The drama of Ukraine and Greece has left old-fashioned economic data in the shade so far this year but, quietly, there are some signs of improvement for the moribund euro zone economy.
With the Greek government again in peril and Italy flirting with a junk credit rating, it’s all starting to feel a bit familiar.
Greek stocks suffered their steepest daily fall in more than a quarter century on Tuesday after Prime Minister Antonis Samaras brought forward a presidential election.
Euro zone finance ministers meet in Brussels to discuss member states’ 2015 budget plans. We know the European Commission thinks France, Italy and Belgium are breaking EU deficit rules but will defer decisions on any action until March. At that point, France could face a multi-billion euro fine and Italy and Belgium be put on a disciplinary programme.
After euro zone inflation ticked up for the first time in many months and the latest PMI surveys showed factory activity expanded only very slightly last month, today the European Commission publishes its autumn economic forecasts.
After a local election drubbing, French President Francois Hollande duly sacked his prime minister last night and tempered his economic reform drive, vowing to focus more on growth and “social justice”. A fuller cabinet reshuffle is expected today.
With Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy calling for a new euro zone fiscal authority to manage the bloc’s finances and send markets a signal that EU leaders mean business about defending the euro, it is clear that the push towards fiscal union, led by Germany, is gathering momentum. Germany has also conceded that Spain should get an extra year to make the spending cuts demanded of it, suggesting it is aware that the crisis is lapping at its door again.