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After the European Central Bank kept alive the prospect of printing money and the U.S. economy enjoyed a bumper month of jobs hiring prompting some to bring forward their expectations for a first U.S. interest rate rise, the Bank of England holds a monthly policy meeting.
There is no chance of a rate rise this time but the UK looks increasingly nailed on to be the first major economy to tighten policy, with the ECB heading in the opposite direction and the U.S. Federal Reserve still unlikely to shift until well into next year. Minutes of the Fed’s last meeting, released yesterday, showed general agreement that its QE programme would end in October but gave little sign that rates will rise before the middle of 2015.
The British economy is growing fast and its housing market has been running red hot - prices in London have shot up nearly 26 percent from a year ago - though the BoE says rate rises are not the first tool to deal with that. Britain’s closely-watched RICS housing survey, released overnight, showed signs that some of the heat is starting to come out with its house price balance easing back.
However, Minouche Shafik, who will join the nine-strong group of rate setters next month, said yesterday the Bank was likely to lower its estimate of spare capacity in the British economy. That means incipient inflationary pressure could start to build and indicated that the time to raise interest rates may be approaching.
European Central Bank President Mario Draghi will deliver an evening keynote speech in London – the scene for his game-changing “whatever it takes” declaration in 2012.
He is unlikely to come up with anything so dramatic this time but is clearly trying to convince that the ECB could yet start printing money if required to avert deflation.
from Hugo Dixon:
By Hugo Dixon
Hugo Dixon is Editor-at-Large, Reuters News. The opinions expressed are his own.
Is Greece losing its reform drive? Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has stuck to a harsh fitness programme for two years. But just as it is bearing fruit, he has sidelined some reformers in a reshuffle. There is only one viable path to redemption for Athens: stick to the straight and narrow.
The Mansion House dinner in the City of London is one of Britain’s big set-pieces of the year featuring speeches by Bank of England Governor Mark Carney and finance minister George Osborne.
Carney will be speaking a week before the Bank’s Financial Policy Committee meets and is expected to road test its new tools to calm the housing market. Among other measures, the BoE could recommend caps on the size of home loans granted in relation to a property’s value or a borrower’s salary.
Who are the two most important people in the EU? It’s hard to argue against Angela Merkel and Mario Draghi and they meet today in Berlin.
It’s supposed to be a private meeting but of course we’ll be digging, particularly for any signs that the German leader is for or against the European Central Bank printing money if it is required to beat back deflation.
By George Hay
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.
2014 has been a good year so far for incurable euro zone optimists. Even though the euro zone crisis is fresh in the memory, and deflation remains a risk, Greece’s five-year bond yields are below 5 percent. Greek banks have easily attracted foreign capital, helped by global funds flowing back into Europe after the U.S. Federal Reserve started its “tapering” policy. Still, foreign investment into Bank of Cyprus would represent a new bullish peak.
The British and Dutch got EU elections underway yesterday and gave only mixed support to the rise of the right.
An exit poll from the Netherlands showed the anti-Islam, Eurosceptic Freedom Party of Geert Wilders' - which plans to forge an alliance with France's far-right National Front - had fallen well short of its goal of topping the poll and may even have slumped into fourth place. That would give it three out of the 26 Dutch seats in the EU assembly, down from four in the last elections held in 2009, when it came in second place.
Some interesting action over the weekend: in a foretaste of this week’s EU elections, Greece's leftist, anti-bailout Syriza party performed strongly in the first round of local elections on Sunday, capitalizing on voter anger at ongoing government austerity policies.
If it did even better in the EU polls it could threaten the ruling coalition and tip Greece back into turmoil just as there are signs that it has turned the corner.
from Hugo Dixon:
Most Greeks know the expression vicious cycle – or favlos kyklos. But when you ask them the Greek for virtuous cycle, they often struggle to find the term, or even deny it exists.
After six years of recession that have shrunk the economy by a quarter and left Greece with an unemployment rate of 27 percent, it is not surprising that vicious cycles loom large in the national psyche. But there is a Greek expression for virtuous cycle – enaretos kyklos – and the country may be beginning to enjoy one.
By Swaha Pattanaik
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.
Greece’s first bond in four years has met roaring demand. The 3 billion euro deal suggests past bondholder losses and present economic woes are forgiven and forgotten. But the country still has big problems. Excessive investor enthusiasm could reduce the pressure to reform.