The fall in the oil price will also help European businesses by easing cost pressures. Guide to the Markets - UK. Monetary policy looks set to remain accommodative in , which will keep lending rates at a very supportive level. The European Central Bank ECB reiterated its forward guidance on interest rates in January, and also acknowledged that the risks to the outlook had moved to the downside.
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Attention is quickly turning to what the ECB could do to provide further stimulus. This policy measure is starting to come into focus again as these loans will begin to mature in June At a minimum, we would expect the ECB to announce an extension of the initiative to continue to provide support to the banking sector and economy. Key interest rates are already in negative territory. The ECB will struggle to expand quantitative easing as it is nearing the upper limit of the amount of German Bunds it is permitted to buy.
Parameters would have to shift to allow it either to buy a larger proportion of the German market, or more debt from other countries-a politically contentious issue. On the fiscal side, we are seeing governments move to incrementally looser policies-notably in Italy and France. Germany has fiscal capacity for significant stimulus, but the political appetite appears limited. With limited help available to the eurozone economy from within, an improvement in external factors might prove the key for a turnaround in sentiment among both manufacturers and consumers.
The necessary catalyst for a change in economic momentum could also come from the avoidance of a hard Brexit, a de-escalation in trade tensions or a soft landing in China. While the first two carry the imponderabilia of politics, we have a larger degree of confidence in the latter as China continues to ease monetary and fiscal policy to stimulate its economy.
New infrastructure projects have also boosted investment growth, and Beijing continues to implement tax cuts for corporates and consumers alike. The multitude of elements that have contributed to a slowdown in Europe, coupled with the absence of a clear catalyst for a turnaround, has left investors cautious of investing in the region. An uncertain economic outlook for the region suggests investors should remain cautious in the near term.
But the international nature of European companies and the broader eurozone economy means that the direction of the global growth environment will have a large bearing on future performance. Investors will likely stay on the sidelines in Europe until we get the promise of a lasting recovery in growth. But were the macro data to improve we could see a change in fortunes for European stocks given a lot of bad news is in the price.
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