Reuters blog archive
France is unveiling its 2015 budget right now and it’s not making pretty reading, confirming that Paris will not get its budget deficit down to the EU limit of three percent of GDP until 2017, years after it should have done.
The health minister has said the welfare deficit is expected to run nearly one billion euros over budget this year and data on Tuesday showed France's national debt hit a record high in the second quarter, topping two trillion euros for the first time. It will near 100 percent of GDP next year.
All this is predicated on growth picking up and the proportion of national income going on public spending will fall only glacially.
French President Francois Hollande and Italy’s Matteo Renzi are leading a drive to use the maximum amount of flexibility within EU rules to allow a bit more spending or lower taxes to get growth going – French Finance Minister Michel Sapin has just said the pace of budget consolidation in the euro zone must be adapted to reflect the reality of a stagnant economy.
Germany, as usual, is sceptical and is making great play of the fact it will have no net new borrowing next year for the first time since 1969 even though its economy is barely growing. European Central Bank President Mario Draghi has also called for more active fiscal policy from euro zone governments, a hint perhaps that he thinks the ECB has done as much as it can.
Euro zone inflation figures are due and after Germany’s rate held steady at 0.8 percent the figure for the currency bloc as a whole could marginally exceed forecasts and hold at 0.4 percent.
One upside for the currency bloc is the falling euro which has broken below its 2013 lows and is down almost nine percent from the peak it hit against the dollar in May. With U.S. money printing about to end next month and speculation intensifying about the timing of a first interest rate rise from Washington, there are good reasons to think that this trend could continue.
from Photographers' Blog:
By Marko Djurica
He stood beside a jeep, wearing the Russian army’s tight, black boots and trousers, that most of the insurgents wear, and a green military jumper. A small compass and large hunting knife in a sheath hung on his belt, an AK47 was slung over his shoulder. He looked straight at me through a balaclava. As I approached, he seemed to get bigger and bigger.
I was in Ukraine again, where the West and Russia have taken opposing sides in a separatist war with the pro-Russians in the East.
Who says Europe is broken? The Ryder Cup stays here again and even Nigel Farage, leader of Britain’s anti-EU party, said he wanted Europe’s golfers to win.
The euro zone is not winning the economic competition however, despite the European Central Bank’s best efforts (it should be noted that only 3 of the 12 Ryder Cup team come from euro zone countries).
from The Great Debate:
President Barack Obama’s speech at the United Nations Wednesday offered to roll back the U.S. sanctions if Russia takes the “path of diplomacy and peace.” This overture comes on the heels of an emerging ceasefire between Russia and Ukraine and continuing discussions in Minsk to find a political solution to the turmoil in eastern Ukraine.
Obama’s U.N. speech, however, opens up the possibility of creating some daylight between the United States and the EU sanction programs. The European Union remains openly divided over the current sanctions -- and far more economically bruised than the United States.
The British parliament will vote today on whether UK forces should join U.S.-led air attacks against Islamic State militants. Any action will be confined to Iraq, which has asked for help, not Syria where IS also controls swathes of territory. Prime Minister David Cameron has promised a separate vote on that if it comes to it.
Unlike last year when action to stop Syria's Bashar al-Assad using chemical weapons against his own people was voted down, all the main parties appear to be broadly in support, probably swayed by the beheading of captives by the Sunni militants.
U.S. air strikes in Syria continued overnight with a monitoring group saying at least 14 Islamic State fighters were killed.
Having sat out so far, Britain said it would join strikes against militants but only in Iraq for now – which has asked for such help – not Syria. IS holds swathes of land in both countries.
Having largely sailed through this year’s choppy (to say the least) geopolitical waters, markets are a little discomfited by U.S. air strikes in Syria targeting Islamic State militants ... though only a little.
The U.S. military said Monday’s onslaught was just the start, suggesting it could take years to “degrade and destroy” the group, as Washington puts it. It remains to be seen how effective air attacks alone, which have been conducted in Iraq for some time already, will be in that regard.
Surprisingly low take-up at last week’s first round of cheap four-year loans by the European Central Bank begs a number of questions – How low is demand for credit and what does that say about the state of the economy? Are banks cowed by the upcoming stress tests? Does this make an eventual leap to QE more likely?
The ECB is playing up the prospects of a second round in December after the stress tests are finished. But having pledged to add the best part of 1 trillion euros to its balance sheet to rev up the euro zone economy, it can’t have been happy to see only 83 billion euros of loans taken. ECB President Mario Draghi testifies at the European Parliament today.
from Anatole Kaletsky:
The war in eastern Ukraine, which has had more impact on the European economy than any news coming out of Frankfurt or Brussels, appears to be ending. Despite the sporadic attacks that have wrecked previous ceasefire attempts.
Investors have mostly assumed that the ceasefire would not hold, either because Russian President Vladimir Putin is deceitful and greedy for more territorial conquest, or because Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko would not accept the splintering of his country that Russia demands. But this fashionable pessimism is probably wrong.