Reuters blog archive
The latest Scottish opinion poll puts the unionist camp ahead by 52 points to 48 – still way too close to call given the statistical margin for error.
The last two polls have given the “No” campaign clinging to a narrow lead following a dramatic narrowing of the gap and one survey giving the separatists a lead. So has the “Yes” momentum stalled? If you chart the numbers over the past two weeks you might think so but if you did so over the past two months you would say emphatically not.
YouGov, purveyors of the latest poll, noted that on their figures the “No” camp has gained ground for the first time since early August. The last two surveys were the first to have been conducted since it became clear that the nationalist vote was on the charge. Has that concentrated minds? Who knows.
Scottish Nationalist leader Alex Salmond is taking no chances and will conduct a whistle-stop tour of seven cities today. Some have argued that the debate for and against has already been played out but that looks wrongheaded. There is everything to play for in the last week with those yet to make up their mind amounting to 10 percent or more of the electorate and some who thought they had decided maybe thinking again.
European Commission president-elect Jean-Claude Juncker will hold talks with the various political groupings in the European Parliament as he seeks to develop policy positions. Most interesting would be indications about which way he is bending in the growth versus austerity debate.
Italy’s Matteo Renzi, resurgent after a strong performance in May’s EU elections, is pressing for a focus on measures to get the euro zone economy firing and has even managed to get Germany to talk the talk. But any leeway will be within the existing debt rules, not by writing new ones.
Ukrainian forces pushed pro-Russian rebels out of their stronghold of Slaviansk on Saturday. Its re-capture represents Kiev's most notable military victory in three months of fighting in which more than 200 Ukrainian troops have been killed as well as hundreds of civilians and rebels.
The regions of Donetsk and Luhansk are likely to be next in the government forces’ crosshairs.
The prospect of U.S. and Iranian intervention in Iraq looms larger.
Baghdad has asked the United States for air support to counter Sunni militants who have seized major cities in a lightning advance that has routed the Shi'ite-led government army. And Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has signalled that Tehran was prepared to intervene to protect Iraq's great Shi'ite shrines.
As of last night, ISIL fighters were in control of three-quarters of the territory of the Baiji refinery north of Baghdad and some international oil companies were pulling out workers.
Shots were fired at an international team of monitors in Crimea over the weekend, violence flared in Sevastopol as thousands staged rallies and Angela Merkel, who perhaps has the most receptive western ear to Vladimir Putin, rebuked him for supporting a referendum on Ukraine’s southern region joining Russia. But in truth we’re not much further forward or backwards in this crisis.
The West from Barack Obama on down has said the referendum vote next Sunday is illegal under international law but it’s hard to put the genie back in the bottle if Ukraine’s southern region chooses to break away. The best guess – but it is only a guess – is that barring an accidental sparking of hostilities, there is not much percentage in Russia putting its forces in Crimea onto a more aggressive footing in advance of the vote.
Italy’s president will meet centre-left leader Matteo Renzi today and is likely to ask him to form a government following the ousting of Enrico Letta as prime minister.
Renzi will need to reach an agreement with the small New Centre Right party to continue the current coalition and there is common ground. The 39-year-old has already said he backs lower taxes affecting employment, but they differ on issues such as immigration and laws allowing gay and lesbian civil partnerships.
This week will go a long way to determining whether a violent emerging market shake-out turns into a prolonged panic or is limited to a flight of hot money that quickly fizzles out.
On our patch, Turkey is under searing pressure, largely of its own making and that is the theme here. Yes, the Federal Reserve’s slowing of money printing is the common factor, prompting funds to quit emerging markets, but it is those countries with acute problems of their own that are really under the cosh.
The Eurogroup of euro zone finance ministers meets, followed by the full Ecofin on Tuesday, to try and unpick the Gordian Knot that is banking union.
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 prevent a repeat of the bloc’s debt crisis.
It’s euro zone third quarter GDP day and Germany and France are already out of the traps with the latter’s economy contracting by 0.1 percent, snuffing out a 0.5 percent rebound in the second quarter. Growth of 0.1 percent was forecast, not just by bank economists but by the Bank of France too.
Germany failed to match its strong 0.7 percent growth in the second quarter, but expanding by 0.3 percent – in line with forecasts - it is clearly in much better shape.
Euro zone finance ministers meet today and will have one eye on budgetary matters given a Tuesday deadline for member states to send their draft budgets to the European Commission for inspection, and with protracted German coalition talks keeping other meaningful euro zone reform measures on hold.
Most draft budgets are in but we’re still waiting on Italy and Ireland. Dublin will unveil its programme on deadline day. Italy’s situation is more fluid so we may get something today.