Comme à son habitude, le marché réagit de manière épidermique à l’annonce par la BCE d’un nouveau programme d’achat d’obligations souveraines (OMT). Il faudra quelques jours pour voir si l’annonce a réellement une effet durablement positif, d’autant que les premiers commentaires après la décision de la BCE sont plutôt mesurés, voire prudents…
La réaction de PIMCO, plus gros gérant obligataire mondial, est résumée dans un tweet de ses dirigeants – Mohamed El-Erian et Bill Gross:
— PIMCO (@PIMCO) September 6, 2012
Chez Schroders, l’analyse est un peu plus détaillée, faite par Azad Zangana, économiste:
« After months of delay and inaction, the President of the European Central Bank (ECB) Mario Draghi has today announced the restarting of sovereign bond buying after earlier announcing no change in interest rates (0.75%). The ECB has been struggling to effectively lower the cost of borrowing in peripheral Europe, mainly due to the perceived risk of debt default and Euro exit risk.
The ECB will now end the dormant Securities and Markets Programme (SMP), but hold on to the some €209bn of government bonds until maturity, and continue to sterilise those purchases. The new Outright Monetary Transactions (OMT) programme will buy government bonds with a maturity of three years and under, but only those for countries that will be under European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) or European Stability Mechanism (ESM – once active) programs, or a precautionary programme, which we think Spain may be considering. The decision to link the purchases to bail-out programmes is designed to ensure conditionality of help remains, and reduces the risk of moral hazard, where member states receiving aid decide to ease off fiscal and structural reforms. For countries already receiving bail-outs, they must regain market access before the ECB include them in bond buying. In addition, the ECB will give up its preferential creditor status on future purchases; effectively making it equal to other investors should a country decide to default/restructure.
In our view, the ECB has taken another step in the right direction, but is still some way away from totally removing the tail risks that investors fear. While the ECB has found the big gun in bond buying, it is missing the ammunition to make a long lasting positive impact on markets. Although the OMT will have no explicit limit to the amount of purchases, there is a serious flaw in its design. The ECB’s insistence to sterilise the bond purchases means that the ECB can only buy bonds as long as demand for Euro T-bills remains (the sale of which absorbs the liquidity released by the bond purchases). If demand dries up, as it did for the SMP at the start of the year, then the bond purchases would be halted. In that sense, Draghi may be overreaching when he said that the ECB would “backstop” the monetary union.
With regards to the ECB’s creditor status being lowered, this should help encourage more investors to buy peripheral debt. There was a fear that if the ECB was to start buying bonds but retain its senior status, existing and future private investors would have been subordinated, as was the case when Greece eventually defaulted.
Overall, useful measures being taken today which will help bring relief to peripheral Europe in the short-term. However, the capacity of the ECB and European governments to bail-out Spain AND Italy is seriously lacking, and will continue to be short until the ECB and Germany realise that Fed-style Quantitative Easing is the only effective tool. »
Autres commentaires, de Citi:
« The Governing Council kept the key ECB interest rates unchanged. The tone of the press conference suggests that the ECB is no hurry to loosen the monetary policy stance further, unless economic activity and sentiment were to turn more negative. The Council adopted the Outright Monetary Transactions (OMT) framework for secondary market support in order to “safeguard the monetary policy transmission” under “strict conditionality”. It also loosened collateral requirements aggressively, suspending the application of the minimum credit rating threshold for refi operations in the case of marketable debt instruments, of credit claims, and of countries eligible for OMTs or under programmes that comply with the required conditionality. It also decided to accept instruments denominated in currencies other than the euro.
The Introductory Statement was very similar to that presented in August, with the ECB reiterating its assessment of the balance of risks to economic outlook (to the downside) and to medium-term price developments (balanced). The addition of a sentence relating to the risks of further intensification of market tensions, “if not contained by effective action by all euro area policy makers”, suggests that the ECB is leaving the door open to additional monetary policy stimulus. Mr. Draghi explained that the vote would have been unanimous but for one dissenting view, very likely, in our view, that of Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann.
President Draghi launched a strong defence of the Governing Council’s decision to “safeguard the monetary policy transmission mechanism in all countries of the euro area“ arguing that OMTs would enable the ECB to “tackle severe distortions in government bond markets, which originate from, in particular, unfounded fears … of the reversibility of the euro”. He stressed the independence of the ECB in taking those decisions, and intimated during the press conference that the ECB would retain full discretion in OMTs, ranging from initiation, continuation to suspension.
The technical features of the OMT were largely as expected: OMTs will have no exante quantitative limits, no published yield or spread targets, with purchases focused on the shorter part of the curve, and in particular on sovereign bonds with a maturity of between one and three years. On conditionality, the OMT requires a full EFSF/ESM macroeconomic adjustment programme or a precautionary programme such as the Enhanced Conditions Credit Line (ECCL). The ECCL was agreed by member states in July 2011 to increase the flexibility of the EFSF to address contagion, and is based on the IMF’s Precautionary Credit Line (PCL) benchmark.
Note that the OMTs may be “considered for Member States currently under a macroeconomic adjustment programme when they will be regaining bond market access”. This may well be useful for Ireland, and at a latter stage for Portugal. »
et Bank of America Merrill Lynch:
« ECB President Draghi managed to keep markets guessing without disappointing too much. For us, the negatives marginally outweigh the positives from the meeting. The very strict conditionality the ECB attaches to the OMT (outright monetary transactions, i.e., bond purchases) puts the ball firmly in the court of the politicians. As we highlighted in our preview, the decision-making process runs along two channels: 1/ the ECB, which was clarified today; 2/ politicians, who now need to decide whether to apply for support. If anything, the hurdle for such an application has increased today.
1. Maturity focus « in particular » on 1-3y
2. OMT purchases to rank pari-passu with the private sector
3. No quantitative ex-ante limit on purchases (which the market will read as « unlimited ») – redemptions in 2013-15 amount to EUR 526 bn for Italy (BTPs) and Spain (SPGBs) together
4. The ECB to accept foreign currency collateral in a repeat of its 2008-2010 operations
1. Emphasis on conditionality even stronger than we had expected (as a minimum, ECCL only way to access ECB buying, IMF involvement desired, both significantly lowering the probability that a country will apply for EFSF/ESM support)
2. No yield targets, no ex-ante transparency on bond purchases (i.e., as before, the ECB will only tell us once a week how much they bought), no technical details on how these purchases would differ from the SMP
3. Ireland and Portugal will only qualify for OMT when they « are regaining market access »
4. Collateral eligibility criteria changes restricted to suspending the rating floor for government (and government-guaranteed) bonds – no changes to haircuts, thereby providing no relief for peripheral banks
5. SMP remains senior and is officially terminated, raising the question of who would be supporting the market while we wait for the OMT to be activated«
Pour compléter, la BCE a également publié ses dernières fourchettes de prévisions pour la zone euro.