James Pomeroy, Global Economist, HSBC
Sub-zero rates are no silver bullet
The COVID-19 crisis has already pushed many central banks to cut interest rates close to zero. And with many economies continuing to contract, the concept of negative rates is once again back in the spotlight.
Negative rates upturn the normal borrower-lender relationship by imposing interest rate costs on those sitting on cash, encouraging them to spend or invest the money instead. Supporters of negative rates hope they will spark growth and inflation, partly by lowering bond yields and weakening currencies, and give central bankers more room to manoeuvre on quantitative easing. But it has rarely worked out like that.
Five central banks have experimented with negative policy rates in recent times (the European Central Bank, Bank of Japan, the Swiss National Bank, Sweden’s Riksbank and Denmark’s Nationalbank). In economies with negative rates since 2015, the average core inflation print has been just 0.8 per cent. Even in Sweden the main inflation metric has only edged over 2 per cent in two months of the past five years, both times as a result of a methodology change.
On the growth front, things look a little more promising. Sweden and Denmark have both seen relative booms over the past five years – with Sweden growing at more than 4.5 per cent year-on-year in the second half of 2015, shortly after negative rates were introduced. But this masks the fact that this rapid growth rate was as a result of an unsustainable property boom (residential investment up 20 per cent year-on-year) – which crashed in 2019 – and a wave of migration-based spending. Elsewhere, growth has been much tamer.
The negative consequences have been telling. In Switzerland, the local bankers’ association says it has done “massive structural damage” to the economy. In Sweden, feedback from consumers and businesses played a big role in persuading the Riksbank to move the repurchase rate back to zero. At a time when confidence needs to be lifted, and banks need to lend, negative rates seem misguided.
Despite markets pricing in the chances of the Federal funds rate turning negative, US Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell has stressed that negative rates are not under discussion at the Federal Open Market Committee, which is responsible for setting US rates. Indeed, the Fed’s actions and rhetoric since March make it clear that the policymakers intend to rely on other policy tools first. In just over two months, the Fed has purchased more than USD2 trillion in Treasury and mortgage-backed securities. Powell has described the primary goal of the purchases as restoring the functioning of these markets, rather than putting downward pressure on longer-term interest rates.
In the UK, senior Bank of England figures have recently mentioned negative rates. Chief Economist Andy Haldane, for example, was quoted in a newspaper on 17 May as saying that negative rates (as well as other policy options such as buying riskier assets than government bonds), were being looked at “with somewhat greater immediacy” in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
We don’t expect policy rates to go negative in the UK or the US in our base case forecasts, but they are on the radar – particularly in the UK. They could be a risk worth taking if the recession intensifies, but experiences elsewhere suggest that the benefits of negative rates are not immediately clear.
- Disclosure and disclaimer
The following analyst(s), economist(s), or strategist(s) who is(are) primarily responsible for this report, including any analyst(s) whose name(s) appear(s) as author of an individual section or sections of the report and any analyst(s) named as the covering analyst(s) of a subsidiary company in a sum-of-the-parts valuation certifies(y) that the opinion(s) on the subject security(ies) or issuer(s), any views or forecasts expressed in the section(s) of which such individual(s) is(are) named as author(s), and any other views or forecasts expressed herein, including any views expressed on the back page of the research report, accurately reflect their personal view(s) and that no part of their compensation was, is or will be directly or indirectly related to the specific recommendation(s) or views contained in this research report: James Pomeroy
This document has been prepared and is being distributed by the Research Department of HSBC and is intended solely for the clients of HSBC and is not for publication to other persons, whether through the press or by other means.
This document is for information purposes only and it should not be regarded as an offer to sell or as a solicitation of an offer to buy the securities or other investment products mentioned in it and/or to participate in any trading strategy. Advice in this document is general and should not be construed as personal advice, given it has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular investor. Accordingly, investors should, before acting on the advice, consider the appropriateness of the advice, having regard to their objectives, financial situation and needs. If necessary, seek professional investment and tax advice.
Certain investment products mentioned in this document may not be eligible for sale in some states or countries, and they may not be suitable for all types of investors. Investors should consult with their HSBC representative regarding the suitability of the investment products mentioned in this document and take into account their specific investment objectives, financial situation or particular needs before making a commitment to purchase investment products.
The value of and the income produced by the investment products mentioned in this document may fluctuate, so that an investor may get back less than originally invested. Certain high-volatility investments can be subject to sudden and large falls in value that could equal or exceed the amount invested. Value and income from investment products may be adversely affected by exchange rates, interest rates, or other factors. Past performance of a particular investment product is not indicative of future results.
