Reuters blog archive
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.
The German media responded negatively to last week’s measures, defaulting to the country’s historic fear of inflation stretching all the way back to the 1920s Weimar Republic although there is virtually no inflation in Europe’s largest economy at the moment. Merkel has given Draghi a fair wind in the past to initiate “unorthodox” policy measures.
Having unleashed a variety of measures last week, QE will not be unleashed soon – the ECB line is that the impact of the latest action will not be fully measurable until the year-end. But if inflation keeps falling from an already rock-bottom 0.5 percent, the pressure will mount well before then.
If German (and particularly Bundesbank) opposition to creating money is a crucial part of the jigsaw, so too is the range of opinion on the ECB Governing Council.
After the European Central Bank opened its toolbox and deployed pretty much everything it had left, bar printing money, the question is if and when QE becomes a live possibility.
ECB chief Mario Draghi pointedly said at his monthly news conference that all policy options had not been exhausted.
German resistance to such a move will remain, however, and Draghi’s deputy, Vitor Constancio, has already intimated that it will take until late this year to judge whether the latest gambits have made a difference before moving onto the next stage.
Given the silence that attends Bank of England policy meetings which result in no change of course, today’s quarterly inflation report is the main chance to hear the latest thinking. Governor Mark Carney will talk to the media for an hour or so after its release.
The ongoing strength of economic data means the odds of a first interest rate rise this year are narrowing and one could certainly come before May 2015 elections, an unwelcome prospect for the government.
Vladimir Putin will meet senior Russian government officials to discuss Russia's economic ties with Ukraine, including on energy after state-controlled natural gas producer Gazprom said Kiev missed a deadline to pay a $2.2 billion bill.
In previous years, gas disputes between Moscow and Kiev have hurt supplies to Europe. The Ukraine government has said it would take Russia to an arbitration court if Moscow failed to roll back gas price hikes.
Pro-Moscow protesters in eastern Ukraine took up arms in one city and declared a separatist republic in another yesterday and the new build-up of tensions continues this morning.
The Kiev government has launched what it calls “anti-terrorist” operations in the eastern city of Kharkiv and arrested about 70 separatists. Moscow has responded by demanding Kiev stop massing military forces in the south-east of the country.
The annual UK budget is always a big set piece but it’s hard to remember one where there have been fewer advance leaks – indicative of a steady-as-she-goes approach by George Osborne.
Having put so much political capital into reducing the deficit, to switch now at a time when the economy is recovering strongly would be politically risky. And with debt falling only slowly there is little fiscal leeway.
That’s not to say this isn’t a big political moment. Yes there is the finance minister’s autumn statement and another budget before May 2015 elections but this is the moment when the narrative for the economy and Britons’ wellbeing is staked out.
from Photographers' Blog:
Fukushima Prefecture, Japan
By Toru Hanai
It will soon be the third anniversary of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami that wrecked the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
I myself live in Tokyo, more than a three-hour drive away. Right after the disaster, I too bought bottled water both to drink and to use around the house. Now, however, I drink from the tap without thinking about it.
from The Great Debate:
When highly radioactive material that can be used in a “dirty bomb” is moved to or from a hospital in New York City, it is done in the dead of night on cordoned streets with high security.
In Mexico two weeks ago, a truck moving a large canister containing radioactive material was hijacked at a gas station -- where it had been parked with no security. The cobalt-60 that was stolen from the vehicle and then extracted from its protective lead shield is so potent that it is considered a significant national security threat under U.S. guidelines.
from The Great Debate UK:
--Behnam Taebi is assistant professor of philosophy, focusing on issues of ethics and nuclear power, at Delft University of Technology.--
Across much of the world, nuclear power continues to spawn controversy. For instance, concern over the Fukushima site continues, and a risky, unprecedented operation has just begun to remove thousands of fuel rods.
By Una Galani
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.
Iran’s nuclear deal offers the world a ray of hope. It won’t be easy to turn the agreement to curb Tehran’s nuclear activities from a six-month accord into a lasting solution that assures the world the country’s nuclear programme is peaceful. But the resulting diplomatic goodwill should make it harder to go backwards.