Reuters blog archive
The full Ecofin of 28 EU finance ministers meets after Monday’s Eurogroup meeting of euro zone representatives didn’t seem to get far in unpicking the Gordian Knot that is banking union. Ireland’s Michael Noonan talked of “wide differences”.
The ministers are seeking to create an agency to close euro zone banks and a fund to pay for the clean-up - completing a new system to police banks and prevent a repeat of the bloc’s debt crisis.
But a German official rejected a euro zone proposal unearthed by Reuters that would allow the euro zone's bailout fund, the European Stability Fund, to lend and help finance the cost of any future bank rescues or wind-ups. Berlin does not want to end up footing the bill for failures elsewhere and is still constrained because a coalition deal to form the next government has yet to win final approval from the Social Democrats.
Furthermore, most euro zone countries are happy to let the European Commission, the EU executive, rule on restructuring or closing banks but Germany wants the decision to be taken by the EU's 28 finance ministers, where it holds more sway.
The European Central Bank holds its last rates meeting of the year with some of the alarm about looming deflation pricked by a pick-up in euro zone inflation last week – though at 0.9 percent it remains way below the ECB’s target of close to two percent.
The spotlight, as always, will be on Mario Draghi but also on the latest staff forecasts. If they inflation staying well under target in 2015 (which is quite likely), expectations of more policy easing will gather steam again.
No sign of tensions calming on the streets of Kiev, in fact today we could have a new flashpoint.
Prime Minister Mykola Azarov's cabinet is holding its weekly meeting in the government building which protesters have blockaded since Monday, paving the way for a possible showdown.
Ukraine continues to top the European worry list.
Monday demonstrated how quickly the financial side of the equation can spiral out of control. The hryvnia currency slumped and the cost of insuring against Ukrainian default soared, forcing the central bank to intervene and urge its citizens not to spark a bank run.
Having turned its back on the EU, Kiev must find more than $17 billion next year to meet gas bills and debt repayments. Presumably Russia will have to help out if it is not to have a basket case on its doorstep.
Ukraine’s shock decision to turn its back on an EU trade deal continues to reverberate with mass rallies on the streets of Kiev in protest at President Viktor Yanukovich’s decision.
To try to defuse tensions, Yanukovich issued a statement saying he would do everything in his power to speed up Ukrainian moves toward the EU. Is this another U-turn or mere semantics? The answer is important.
French President Francois Hollande is in Rome for talk with Italy’s Enrico Letta. Both have a lot on their minds.
The French economy contracted in the third quarter and Hollande faces a blanket of criticism over his timid economic reforms (although he has pushed through some labour and pension changes).
The Bank of France's monthly report forecasts growth of 0.4 percent in the last three months of the year, up from an anaemic 0.1 percent in the third quarter. That still makes for a fairly doleful 2013 as a whole.
France is zooming up the euro zone’s worry list, largely because of its timid approach to labour and pension reforms. Spain has been much more aggressive and is seeing the benefits in terms of rising exports (and, admittedly, sky-high unemployment). So too has Portugal.
from Nicholas Wapshott:
There have been a lot of sighs of relief in Europe lately, where countries like Britain and Spain, long in recession, have finally started to grow. Not by much, nor for long. But such is the political imperative to suggest that all the misery of fiscally tight economic policies was worth the pain that there are tentative claims the worst is now over and, ipso facto, austerity worked.
Hold on a minute. Growth is good. Growth is what allows countries to pay down their national debt by increasing economic activity, putting the unemployed to work and making people prosperous enough to pay taxes. But gross domestic product growth alone is not enough to provide adequate sustained prosperity if it does not also lead to significant job growth.
Euro zone services PMIs and German industry orders data will offer the latest snapshot of the currency bloc’s economy which the European Commission now forecasts will contract by 0.4 percent this year and grow just 1.1 percent in 2014 – hardly escape velocity, in fact barely taxiing along the runway.
We know from flash readings for the euro zone and Germany that service activity expanded but at a slower rate last month. France’s reading crept back into expansionary territory for the first time since early 2012. Any revisions to those figures will be marginal leaving the focus more on Italy and Spain for which we get no preliminary release.
The EU/IMF/ECB troika is due to return to Athens to resume a review of Greece’s bailout after some sparring over budget measures.
Greece’s president and prime minister have said they will not impose any further austerity measures and hope that their ability to run a primary surplus will persuade its lenders to cut it some more slack on its bailout loans to make its debt sustainable. The EU and IMF say there will be a fiscal gap next year that must be filled by domestic measures, be they further wage and pension cuts or tax increases.