HSBC and its affiliates will from time to time sell to and buy from customers the securities/instruments, both equity and debt (including derivatives) of companies covered in HSBC Research on a principal or agency basis or act as a market maker or liquidity provider in the securities/instruments mentioned in this report.
Analysts, economists, and strategists are paid in part by reference to the profitability of HSBC which includes investment banking, sales & trading, and principal trading revenues.
Whether, or in what time frame, an update of this analysis will be published is not determined in advance.
For disclosures in respect of any company mentioned in this report, please see the most recently published report on that company available at www.hsbcnet.com/research . HSBC Private Banking clients should contact their Relationship Manager for queries regarding other research reports. In order to find out more about the proprietary models used to produce this report, please contact the authoring analyst.
Issuer of report
HSBC Bank plc 8 Canada Square, London E14 5HQ, United Kingdom Telephone: +44 20 7991 8888 Fax: +44 20 7992 4880 Website: www.research.hsbc.com
Legal entities as at 11 February 2020
‘UAE’ HSBC Bank Middle East Limited, Dubai; ‘HK’ The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited, Hong Kong; ‘TW’ HSBC Securities (Taiwan) Corporation Limited; ‘CA’ HSBC Securities (Canada) Inc.; HSBC France, S.A., Madrid, Milan, Stockholm; ‘DE’ HSBC Trinkaus & Burkhardt AG, Düsseldorf; 000 HSBC Bank (RR), Moscow; ‘IN’ HSBC Securities and Capital Markets (India) Private Limited, Mumbai; ‘JP’ HSBC Securities (Japan) Limited, Tokyo; ‘EG’ HSBC Securities Egypt SAE, Cairo; ‘CN’ HSBC Investment Bank Asia Limited, Beijing Representative Office; The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited, Singapore Branch; The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited, Seoul Securities Branch; The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited, Seoul Branch; HSBC Securities (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, Johannesburg; HSBC Bank plc, London, Tel Aviv; ‘US’ HSBC Securities (USA) Inc, New York; HSBC Yatirim Menkul Degerler AS, Istanbul; HSBC México, SA, Institución de Banca Múltiple, Grupo Financiero HSBC; HSBC Bank Australia Limited; HSBC Bank Argentina SA; HSBC Saudi Arabia Limited; The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited, New Zealand Branch incorporated in Hong Kong SAR; The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited, Bangkok Branch; PT Bank HSBC Indonesia; HSBC Qianhai Securities Limited; HSBC Brasil S.A. – Banco de Investimento
This document is issued and approved in the United Kingdom by HSBC Bank plc for the information of its Clients (as defined in the Rules of FCA) and those of its affiliates only. If this research is received by a customer of an affiliate of HSBC, its provision to the recipient is subject to the terms of business in place between the recipient and such affiliate. In Australia, this publication has been distributed by The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited (ABN 65 117 925 970, AFSL 301737) for the general information of its “wholesale” customers (as defined in the Corporations Act 2001). Where distributed to retail customers, this research is distributed by HSBC Bank Australia Limited (ABN 48 006 434 162, AFSL No. 232595). These respective entities make no representations that the products or services mentioned in this document are available to persons in Australia or are necessarily suitable for any particular person or appropriate in accordance with local law. No consideration has been given to the particular investment objectives, financial situation or particular needs of any recipient.
The document is distributed in Hong Kong by The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited and in Japan by HSBC Securities (Japan) Limited. Each of the companies listed above (the “Participating Companies”) is a member of the HSBC Group of Companies, any member of which may trade for its own account as Principal, may have underwritten an issue within the last 36 months or, together with its Directors, officers and employees, may have a long or short position in securities or instruments or in any related instrument mentioned in the document. Brokerage or fees may be earned by the Participating Companies or persons associated with them in respect of any business transacted by them in all or any of the securities or instruments referred to in this document. In Korea, this publication is distributed by either The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited, Seoul Securities Branch (“HBAP SLS”) or The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited, Seoul Branch (“HBAP SEL”) for the general information of professional investors specified in Article 9 of the Financial Investment Services and Capital Markets Act (“FSCMA”). This publication is not a prospectus as defined in the FSCMA. It may not be further distributed in whole or in part for any purpose. Both HBAP SLS and HBAP SEL are regulated by the Financial Services Commission and the Financial Supervisory Service of Korea. This publication is distributed in New Zealand by The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited, New Zealand Branch incorporated in Hong Kong SAR.
