The upcoming elections in Greece have gained added significance in recent weeks. It’s not just the Greek people choosing their next leader; it is also being presented as a referendum on euro membership. Either vote for a pro-bailout party and stay in the euro zone or vote anti-austerity and you’re out. But is the outcome of the vote really that clear cut? Although three quarters of Greeks want to remain in the euro zone, 80 percent want the terms of their second bailout to be re-negotiated. The elections might not be such a foregone conclusion after all.
It’s worth looking at the two potential “choices” currently being presented to the Greek people. If they choose a “pro-bailout” party that doesn’t mean that champagne corks will be popped in Berlin. Those in power in Athens need to answer to the electorate who will have given them a mandate to challenge Germany and its insistence on tough fiscal reform in return for bailout cash. So if Europe’s authorities think that the election of New Democracy (one of the parties who pledged to stick to fiscal reform post the election) is enough to keep Greece on the fiscal straight and narrow, think again.
Who wouldn’t want to have been an early investor in Facebook? The graffiti artist who spray painted the walls of Facebook HQ decided to take stock rather than a paycheck and will be $150 million dollars richer as a result.
Facebook is one of the biggest ever IPOs in the U.S. and at the end of last week it even managed to knock Greece out of the headlines and was credited with boosting market sentiment.
Throughout history it has always been difficult to take something away from someone once you have given it to them. Europe is finding that it is extremely difficult to reign in public finances once they start to go out of control. Democracies don’t like to vote for austerity, which is why Sarkozy lost the Presidency in France, why a radical left party came second in the Greek elections and why the Conservatives got a drubbing at last week’s local elections in the UK.
This tells us something about democracy in the western world. Governments have to manage the public finances directly – they have to sell the debt, do the sums and present budgets. However, the people who vote them into (and out of) power are the public, who rightly in most cases, believe they have worked hard, paid taxes and deserve the services and retirement promises made to them.
The words ‘tech bubble’ have been bandied about since the Apple share price really started to climb at the end of 2011. Earlier this month, its market capitalisation hit $600 billion dollars, only the second company to see its market cap get that high. So it appears like everyone wants a bite out of the proverbial apple.
There is a dangerous precedent for markets’ believing that tech stocks can only go in one direction. The dotcom bubble back in 2000 caused havoc in the equity markets and also contributed to the Federal Reserve keeping interest rates incredibly low, one of the contributing factors to the housing crisis in 2007.
There’s a 250,000 pound prize for the best idea on how to break up the euro zone, but how much would you pay to see the euro zone saved?
There is no denying that the euro zone is in a mess right now, but there are some steps that could help ease the crisis. Essentially the markets hate to be 1) misled and 2) confused. The European authorities have consistently sent mixed messages and reneged on their promises. For example, they said there would be no haircut on Greek debt then when it became obvious Greece had to re-negotiate its massive debt pile the authorities said Greece would be the exception. Now the markets believe there is a good chance that Portugal will have to follow suit.
A new dimension to the currency crisis is upon us. First there was the two-speed growth – with richer, predominantly Northern European economies performing well while the weak south was on the cusp of recession. But in recent months an even more worrying divide has started to emerge in youth unemployment.
In Spain the number of under 24-year-olds out of work is 50 percent, in Italy nearly a third of young people are without a job and in France the figure is a quarter.
Céad míle fáilte for the new Chinese leader
China’s vice President could have chosen state banquets in Berlin or Paris for his recent trip to Europe. This wasn’t just any visit – it was the introduction of Xi Jinping, the man tipped to become the next Chinese leader, to the world. But instead of either of those venues he chose to tour Croke Park in Dublin indulging in a spot of Gaelic games on the way. After heading to the US, en route to Turkey, Jinping went to Ireland.
The official Chinese itinerary is extremely telling. Beijing chose one of the smallest nations in the currency bloc for Jinping’s visit and this will be followed with a trip by Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny to China scheduled for next month.
The pictures from Athens at the weekend showed a city in turmoil: protests turned violent, buildings were alight and an anti-German feeling was clear for all to see. German flags have been burnt as Greek politicians have agreed to yet more austerity, which means reduced pensions, a 20% cut to the minimum wage and mass layoffs in the public sector.
Added to that the EU has demanded that Greek politicians from both sides of the political aisle sign a pledge to implement cuts regardless of the outcome of the general election scheduled for April. Thus, even if the Greek people vote for an alternative to cuts the troika will insist on them.
By Kathleen Brooks. The opinions expressed are her own.
For the last three years talk about the global economy has been decidedly negative. Firstly there was the sub-prime housing crisis in the U.S., then the sovereign debt crisis, now we wonder whether the euro will survive and whether China will suffer a “hard” economic landing.
But amidst all of this doom and gloom, there seems to be a bright spot: Sub-Saharan Africa. For the bulk of the last thirty years the focus has been on famine, civil war or piracy, which has left a decidedly negative impression of the continent. However, in recent weeks there has been a growing number of optimistic reports about Africa, with some even thinking it could continue to grow while the rest of the world stagnates.
It used to be Greece that was the canary in the coal mine, these days it’s Hungary. The new year got off to a bad start for the Eastern European nation after it experienced a failed bond auction, causing its bond yields to surge.
This caused major jitters across global financial markets and once again a small, relatively unknown economy is dominating the headlines and causing a massive headache for the European authorities.