The U.S. and mainland Europe have moved in different directions over the past year on interest rates, equity returns, bond yields and government borrowing

Interest Rates

What a difference a year makes. The Federal Reserve has hiked interest rates thrice (in December, March and June) with a target rate range of 1.75% to 2% now. The Eurozone meanwhile maintains its zero-interest rate policy.

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This is what is likely to happen when the European Central Bank ends bond buying

The European Central Bank (ECB) announced on Wednesday that it will halve its bond buys to 15 billion Euros (from the current 30 billion Euros) a month from October then shut the programme at the end of the year.

Source: European Central Bank

ECB’s balance sheet has increased by 2 trillion Euros since 2015 when it announced its bond buying programme. 2-year yields for most of the Eurozone countries are currently negative and 10-year yields in most cases are lower than that of the United States. The European Central Bank (ECB) is by far the biggest holder of European bonds and the biggest (almost 90%) buyer of the weaker Eurozone (Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece) countries debt since 2015. The ECB balance sheet is now over 4.5 trillion Euros, some 45% of Eurozone GDP.

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Unemployment in Europe is lowest since 2008 but is still twice that of the United States

The Euro Area unemployment rate was 8.5% in April 2018, down from 8.6% in March 2018 and from 9.2% in April 2017. This is the lowest since December 2008 but still more than double of the US unemployment rate of 3.9% reported in April (the US unemployment rate further fell to 3.8% in May). The EU28 unemployment rate was 7.1% in April 2018, stable compared with March 2018 and down from 7.8% in April 2017. This remains the lowest rate recorded in the EU28 since September 2008.

Data Source: Eurostat (for the European Union and Iceland), State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (for Switzerland), Office for National Statistics (for the United Kingdom)
Data Source: Eurostat (for the European Union and Iceland), State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (for Switzerland), Office for National Statistics (for the United Kingdom)

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