SCOREBOARD: European battle toll

It's now official the eurozone is in a recession, but growth in France and Italy is on the rise.

That’s its official now doesn’t really change very much, because for all intents and purposes the eurozone was already in a recession. Makes for good headlines though, and in this tale of woe that the market has become that’s what matters. For interest, the official guideline is that the eurozone economy contracted 0.1 per cent in the third quarter after a 0.2 per cent fall.

By major country, Germany and France both recorded growth of 0.2 per cent with Spain and Italy showing a contraction of -0.2 per cent and -0.3 per cent respectively. For me the key take isn’t so much the point estimates or the headlines of recession. As I have highlighted before, Europe experiences sluggish growth at the best of times and, as we know, these are not the best of times. No, the key take is that there is still no sign of a deep downturn and the truth is, these numbers are better than Q2 (although the headline figures don’t show this). The reason is that the big economies have actually shown better growth than last quarter, especially France and Italy (Germany and Spain are little changed).

That aside, it was largely this news flow and just the generalised cliff concerns that saw another night of reasonable losses on the European bourses – with the Dax off 0.8 per cent, the CaC down 0.5 per cent, while the FTSE100 fell 0.8 per cent. European news otherwise was light on – everyone is still talking about Greece. It's the same old though. The IMF doesn’t want to lend them anymore money and wants sustainable debt – read 120 per cent of GDP by 2020. This probably means through writedowns. Their position, according to an IMF official, is non-negotiable. The Europeans for their part want a two-year extension etc, with ze Germans arguing for no writedowns.

There must have been some good news somewhere though, private discussions, mates of mates, etc, because Spanish and Italian bond yields fell reasonably sharply overnight. The Italian 10-year yield fell about 8bps to 4.84 per cent, while the Spanish equivalent was down about the same to 5.87 per cent. And this was all on a night where bonds elsewhere did little – so the US 10-year note is at 1.59 per cent, the 5-year sits at 0.62 per cent, while the 2-year is at 0.25 per cent (all little changed).

Over on Wall Street, the market is having a slightly better session of it, hovering around 0 although at the low, the S&P500 was down 0.7 per cent – and that followed some fairly nasty headlines on the jobless claims front. Now before people get all excited about another double dip, this data has been affected by the huge storm that hit the east coast recently. Prior to that, if readers will recall, the labour market was improving rapidly.

Anyways, claims shot up 78,000 to 439,000 and that move was accompanied by a sharp deterioration in the Philly Fed index – to -10.7 from 5.7. Another index out last night, the Empire State index (for New York) showed a modest improvement to -5 from -6. It wasn’t all bad news though. Apparently Chrysler is expanding US production, investing $240 million in factory expansions. So as I write, the S&P500 is down 0.2 per cent (1351), the Dow is 29 points lower (12541, while the Nasdaq is off 0.3 per cent (2873).

In price action elsewhere we saw another decent drop in crude, which was down 1.2 per cent to $85.28, while gold fell $15 to $1714. Copper bucked that trend, rising 0.4 per cent. There wasn’t really anything noteworthy for forex though – the Australian dollar was off 30 pips to 1.0323, and the euro up 30pips or so to 1.2765.

There were a few bits and pieces otherwise – US inflation figures shown inflation accelerated in October, with the annual rate at 2.2 per cent, from 2 per cent. Core inflation was steady at 2 per cent. Over in Europe inflation was stuck at 2.5 per cent, well above target. Then Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke gave a speech but didn’t say anything new. Everything he says has to be seen through the PR prism. He is trying to justify why they keep printing money even though there is no threat of deflation and the economy is clearly on a sustainable recovery path. So he is worried by high unemployment and sees strong headwinds to the housing recovery. It's meaningless noise for mine.

To the day ahead – the SPI is off about 0.1 per cent (4345) while debt futures are down 1 to 2 ticks with the 3s at 97.51 and the 10s at 97.050. The calendar today reveals there is nothing much to get excited about today. No data that I can see or major scheduled events. Tonight there area two things worth watching: US industrial production and European trade figures. Not much else though.

Enjoy the day and the weekend…

InvestSMART FORUM: Come and meet the team

We're loading up the van and going on tour from April to June, with events on the NSW central & north coast, the QLD mid-north coast and in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra. Come and meet the team and take home simple strategies that you can use to build an investment portfolio to weather any storm. Book your spot here.

Want access to our latest research and new buy ideas?

Start a free 15 day trial and gain access to our research, recommendations and market-beating model portfolios.

Sign up for free

Related Articles