The information in this document is derived from sources the Participating Companies believe to be reliable but which have not been independently verified. The Participating Companies make no guarantee of its accuracy and completeness and are not responsible for errors of transmission of factual or analytical data, nor shall the Participating Companies be liable for damages arising out of any person’s reliance upon this information. All charts and graphs are from publicly available sources or proprietary data. The opinions in this document constitute the present judgement of the Participating Companies, which is subject to change without notice. From time to time research analysts conduct site visits of covered issuers. HSBC policies prohibit research analysts from accepting payment or reimbursement for travel expenses from the issuer for such visits.
This document is neither an offer to sell, purchase or subscribe for any investment nor a solicitation of such an offer. HSBC Securities (USA) Inc. accepts responsibility for the content of this research report prepared by its non-US foreign affiliate. All US persons receiving and/or accessing this report and intending to effect transactions in any security discussed herein should do so with HSBC Securities (USA) Inc. in the United States and not with its non-US foreign affiliate, the issuer of this report. In Singapore, this publication is distributed by The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited, Singapore Branch for the general information of institutional investors or other persons specified in Sections 274 and 304 of the Securities and Futures Act (Chapter 289) (“SFA”) and accredited investors and other persons in accordance with the conditions specified in Sections 275 and 305 of the SFA. Only Economics or Currencies reports are intended for distribution to a person who is not an Accredited Investor, Expert Investor or Institutional Investor as defined in SFA. The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited, Singapore Branch accepts legal responsibility for the contents of reports pursuant to Regulation 32C(1)(d) of the Financial Advisers Regulations. This publication is not a prospectus as defined in the SFA. This publication is not a prospectus as defined in the SFA. It may not be further distributed in whole or in part for any purpose. The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited Singapore Branch is regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore. Recipients in Singapore should contact a “Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited, Singapore Branch” representative in respect of any matters arising from, or in connection with this report. Please refer to The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited Singapore Branch’s website at www.business.hsbc.com.sg for contact details. HSBC México, S.A., Institución de Banca Múltiple, Grupo Financiero HSBC is authorized and regulated by Secretaría de Hacienda y Crédito Público and Comisión Nacional Bancaria y de Valores (CNBV).
The document is intended to be distributed in its entirety. Unless governing law permits otherwise, you must contact a HSBC Group member in your home jurisdiction if you wish to use HSBC Group services in effecting a transaction in any investment mentioned in this document. HSBC Bank plc is registered in England No 14259, is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority and is a member of the London Stock Exchange. (070905)
In Canada, this document has been distributed by HSBC Securities (Canada) Inc. (member IIROC), and/or its affiliates. The information contained herein is under no circumstances to be construed as investment advice in any province or territory of Canada and is not tailored to the needs of the recipient. No securities commission or similar regulatory authority in Canada has reviewed or in any way passed judgment upon these materials, the information contained herein or the merits of the securities described herein, and any representation to the contrary is an offense. In Brazil, this document has been distributed by HSBC Brasil S.A. – Banco de Investimento (“HSBC Brazil”), and/or its affiliates. As required by Instruction No. 598/18 of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Brazil (Comissão de Valores Mobiliários), potential conflicts of interest concerning (i) HSBC Brasil and/or its affiliates; and (ii) the analyst(s) responsible for authoring this report are stated on the chart above labelled “HSBC & Analyst Disclosures”.
If you are an HSBC Private Banking (“PB”) customer with approval for receipt of relevant research publications by an applicable HSBC legal entity, you are eligible to receive this publication. To be eligible to receive such publications, you must have agreed to the applicable HSBC entity’s terms and conditions (“KRC Terms”) for access to the KRC, and the terms and conditions of any other internet banking service offered by that HSBC entity through which you will access research publications using the KRC. Distribution of this publication is the sole responsibility of the HSBC entity with whom you have agreed the KRC Terms.
If you do not meet the aforementioned eligibility requirements please disregard this publication and, if you are a customer of PB, please notify your Relationship Manager. Receipt of research publications is strictly subject to the KRC Terms, which can be found at https://research.privatebank.hsbc.com/ – we draw your attention also to the provisions contained in the Important Notes section therein.
© Copyright 2020, HSBC Bank plc, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, on any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of HSBC Bank plc. MCI (P) 077/12/2019, MCI (P) 016/02/2020