When the U.S. Senate surprisingly fell into Democratic hands after Georgia’s runoffs, the financial-market impact was monumental.
The move was most obviously seen in the bond market — the yield on the U.S. 10-year Treasury
shot up to as high as 1.75% from 0.92%. That is because even the razor-thin majority in the Senate allowed the Democrats to push through a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package without any Republican support, and is making it possible, though not certain, that a multitrillion-dollar infrastructure package could get through Congress.
In Europe, an election with similar stakes is brewing in the race to succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor. The winner could unlock spending in Europe’s notoriously tightfisted economy.
Having picked Armin Laschet to lead the party, election polls suggest Merkel’s party, the Christian Democratic Union, will still rule the eurozone’s largest economy. According to Politico’s polling tracker, the CDU alliance with the Christian Social Union garners 27% support. The real shift, though, is the Green Party’s success so far, with 22% support, according to the Politico poll tracker. That would provide the party led by Annalena Baerbock a strong likelihood of joining a coalition and displacing the center-left Social Democratic Party.
One poll released Tuesday now has the Greens in the lead.
The betting market PredictIt assigns a 46% chance of Laschet’s being chancellor on Dec. 31, followed by Baerbock at 32% and, somewhat improbably, Merkel af 9%.
Christian Schulz, an analyst at Citi, said a so-called black-green coalition is the only feasible outcome of the Sept. 26 election.
The Greens would likely push for more government spending in favor of environmental initiatives. They potentially could exclude public investment from Germany’s zero-deficit rule, according to Dario Perkins, managing director for global macro at TS Lombard, a London-based research service.
Citi’s Schulz agreed. He said he would expect a black-green coalition to have “ambitious” climate policies backed up by large public investment but paid for by borrowing rather than tax hikes. A two-thirds majority would be needed to bypass the constitutional debt brake, which Schulz said is possible given that the SPD and Left Party, in opposition, could agree.
It is a development the financial markets are starting to price in, though it is hard to discern from the improvement in Europe’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts after a slow start.
It isn’t inconceivable that the more charismatic Baerbock could become chancellor and not just a partner in a coalition government. “A left-wing surprise in September is ultimately an upside risk to German and eurozone assets,” according to analysts at BCA Research. “A proactive fiscal turn would be positive for growth prospects and support German and European cyclical sectors such as industrials and materials, as well as the currency. A lower European breakup risk premium also supports the euro and would result in a narrowing of peripheral bond yield spreads.”
Holger Schmieding, chief economist at Berenberg Bank, said both Baerbock and SPD leader Olaf Scholz are pragmatic — but wouldn’t be if they governed together, rather than with the CDU/CSU alliance.
Berlin’s rent cap — overturned by a German constitutional court — would be the type of policy such a government would pursue, he said. A “green-red-red” coalition comprising the Greens, the SPD and the left-wing Left Party “without any corrective element from CDU/CSU or FDP could herald a major shift in German policies, notably toward tighter labor, housing and product markets regulations that would reduce German trend growth,” he said.