QE programs only have a real positive impact on an economy when markets are dysfunctional. This was clearly the case in 2008 in the US, but was not the case in both 2010 and 2012 and I don’t think that the US central bank policy added much to the recovery once the global financial crisis had passed. I believe that the same in happening in Europe now with the ECB introducing QE just as signs are emerging that growth is trending upwards and that the worst is over for the region for the time being, although the upside is not particularly bright. The interesting thing was the near-euphoria exhibited by Mario Draghi overnight with strong upgrades to growth and inflation in the next two years, which appear completely overdone given the structural issues at play in the region.
Nevertheless, with higher anticipated growth and inflation, the big question then becomes how long will the QE program last if the region defies the fundamentals and improves, and will Germany insist on tapering the program before September 2016 if that is the case? Nonetheless, I still think that the impending earnings upgrade cycle in Europe, will be enough for the region to continue to outperform the US who will have its own headwind as the US Fed starts hiking rates sometime this year. Meanwhile, another strange twist was the ECB agreeing to buy instruments on negative yields. If you are holding eligible securities that are close to -0.2% you are simply waiting for the ECB to take it off your hands for a profit. I have always said that the only way to profit from buying bonds with negative yield is the ‘bigger fool than thou’ and not only has that person entered the room, but he also has an extremely big wallet and different objectives to both you and I.
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