Mario Draghi’s absence from the Fed’s Jackson Hole conference this week makes the sidelines look more attractive
No Mario Draghi speech at the Kansas City Fed’s Jackson Hole meeting this weekend. In fact no president of the European Central Bank at all.
Draghi had been scheduled to speak on Saturday morning, but he has cancelled that appearance in order to stay home and prepare for the September 6 meeting of the central bank’s board of governors.
Which has raised the stakes for the September 6 meeting—and increased the market’s nervousness.
One view—the pessimistic one—says that Draghi is staying home because German opposition has put his plan to lower interest rates for Italy and Spain at risk.
The other view—the optimistic one—says that Draghi is staying home because he needs the time to put the finishing touches on a comprehensive plan to lower interest rates for Italy and Spain.
Either way Draghi’s change of schedule has drawn attention to the September 6 meeting and cast the event in either/or terms of disaster or triumph.
You can see why reading the possible outcomes in such starkly opposed terms might make the market uneasy and make investors head to the sidelines. (And yesterday and today’s action sure shows some investors taking profits in the riskier stocks that have move ahead recently. Nokia (NOK), down big yesterday and today, is a prime example.)
But the odds were—and remain—that the September 6 meeting wasn’t going to produce anything very dramatic to begin with. The biggest fixes that the bank has available—such as giving a banking license to the still-not-authorized permanent bailout fund—aren’t really within the bank’s power to deliver by next week. (The European Stability Mechanism is still waiting on German approval and that hinges on a constitutional court decision that isn’t due until September 12.) Other big market moving fixes—such as a program that would re-start significant purchases of Italian and Spanish government debt by the European Central Bank—have been pushed off into the future by Draghi himself when he said that the bank would only move after a formal request from the Italian and Spanish governments and after action from the temporary and permanent bailout funds.
In other words the meeting isn’t likely to produce anything very dramatic. A positive result would be great clarity and strong agreement by the bank’s board of governors on the conditions for central bank action at some point in the future. A negative result would be continued and public opposition from Germany, Finland, and the Netherlands to a definite plan on any time scale that would involve bond buying by the central bank.
In other words, the September 6 meeting isn’t likely to produce anything very clear cut one way or the other. The situation after the meeting is likely to be just as murky and undecided as it is now.
That hasn’t changed.
What has changed is the degree of the market’s anticipation that something dramatic will happen on Thursday.
And that makes it especially hard to tell how the market will react to whatever the September 6 meeting actually produces.
Full disclosure: I don’t own shares of any of the companies mentioned in this post in my personal portfolio. The mutual fund I manage, Jubak Global Equity Fund http://jubakfund.com/ , may or may not now own positions in any stock mentioned in this post. The fund did not own shares of any stock mentioned in this post as of the end of March. For a full list of the stocks in the fund as of the end of March see the fund’s portfolio at http://jubakfund.com/about-the-fund/holdings/
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