In its June meeting, the European Central Bank (ECB) maintained the rate of its quantitative easing programme announced earlier this year, with president Mario Draghi noting that the asset purchases of €60bn (£44.3bn) per month “are intended to run until the end of September 2016 and, in any case, until we see a sustained adjustment in the path of inflation”.
He also pointed out that the ECB would not change its monetary policy stance based on potentially higher volatility in some areas, such as bond yields, or on concerns continued low interest rates could affect asset managers and insurers in the eurozone.
Mr Draghi explained: “We won’t plan to change our monetary policy stance – that will stay. I’ve said many times that we have a mandate, which is maintaining price stability based on the definition that we have discussed several times. We plan to keep our course steady and unchanged and, if necessary, we will add to that.
“A protracted period of very low interest rates causes a series of problems. First, it may increase the financial stability risk, but also it causes issues for insurance companies and for other important financial market sectors. Is this a good reason to change our monetary policy?
“The answer is no. If we were to undertake the wrong monetary policy to address the problems of these specific sectors, we would do them a disservice. In the end we would create a more difficult situation for everybody.”
With such an interesting macroeconomic environment, it is perhaps unsurprising that this year’s research into potential closet trackers and red flag funds have bucked the recent trend.
In the fifth year of the closet trackers research, the results showed an increase in the number falling into the metric, from just eight in 2014 to 17 this year, with the majority caught in the Investment Association UK All Companies sector.
This may be a result of the unusual economic environment and of fluctuating investor sentiment, but it is the first time an increase has been recorded since 2012, which makes it even more important that investors carry out their due diligence and understand exactly where they’re putting their money.
Meanwhile, the red flag fund list has stayed steady at 40 constituents. However, some are appearing for the first time, again as the market conditions may have adversely affected the process of the funds, or due to investors voting with their feet because of the large number of manager changes.
Just four funds have appeared on the list for four consecutive years, while a further 15 have appeared for three years. But while some big names appear on the list for one reason or another, the robustness of the metric continues to be underlined.
Seven funds from the 2014 red flag fund list have since been closed, including offerings from Axa, Legg Mason and Threadneedle. The SVM Global opportunities fund merged with sister fund the SVM World Equity, while three other funds were renamed and are now above the £10m cut-off point.
The second half of 2015 is likely to continue in a similar vein, with Mr Draghi noting: “One lesson is that we should get used to periods of higher volatility. At very low levels of interest rates, asset prices tend to show higher volatility.
“In terms of the impact that this might have on our monetary policy stance, the governing council was unanimous in its assessment that we should look through these developments and maintain a steady monetary policy stance.”
With the Greek debt situation still to be resolved and the ECB unlikely to take its foot off the accelerator, the next six months are shaping up to have a strong focus on Europe.
Nyree Stewart is features editor at Investment Adviser