By Jeffrey Goldfarb
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.
The prospect of dramatic European Central Bank action – coupled with the deflationary threat posed by a plunge in the price of oil and the pain it inflicts on oil producing countries – is putting the financial system under growing stress.
With six days until elections, the polls have been remarkably steady in Greece, giving anti-bailout Syriza a narrow but consistent lead that suggests this time next week it will be the largest party in parliament with a mandate to form a coalition government.
Volatility is back with a bang.
The Swiss franc leapt by an unprecedented 40 percent at one point after the Swiss National Bank scrapped its currency cap out of the blue. Oil may have bounced but it’s still down the thick end of 60 percent since mid-2014, dragging the rouble and other oil-producer currencies with it. Copper, generally a barometer of world industrial demand, is barely finding its feet after plunging this week.
European Central Bank President Mario Draghi pushed the envelope as far as he could last week, saying a review early next year would decide whether money-printing to buy government bonds was needed. He said he didn’t need unanimity within the ECB to force it through.
The European Central Bank meets today with the debate about quantitative easing running hot after Mario Draghi declared “excessively low” inflation had to be raised fast and that the ECB would act more forcefully if its existing efforts to pump money into the ailing euro zone economy fall short.
The Great Divergence is a term coined by economic historians to explain the sudden acceleration of growth and technology in Europe from the 16th century onward, while other civilizations such as China, India, Japan and Persia remained in their pre-modern state. This phrase has recently acquired a very different meaning, however, more relevant to global economic and financial conditions today.