Following a dramatic fall in the price of oil, now down at $50 per barrel from above $115 in the middle of last year, euro zone inflation figures for December are likely to turn negative for the first time since 2009.
German inflation figures for December will presage the euro zone number on Wednesday, together offering one of the final pieces of the jigsaw for the European Central Bank before its late January policy meeting at which it could commence a quantitative easing government bond-buying programme.
The last day of the year and all is quiet – but not for long.
Unless the price of oil bounces markedly or Vladimir Putin walks away from Ukraine thereby loosening western sanctions – both unlikely – Russia could be heading for a serious economic fall. Reserves are being burned defending the currency. They are sufficient for now but without hefty tax increases, public spending cuts and/or a higher pension age the outlook for 2016 and beyond is much gloomier.
European Central Bank President Mario Draghi pushed the envelope as far as he could last week, saying a review early next year would decide whether money-printing to buy government bonds was needed. He said he didn’t need unanimity within the ECB to force it through.
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.
The European Central Bank meets today with the debate about quantitative easing running hot after Mario Draghi declared “excessively low” inflation had to be raised fast and that the ECB would act more forcefully if its existing efforts to pump money into the ailing euro zone economy fall short.