Fresh from winning a vote of confidence in parliament, new Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta heads to Berlin to meet Angela Merkel, pledging to shift the euro zone’s focus on austerity in favour of a drive to create jobs. He may be pushing at a partially open door. Even the German economy is struggling at the moment and the top brass in Brussels have declared either that debt-cutting has reached its limits and/or that now is the time to exercise flexibility. Letta will move on from Berlin to Brussels and Paris later in the week.
Johns Hopkins University economist Christopher Carroll thinks U.S. consumers have finally got religion when it comes to saving, after years of free spending. For the sake of the broader economy, he is hoping they take to heart the prayer of Saint Augustine.
An Ipsos/Reuters poll of 23 countries found that cuts in household spending have remained constant during the past six months with entertainment, vacations and luxury items the first to go for nearly three quarters of families, followed by clothing, energy consumption and gasoline/driving.
Getting the U.S. consumer spending again is simple. “The government should issue every household with a debit card with an expiration limit of 90 days, and if they don’t use it, they lose it,” says Paul Kasriel, chief economist of Chicago-based Northern Trust.