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from Anatole Kaletsky:

Europe’s economic and political future will be determined in the next few days

A candidate dressed as Darth Vader and representing the Internet Party of Ukraine which runs for parliament, stands on the top a vehicle as he leaves after a meeting with his supporters and voters in Kiev

Europe is at a make or break moment. Two very different events on Sunday, occurring at opposite ends of Europe, will largely determine the entire continent’s direction for years ahead: the parliamentary election in Ukraine and the bank “stress tests” and Asset Quality Review conducted by the European Central Bank. Before explaining the significance of these two events, and their unexpected linkage, I need to mention a third announcement, due next Wednesday: the European Commission’s verdict on the budget for 2015 submitted last week by the French government.

The Commission will next week have to come up with a Solomonic judgment that somehow reconciles the French government’s determination to stimulate its economy by cutting taxes with the German-imposed “fiscal compact” that former-President Nicolas Sarkozy rashly accepted in a moment of desperation in the 2012 euro crisis and which requires France to raise taxes or drastically cut spending in order to reduce its budget deficit to 3 percent of GDP. The fiscal compact rules, if applied literally, would make economic recovery in France a mathematical impossibility. Yet bending these rules will provoke a German public backlash, and perhaps even a constitutional court challenge, that could even force Angela Merkel to renege on her commitment to support the rest of the euro-zone.

Depending on how these three events turn out, Europe will either be on the road to a moderate economic recovery next year or it will condemned to permanent stagnation, possibly leading to the break-up the euro or even the European Union as a whole.

Why are the stakes suddenly so high? With most of Europe sliding back into recession over the summer as a result of the war in Ukraine and the failure to implement the sort of policies of monetary and fiscal stimulus that revived the U.S., Japanese and British economies, Europe now has an obvious choice: stick to the failed policies which are almost certain to perpetuate economic stagnation or to change course.

from Breakingviews:

Germany’s economic miracle is past its peak

By Olaf Storbeck

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Europe’s economic powerhouse is losing its lustre. Germany is flirting with a recession that may usher in a new era of feeble growth. Many drivers of its stellar growth performance in recent years are disappearing, and misguided policies add extra burdens. So far, Angela Merkel has not woken up to the country’s fading economic miracle.

from Hugo Dixon:

Markets right to worry about euro zone

By Hugo Dixon

Hugo Dixon is Editor-at-Large, Reuters News. The opinions expressed are his own.

The markets are right to worry about the euro zone, the epicentre of last week’s fright. Its three big economies – Germany, France and Italy – are, in their own ways, stuck.

from Global Investing:

Strong dollar, weak oil and emerging markets growth

Many emerging economies have been banking on weaker currencies to revitalise economic growth.  Oil's 25 percent fall in dollar terms this year should also help. The problem however is the dollar's strength which is leading to a general tightening of monetary conditions worldwide, more so in countries where central banks are intervening to prevent their currencies from falling too much.

Michael Howell, managing director of the CrossBorder Capital consultancy estimates the negative effect of the stronger dollar on global liquidity (in simple terms, the amount of capital available for investment and spending) outweighs the positives from falling oil prices by a ratio of 10 to 1. Not only does it raise funding costs for non-U.S. banks and companies, it also usually forces other central banks to keep monetary policy tight, especially in countries with high inflation or external debt levels. Howell says:

from Breakingviews:

Weaker euro won’t do much to stoke inflation

By Swaha Pattanaik

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

The European Central Bank has been egging on the euro’s slide. It has a not-so-secret hope: a cheaper currency will bring some much desired inflation into the euro zone. Good luck.

from Breakingviews:

AbbVie U-turn shows Shire was mostly about tax

By Neil Unmack

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

AbbVie’s U-turn shows its Shire deal was mostly about tax, after all. Despite initially holding firm as the Obama administration clamped down on tax-driven “inversions,” the American group has now cooled on a $55 billion takeover of its Dublin-based peer. There’s an unwelcome read-across for AstraZeneca.

from Breakingviews:

Commodity producer/trader boundary starts to blur

By Swaha Pattanaik

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

Commodity producers and traders were once very different beasts. But the distinctions between the two are increasingly fuzzy.

from Breakingviews:

Markets finally side with economy on bad news

By Edward Hadas

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

Market historians could call the last five years the QE period. Quantitative easing, a polite term for money creation by central banks, has pushed free and ultra-cheap money into almost all financial markets, supporting or pushing up prices. The era is coming to a close. As investors overcome their monetary dependence, they have to look at the real economy. It’s not encouraging.

from Hugo Dixon:

Italy has no good Plan B

Matteo Renzi’s Plan A is to push through domestic reforms, hope the European Central Bank manages to get inflation ticking up, and keep his fingers crossed the Italian economy stops shrinking. But if this fails, a mega wealth tax, debt restructuring and/or exit from the euro beckons.

There is no Plan B that wouldn’t tip both Italy, where I spent part of last week, and its neighbours into a severe crisis. That makes it all the more important that Plan A works.

from Breakingviews:

European IPO wobble is about more than volatility

By Quentin Webb

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Europe’s IPO wobble is about more than volatility. With initial public offerings in France and Italy being pulled, companies and advisers are, as ever, blaming choppy markets. There’s some truth in this old bromide. But the misfiring of two big internet debuts also matters. Europe’s economy is faltering. And a busy year for new deals has made investors both less flush and more discriminating.

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