It wasn’t quite the “Big Bazooka” that some had hoped for, but ECB President Mario Draghi took major steps this week to breathe some life into Europe’s capital markets.
For the first time, he lowered the ECB deposit rate into negative territory in an attempt to spur Europe’s banks into lending. He also resurrected the Long-Term Refinancing Operation (“LTRO”) as a “targeted LTRO” designed to get liquidity to the non-real-estate private sector. I personally question how successful the new LTRO will be in promoting new lending because borrowing from the ECB carries a stigma of weakness.
The real news, however, was that plans are being made for a modest quantitative easing program:
“The Governing Council has decided to intensify preparatory work related to outright purchases in the ABS market to enhance the functioning of the monetary policy transmission mechanism.”
In plain English, this means that the ECB is planning to buy pools of loans made to small and medium-sized businesses in the Eurozone. The idea is that banks will be more willing to make loans to Main Street if they have a ready buyer for the loans in the ECB. Europe’s small and medium-sized companies have been starved of credit for years, which has limited their ability to grow and hire.
We may also get a “big bazooka” within a few months. The ECB made no decision of the launch of a full-blown QE bond-buying program like the Fed’s, but they left the option on the table. If GDP and inflation numbers come in weak this quarter, my bet is that we see large-scale buying of corporate and government bonds later this year.
So, what’s the trade here?
Europe is slowly sliding into QE at the same time that the U.S. is leaving it. All else equal, this means that we should see a lot more hot money sloshing around in Europe’s capital markets, which should mean a nice, multi-year bull run in European stocks. Europe’s bull market is running about three years behind the U.S. bull market, and valuations are significantly cheaper.
Action to take: Buy Europe via the WisdomTree Europe Hedged Equity ETF (HEDJ). This ETF has the added benefit of having its exposure to the euro hedged, and Draghi has made it clear that he would like to see the euro trading significantly lower than it is today. Use a 15% trailing stop, and plan to hold for 24-36 months as Europe “catches up” to America.
About the author:
Mr. Sizemore has been a repeat guest on Fox Business News, quoted in Barron’s Magazine and the Wall Street Journal, and published in many respected financial websites, including MarketWatch, TheStreet.com, InvestorPlace, MSN Money, Seeking Alpha, Stocks, Futures and Options Magazine, and The Daily Reckoning.