Markets will remain focussed on the US fiscal cliff issue and chances that it might be avoided via a bi-partisan agreement. The FT runs an article based on Republican-leaning Glenn Hubbard, a respected economist. Mr. Hubbard suggests that a compromise may be reached by concentrating on raising the average and not the marginal tax on upper-income taxpayers. That may be done by closing tax loopholes and capping tax deductions. Earlier House majority leader (and republican) Boehner already suggested that increases in revenues may be on the negotiation table. While this is modest good news, we wouldn’t draw too many conclusions from it yet. Indeed, these are some initial statements of albeit influential people, but they are far from enough to assure markets that the problem will be taken care off. A lengthy negotiation across the aisle, right up to the deadline or even beyond the deadline is still likely. Some are already stating that one can still act retroactively and let the 31 December deadline pass before taking measures in January, when the new Congress is sworn in and House leader Boehner is reappointed by his fellow House republicans. Once the re-election assured, he might have more room to compromise. This is only one of many considerations. For now, we think that uncertainty about the fiscal cliff will stay in the focus for at least some more weeks. Formal negotiations start on Friday.
The Ecofin meeting today has an interesting agenda. Discussions include the economic governance (draft budgetary plans and strengthening surveillance of member states), the revised capital requirements rules and very important the banking supervision mechanism. Recently, a number of countries led by Germany are trying to curtail the scope and breadth of the supervision by the ECB, while also the UK has objections as it fears to be sidelined by it. The debate inside Ecofin is an orientation debate, but afterwards some leaks may show how the issue evolves. Banking union is a key feature for markets, as a strong banking union loosens the link between banks and sovereigns. So, if divisions continue to rise, it would be positive for core bonds and negative for peripherals.