Why Europe Is About To Plunge Further Into The NIRP Twilight Zone, And What It Means For Depositors

In some respects, yesterday’s ECB presser was a snoozer. Reporters asked the same old questions (some of which we’ve been asking for years) and, more importantly, there were no glitter attacks.

Our ears did perk up however, when Mario Draghi admitted that, unlike the governing council’s last meeting, cutting the depo rate further into negative territory was indeed discussed. 

This is significant for a number of reasons. At the general level, it shows that DM central bankers are ready and willing to plunge the world further into the Keynesian Twilight Zone. As we outlined last month, this means the Riksbank and the SNB are now on watch. If the ECB cuts again, the Riksbank will be forced to act as well and as Barclays recently opined, the SNB may be compelled to go nuclear on depositors, as removing the negative rate exemption for domestic banks would force them to pass along the “cost” to customers: 

“In contrast, a cut in the ECB’s deposit rate further into negative territory likely would have a significant impact on the EURCHF exchange rate and provoke a more immediate response from the SNB. Indeed, we expect that a cut in the ECB’s deposit rate may have a greater effect on EURCHF than on other EUR crosses. Switzerland applies its negative deposit rate to only a fraction of reserves, currently about 1/3rd of sight deposits by our calculation. In contrast, negative deposit rates apply to all reserves held at the ECB, Riksbank and Denmark’s Nationalbank. Consequently, a cut to the ECB’s deposit rate likely has a larger impact both on the economy and on the exchange rate than a proportionate cut by the SNB. An SNB response to an ECB deposit rate cut could take one of two forms: 1) a further cut in its deposit rate and CHF Libor target range; or 2) the ‘nuclear’ option, removing all exemptions from the negative deposit rate. We think the latter is more likely and would have major implications for EURCHF.” Most retail (private) depositors at domestic Swiss banks still do not face negative interest rates, but we would expect that to change if the SNB removed exemptions of domestic banks on sight deposits at the SNB. A removal of domestic banks’ exemption from negative deposit rates likely would force Swiss banks to pass on negative deposit rates as it would increase the proportion of assets charged negative rates to over 20%.

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Author: Travis Esquivel

Travis Esquivel is an engineer, passionate soccer player and full-time dad. He enjoys writing about innovation and technology from time to time.

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