The Great Debate UK
from The Great Debate:
Europe's long summer holiday still has a week to run but this year's reentry will bring with it evidence that very little progress has been made on the issues that threaten to rend the currency union and upend the global economy.
Despite waving the stress-test magic wand over its banks in late July the same problems continue to grow unchecked: a euro zone periphery that can't compete, may not be able to pay its debts and so may bring down with them the very banks that have been pronounced healthy.
While the German economy is growing at a rate not seen since the Berlin Wall came down, things are a good bit worse in Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy and especially Greece, all of which face some combination of an austerity-induced recession and debts public and private which which threaten their banking systems, local governments and Treasuries.
Investors have looked at this on the one hand and on the other a $1 trillion bailout, a pliant International Monetary Fund and the results of the stress tests and have voted with their feet: average spreads between German and peripheral country bonds are back in territory last seen in June and heading north. Ten-year Greek bonds now yield 861 basis points more than German issues, or about where they were in May when we were all debating the chances of the euro surviving in its current form.
For a central bank that looks certain to bust its 2 percent inflation target for most of the time between now and the London 2012 Olympics, there is still a lot of uncertainty out there.
Bank of England Governor Mervyn King referred to "uncertain" or "uncertainty" about the outlook five times at the May quarterly Inflation Report press conference according to the bank's transcript, and the latest one didn't seem much more confident in tone.
- Paddy Earnshaw is the Director of Customer Relations at Travelex Global Business Payments. The opinions expressed are his own.-
British importers and exporters’ confidence in the economy leapt in July, as positive economic data fuelled hopes for a return to strong economic growth. According to the Travelex Confidence Index (TCI), which jumped 12 points in July to 116, from 104 in June, strong gains were driven by quarter 2′s GDP figure, as it showed the UK grew at its fastest pace in four years.
-Laurence Copeland is professor of finance at Cardiff University Business School. The opinions expressed are his own-
The policy debate is hotting up. On one side, we have the expansionists, arguing that it’s the Nineteen Thirties all over again, that Keynes is right now as he was then – we need more, not less government spending, we are digging our own graves by cutting back, especially as the fiscal retrenchment is continent-wide, covering thrifty North Europe as well as profligate ClubMed. According to this view, fiscal contraction will exacerbate the situation by magnifying the fall in the level of economic activity, leading to a downward spiral and, incidentally, making it harder than ever to repay our debts.
Mike Dicks, chief economist and blogger at Barclays Wealth, has identified what he sees as the three biggest problems facing the global economy, and conveniently found that they are linked with three separate regions.
First, there is the risk that U.S., t consumers won't increase spending. Dicks notes that the increase in U.S. consumption has been "extremely moderate" and far less than after previous recessions. His firm has lowered is U.S. GDP forecast for 2011 to 2.7 percent from a bit over 3 percent.
- Laurence Copeland is a professor of finance at Cardiff Business School. The opinions expressed are his own.-
Worries about Europe’s banking system go back at least to 2007, but whereas the U.S. (and UK) banks appear to have weathered the storm, there are fears that for European banks the worst may lie ahead. Concerns centre on four areas.
What do an eight-legged creature in an aquarium in Germany and 74 economists have in common? The consensus view that Spain would claim the World Cup -- until the economists, as they so often do, changed their minds.
If World Cup 2010 goes down as one of the most unpredictable and exciting competitions in recent history, bringing underdogs Holland and Spain to the final showdown, what was hopelessly routine was watching so-called expert opinion converge around the safest bet. At least among financial professionals, who have done so well of late predicting the future.
There is really only one question on the agenda at the G8 and G20 meetings in Toronto and in policy circles throughout Europe and North America: to cut government spending and risk recession; or to keep on spending, risking a return to inflation, or more likely to stagflation – inflation with stagnant economic activity?
-Tony Cleaver is senior teaching fellow in Economics and Finance in the Durham University School of Economics, Finance and Business. The opinions expressed are his own.-
George Osborne is taking a risk.
The Chancellor is also placing himself firmly in the orthodox school of financiers who assert that governments must balance their own books even in times of recession.