Expert Zone

Straight from the Specialists

The reform club

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

That custodian of the English language, the Oxford English Dictionary, describes a bubble as “anything fragile, unsubstantial, empty or worthless; a deceptive show”. Could this description apply to the current frenzy for “reform” that is seemingly sweeping the global economy? The answer is “yes, in part”. While there are some genuine attempts at reform, market expectations for reform will inevitably be disappointed in some parts of the world.

The global financial crisis has prompted politicians to advocate economic reform in two ways. First, the crisis demonstrated that the status quo needed to be changed — and in many cases that change required sizeable structural change. Second, as the structure of the world economy has changed (lower global capital flows, slower global trade, etc.) so economies have had to adapt the way that their economies are structured.

The inevitable reaction to this is that politicians are scrambling over each other to advocate reform. Reform is seen as a break with the past, and helps governments avoid being tainted with past errors. Advocating reform is a way of containing popular anger about historical mistakes. Looking at the focal points of fiscal, labour market and financial system structures, almost three quarters of the world economy as measured by GDP is assessed as needing some kind of reform in one or another of these areas.

In some cases, the need for reform is seen as being very broad based. Japan’s need for fiscal and labour market reform is at least recognised (though perhaps not put into practice) by Abenomics. The Euro area’s need for a credible change in its banking system structure has been acknowledged by giving the central bank the power to regulate banks, though this is still seen as incomplete.

Reflections from Davos

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

It’s been an exciting week at Davos. The annual meeting of the World Economic Forum this year was refreshingly different from previous editions. There is a general sense of optimism.

Although the effects of the recent crisis linger on, businesses and business leaders are acknowledging that we are seeing signs of recovery. In Davos, I had conversations with business leaders, heads of industry bodies, as also members of the academic and media fraternity. Each of these conversations resonated optimism.

The fear of “L”

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(This piece comes from Project Syndicate. The opinions expressed are the author’s own)

For the last few years, economists have been running through the alphabet to describe the shape of the long-awaited recovery — starting with an optimistic V, proceeding to a more downbeat U, and ending up at a despairing W. But now a deeper anxiety is beginning to stalk the profession: the fear of what I call an “L-shaped” recovery.

How QE3 changes commodity prices

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

On Sept. 13, the U.S. Fed announced the QE3 program whereby it purchases mortgage-backed securities at $40bn per month with no time limit. It also pushed out guidance on keeping a low funds rate to mid-2015 from late 2014.

Bashing China won’t fix U.S. economy

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

Both ends of the political spectrum seem to be competing to be tougher on China economic issues. They’re both wrong.

What if Greece exits the euro zone

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

While the idea of a Greek exit from the euro zone has long been rejected by politicians and deemed nothing more than a “tail risk” by most investors, there has been a clear shift in opinion after the Greek election in early May failed to form a new government. The repeat election on June 17 is therefore critical to the country’s future in the euro zone and to financial markets worldwide. If Greece fails to form a new government, or forms one that rejects its bailout plan with official creditors, the probability of an exit would rise significantly.

Scary oil

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

Today’s fragile global economy faces many risks: the risk of another flare-up of the euro zone crisis; the risk of a worse-than-expected slowdown in China; and the risk that economic recovery in the United States will fizzle (yet again). But no risk is more serious than that posed by a further spike in oil prices.

Global Economics: When China is not just China

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC’s) relationship with Iran receives a good deal of attention. As the U.S. considers how to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program short of military action, the PRC is considered vital in ensuring economic sanctions are effective. But it has been difficult to win Chinese cooperation in applying sanctions. One mistake the U.S. may have made is treating China as a unified entity.

Fallout of recession in euro zone

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

It will not be before February that the euro zone GDP numbers are out. The available information so far indicates the economy is already in recession. This will have serious consequences for all countries, including India.

There is no place like home

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(Paul Donovan is a Managing Director and Global Economist at UBS. The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

Most economists believe that nearly everything in this life can be reduced to an economic explanation.

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