Have Global Interest Rates Peaked?

With the ECB adamant that it will continue to raise rates this would seem to be the most untimely of questions, but there are now signs that this may well be the case.

Firstly this in Bloomberg today:

Federal Reserve to Cut Rates in 2007, Corporate Bond Sales Show

Thinking about refinancing your mortgage in the U.S.? Wait a year. Considering a certificate of deposit? Sign up now. While economists debate whether the Federal Reserve will cut its target interest rate for overnight loans between banks from 5.25 percent, investors have already decided the central bank will reduce borrowing costs next year. Nowhere is that clearer than in the market for floating-rate notes, whose interest payments rise and fall with central bank policy. Sales of so-called floaters are slowing for the first time since the Fed started raising interest rates in June 2004. They’ve fallen to $21.5 billion in September from a monthly average of $35 billion this year through August, according to data compiled by JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Now one swallow doesn’t make a summer, and it is early days yet, but take a look at ten year US Treasury Bonds:

U.S. 10-year Treasuries fell, halting a five-day rally, before a report today forecast to show consumer confidence gained this month.The gains ended on speculation yields at their lowest since March will deter some investors. The yield on the benchmark 10-year note rose 2 basis points, or 0.02 percentage point, to 4.56 percent as of 6:37 a.m. in New York, according to bond broker Cantor Fitzgerald LP. The price of the 4 7/8 security due August 2016 fell 5/32, or $1.56 per $1,000 face amount, to 102 15/32. Bond yields move inversely to prices.

So today we have nudged the yield back up a little, but the rate has been dropping steadily since March. And yesterday Bloomberg were being even more explicit:
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Risk Premium

Think that guaranteeing depositors’ money is a dull topic? In Russia, it’s exciting enough to get the central bank’s first deputy chairman gunned down on the way from a recreational soccer game to his armored Mercedes. It’s the highest-level assassination since President Putin took office.

Andrei Kozlov, 41, was the Central Bank of Russia‘s number two official, and had spearheaded banking reform on many fronts. Just this year, he had overseen the closure of 44 banks that were accused of improprieties. He was also at the forefront of deciding which banks could purchase deposit insurance (dubiously financed institutions could not), and he was pushing to make such insurance mandatory, as I understand it is in almost every advanced economy.

In working to bring Russia into line with international standards, Kozlov made a lot of enemies. Contract killings in Moscow are almost never solved.

Thicker And Thicker

Well, the Antonio Fazio question seems definitely to have decided that it doesn’t want to go away. The FT today informs us that the European Commission will take legal action before the end of the year against Italy over the allegations that against Fazio ( governor of the Bank of Italy). This threat is, however, not without its own problems since:

the Commission would be suing the Italian government, which has asked Mr Fazio to step down but cannot remove him. Mr Fazio is appointed for an indefinite term and can be removed only by the central bank’s board. Mr Fazio has denied any wrong-doing. On Thursday, he told Bank of Italy employees: “To serve the state independently . . . is the attitude that has always inspired the actions of the central bank.”

“To be independent, or not to be independent, that is the central bank question”

What’s It All About Alfie?

Well I suppose it’s better to end the week on a bang rather than a whimper, so here I go with another of those posts. What really ended the week on a high note (or should I say a low one) was the US labour market. And since I am arguing that the euro-dollar parity is being driven at the moment by US labour market data, this news can only mean one thing: more upward pressure on the euro. Which makes me only want to re-iterate, and even more strongly, that an important opportunity was wasted yesterday to take some remedial action by lowering the interest rate. Remedial action which would also have supplied a much needed lifeline to Germany’s beleagured economy. But this, like so many things, was not to be.
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Parmalat Update

Well, well, what do you know: Paramalat’s real debt is much bigger than was first thought. What a surprise. According to the Financial Times Parmalat’s gross debt now stands between ?14.5bn and ?14.8bn ($18.08bn-$18.46bn). At the same time its main Italian operations barely made a gross operating profit last year. Meantime Italy’s unions are threatening a strike iif the government reduces the regulatory role of the central bank. The dispute has arisen as a result of the Parmalat scandal, which the government blames partly on a failure of oversight at the central bank. As a solution the finance ministry wants to reform financial market regulation in Italy so that the central bank would no longer supervise corporate bond issuance and competition in Italy’s banking sector. The unions object to this.

Actually this was meant to be a quick post, but while writing it I cannot help reaching the conclusion that Italy may be begining to fall apart. Just wait till you read this.
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