the relevant horizon. The BCB specially mentions 2023 when it forecasts inflation at 3.2%, just below the 3.25% target. The BCB sees its policy rate peak at 12% in H1 2022 (5% above inflation and 8.5% above the neutral rate) with and end of year forecasts for 2022 and 2023 respectively at 11.75% and 8%. The MPC stresses risks in both direction to its reference scenario. Downside (inflation) risks stem from decreasing international commodity prices (measured in BRL). Upside inflation (and country credit) risk(s) come from the government’s fiscal spending spree. USD/BRL followed the dollar correction lower of the past days, currently trading around 5.26, the strongest BRL-level since September last year.

KBC Bank
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This non-exhaustive information is based on short-term forecasts for expected developments on the financial markets. KBC Bank cannot guarantee that these forecasts will materialize and cannot be held liable in any way for direct or consequential loss arising from any use of this document or its content. The document is not intended as personalized investment advice and does not constitute a recommendation to buy, sell or hold investments described herein. Although information has been obtained from and is based upon sources KBC believes to be reliable, KBC does not guarantee the accuracy of this information, which may be incomplete or condensed. All opinions and estimates constitute a KBC judgment as of the data of the report and are subject to change without notice.

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