Reuters blog archive
Barack Obama is in Estonia before the NATO summit in Wales intending to pressure Vladimir Putin to back off in Ukraine. The rhetoric will be strong – not least about protecting the Baltics under NATO’s umbrella.
But with zero chance of western military action in Ukraine the hope is that economic pain via sanctions will bring Moscow to heel. Existing sanctions are clearly hurting the economy – the rouble has plumbed record lows as capital flees or shuns the country – but that hasn’t stopped Putin so far.
He seems intent not on taking Ukraine over but keeping the rebels sufficiently well armed and supported to keep Kiev off balance and unstable. If that is the intention it has certainly succeeded.
Western countries accuse Moscow of sending armoured columns of troops into Ukraine, where the momentum in a five-month war shifted last week in favour of pro-Russian rebels. They were virtually on their knees but are now resurgent and said last night they were on the point of retaking the strategically important Donetsk airport.
Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet his top security officials prior to visiting annexed Crimea on Thursday with members of his government.
One way or another, with Ukrainian government forces encircling the main pro-Russian rebel stronghold of Donetsk, matters are coming to a head. Putin must decide whether to up his support for the separatists in east Ukraine or back off.
A reminder that while the euro zone crisis may be in abeyance, it still has the ability to bite.
Portugal will blow 4.4 billion euros of the 6.4 billion euros left from Lisbon’s recently exited international bailout programme shoring up troubled lender Banco Espirito Santo which will be split into "bad" and "good" banks. Junior bondholders and shareholders will be heavily hit.
Manufacturing PMI surveys across the euro zone and for Britain are due. The emerging pattern is of an improving third quarter after a generally poor second three months of the year.
The UK economy continues to romp ahead – growing by 0.8 percent in the second quarter – but on the continent there are signs of a new slowdown. The Bundesbank now forecasts no Q2 growth at all in Germany and though the euro zone flash PMI, released a week ago, showed the currency area rebounding in July, that largely came at the cost of companies cutting prices further, thereby pushing inflation lower still.
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.
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.