The Great Debate UK
Ireland's fall from grace has been rapid and far worse than that of its counterparts, even Greece. But life in the euro zone has still been one of profound growth, as it has for most of the other peripheral economies.
Take a look first at the progress of PIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain) GDP since 2007 when the global financial crisis took hold. In straight comparisons (ie, rebased to the same point) Ireland is far and away the biggest loser. Portugal is basically where it was.
But now take the rebasing back to roughly the time that the euro zone came together. First, it shows that Ireland's fall is from a very high place. The decade has still been one of profound improvement in cumulative GDP even with the last few years' misery. But it is front loaded.
Perhaps most interesting, however, is what the second graph (courtesy Reuters' Scott Barber) says about the PIGS and the euro experiment. Despite major financial and market crises, Greece, Spain and Ireland have all seen their economies accumulate at a higher rate than the euro zone average. Only Portugal has been below average -- a perennial slow grower.
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.
LONDON -- Spain is feeling the heat in the debt markets. Fears of contagion explain why it paid a much higher yield on short-term treasury bills than the same issue from last month. The country may avoid a debt crisis if it stays its course. But an unexpected event throwing doubt on the true state of the country's finances could precipitate the mother of all bailouts. Here are four of the unpleasant surprises that could trigger a meltdown.
Ireland’s banking crisis reached boiling point this week. The Irish authorities are still adamant the country doesn’t need a bailout and are trying to draw a distinction between a sovereign bailout (which Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen, Finance Minister Brian Lenihan et al claim they don’t need) and banking sector support (which they most definitely do).
France's plan to ban full face veils, which comes up for a vote in the National Assembly on Tuesday, enjoys 82% popular support in the country, according to a new poll by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project. Its neighbours also approve -- 71% of those polled in Germany, 62% in Britain and 59% in Spain agreed that there should be laws prohibiting the Muslim veils known as niqabs and burqas in public. (Photo: French woman fined for wearing a niqab while driving outside court in Nantes June 28, 2010/Stephane Mahe)
The poll, conducted from April 7 to May 8, did not range further afield, but reports from other countries show support there as well. The lower house of the Belgian parliament has voted for a ban, which should be approved by the Senate after the summer. In the Netherlands, several bills to ban full veils in certain sectors such as schools and public service are in preparation. Switzerland's justice minister has suggested the cantons there should pass partial bans but make exceptions for visiting Muslim tourists (the wives of rich sheikhs visiting their bankers in Zurich or Geneva?)
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.
from Reuters Soccer Blog:
Two national market indexes that may not shine on Monday are those of Spain and the Netherlands, whose soccer teams are scheduled to meet in the World Cup's championship game on Sunday.
Whichever country's team loses can expect a drag on its market index of 49 basis points, said Wharton business school professor Alex Edmans. That is the amount that national stock indexes tend to be held back on average on the day after their country is eliminated from the World Cup, according to a paper he published in 2007 with two co-authors, Diego Garcia of the University of North Carolina and Oyvind Norli of the Norwegian School of Management.
Central banks in debt-strapped countries have a golden opportunity ahead of them, if you will excuse the pun, to help their countries' finances by selling their yellow metal holdings.
At least, that is the message that Royal Bank of Scotland's commodities chief Nick Moore has been giving in recent presentations -- and he thinks it might happen. The gist is that gold is now at a record price but banks have not come close to meeting their sales allowance for the year.
from The Great Debate:
-- James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. --
As odd as it sounds, concerns about the effects of a euro zone sovereign crisis on Europe's still poorly capitalized banks may prove to be the tipping point that leads to a swifter bailout of Greece.
While discussion of contagion may seem very 2008, the problems with Greece, which faces a huge fiscal deficit, are becoming tougher for euro zone authorities to leave uninsured.
The reality of 'political economy' is something that irritates many economists -- the "purists", if you like. The political element is impossible to model; it often flies in the face of textbook economics; and democratic decision-making and backroom horse trading can be notoriously difficult to predict and painfully slow. And political economy is all pervasive in 2010 -- Barack Obama's proposals to rein in the banks is rooted in public outrage; reading China's monetary and currency policies is like Kremlinology; capital curbs being introduced in Brazil and elsewhere aim to prevent market overshoot; and British budgetary policies are becoming the political football ahead of this spring's UK election. The list is long, the outcomes uncertain, the market risk high.
But nowhere is this more apparent than in well-worn arguments over the validity and future of Europe's single currency -- the new milennium's posterchild for political economy.
Is the worst over for Spanish mortgage defaults? That’s one way to interpret Santander’s offer to buy back up to 16.5 billion euros of its outstanding asset-backed debt.
The securities are trading below par – more than 40 percent in some cases before today’s announcement - allowing the bank to reduce debt by buying them back. Cash-rich banks such as HSBC have launched similar buybacks this year to profit from the ABS market dislocation, but it's the first time a Spanish bank has launched such a large public buyback.