Euro Area Portfolio Flows

by Rebecca Wilder

Euro Area Portfolio Flows

Today the ECB released the Euro area balance of payments for December. This is a statistical release that is worthy of only the biggest data geeks – but it is quite interesting, especially in forming relationships between FX and capital flows. I’ll demonstrate what’s been going on in EA bond, equity, and money markets in one just chart. The data come from the ECB, and can be seen in the Monthly Bulletin, Table 7.3.

The chart illustrates portfolio flows as the 3-month sum total flows in and out of Euro area bond, equity, and money markets, or portfolio investment. The red line plots the dynamics of investment flows by foreign residents in (positive) and out of (negative) the Euro area. The blue line plots the dynamics of investment flows by Euro area residents in (positive) and out of (negative) the Euro area.

When the blue line is positive, Euro area residents are bringing assets home, or repatriating capital. This is rare. When the red line is negative, foreign residents are moving capital out of the Euro area by selling euro assets. This is also rare. Both occurred in 2011.

Foreign investors reduced exposure to euro-denominated assets, -€78.9 billion in Q4, while Euro area investors brought assets back home, +€55.8 in Q4. Spanning 2011, foreign inflows into equity, bond, and money markets turned 180 degrees from +€183 net accumulation in the 3 months ending in June to -€78.9 in Q4.

For 2011 as a whole, foreigners accumulated similar amounts of euro-denominated assets as in 2008 (the last time the foreign flows turned negative), €233 billion versus €266 billion, respectively. In contrast, the repatriation flows did make a big 2011 dent compared to the 2008 comparable year of repatriation, +€60.2 billion of inflows for the year as a whole versus -€4.9 billion in 2008.
We’ll see if 2012 is a year of normalization – EA resident outflows and positive foreign inflows. Certainly recent actions by the ECB have helped to assuage foreign investors, as evidenced by the +€5.3 billion portfolio inflow in December 2011. The January release will be an interesting one!

Happy Presidents’ Day, Rebecca