Brussels Edition: Grilling Lagarde

(Bloomberg) -- Welcome to the Brussels Edition, Bloomberg’s daily briefing on what matters most in the heart of the European Union.

Incoming European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde will be questioned by EU lawmakers today as she seeks their support before taking over from Mario Draghi in November. With the euro-area economy weakening again and inflation slipping further below target, investors and policy makers will be listening out for clues on her stance on further stimulus and her policy plans more broadly. While the European Parliament’s vote is nonbinding, its backing will be a key endorsement for Lagarde as she gears up to take on the euro area’s most powerful job at a challenging time.

What’s Happening

QE Divisions | As Lagarde seeks to win over lawmakers, the council she’ll soon be chairing looks set for a divided meeting on Sept. 12 over the resumption of quantitative easing. Bank of France Governor Francois Villeroy de Galhau said the ECB doesn’t have to use all the instruments in its toolbox at the same time, while his Estonian counterpart, Madis Muller, said there is “no strong case for reactivating QE now.”

Brexit Brinkmanship | U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson will seek a general election after his Brexit-at-all-costs strategy was derailed by members of his own Conservative party late last night. Another long day of political drama awaits. Back in Brussels, the European Commission will today publish further plans to mitigate the fallout of a no-deal Brexit, including a proposal to use EU crisis funds to help struggling businesses, while U.K. negotiator David Frost returns to discuss changes to the deal.

Carney’s Last Stand | With Parliament potentially suspended next week, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney is running out of opportunities to warn lawmakers just how much a no-deal Brexit will harm the economy. His appearance before the Treasury Committee today could be one of his last chances to publicly address MPs before the U.K. leaves the EU next month — if Johnson’s “do or die” strategy is successful. 

Conte’s Breakthrough | Giuseppe Conte cleared the last hurdle toward forming a new government in Italy after Five Star members gave the green light to an alliance with the Democrats, their former rivals, in an online vote. Conte could present his new cabinet to President Sergio Mattarella as soon as today.

In Case You Missed It

Spanish Polls | Spain’s acting prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, ruled out a coalition with the anti-establishment group Podemos, signaling he’s preparing for a repeat election in November. Sanchez won April’s national vote but still needs support to form a majority and has until Sept. 23 to win a confidence ballot. If not, Spain will be heading for its fourth general election in as many years.

Nuclear Iran | France is spearheading a flurry of talks aimed at rescuing the 2015 nuclear deal after a series of maritime confrontations that have threatened shipping near Iranian waters. Tehran has said it will begin the process of enriching uranium at a higher level if the EU doesn’t present a way of salvaging the landmark nuclear accord by tomorrow.

Nuclear Drills | Vilnius helped form the backdrop for hit TV show, Chernobyl. Now, the Lithuanian capital is holding drills in case of a real-life atomic catastrophe. Residents are on edge over the opening of a nuclear-power facility in nearby Belarus. Following a string of accidents during construction — and attempts to conceal them — many deem the Russian-built Astravets plant unsafe.

Trouble Brewing | While the Brexit focus has largely been on multinationals navigating potential customs barriers, an effort by Czech craft-beer producers to plot a strategy for the day after shows how Britain’s departure is resonating across the EU. Analysts say brewers’ main worry shouldn’t be higher tariffs after a no-deal Brexit, but rather the likely economic meltdown and widening unemployment. 

Chart of the Day

Brussels Edition: Grilling Lagarde

Producer-price inflation in the euro area is on a downward trend, and is now barely above zero. While the headline index is skewed by moves in oil prices, even when energy is stripped out, it’s clear the figures aren’t going to inspire confidence among ECB policy makers about the inflation outlook. They’re counting down to their Sept. 12 decision, when they may announce an interest rate cut and could even restart quantitative easing.

Today’s Agenda

All times CET.

  • 9 a.m. Public hearing of Andrea Enria, chair of the SSM at the Economic and Monetary Committee of the European Parliament. The Committee will also vote on the appointment of the vice-chair of the Supervisory Board 

  • 10:30 a.m. The EU Parliament’s ECON Committee will quiz Christine Lagarde, the candidate for President of the ECB, in a public hearing. The Committee will also vote on its position on the appointment

  • 11 a.m. Eurostat to release retail-trade reading for July and data about healthcare expenditure in the EU 

  • 2 p.m. EU trade chief Cecilia Malmström speaks at Bruegel event in Brussels

  • 4:30 p.m. Sabine Weyand, Director-General for Trade at the European Commission, speaks at Bruegel event in Brussels

  • EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager in Bergen, Norway, delivers keynote at Conference of Nordic Competition Authorities

  • EU government envoys in Brussels meet to discuss Brexit 

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.