Japan the rule, not the exception

Japan may well have looked like the odd-one-out after Monday’s news its economy grew 0.1 percent over the second quarter – about the feeblest expansion possible.

RTR2H9LG.jpgEurope’s big players were already in full swagger after posting growth second quarter growth that often exceeded predictions, and the U.S. economy – although clearly slowing – still expanded at a decent pace over the same period.

But looks are deceptive, especially from preliminary three-month snapshots of the rich-world economies, and Japan’s lethargy is probably still the rule, not the exception.

That’s the message from Reuters monthly polls of more than 250 economists, who see quarter-on-quarter growth in the likes of the euro zone and United States hovering around half a percentage point for some time yet.

Last week’s news of an explosive 2.2 percent quarterly growth rate for Germany and 1.0 percent for  the wider euro zone could prompt forecasters to bump up their predictions in the September poll. Yet there was little sign of them upgrading growth forecasts in the last UK poll, conducted after similarly surprising news that Britain’s economy grew at its fastest pace in four years in the second quarter.

Scams from Abuja to Reykjavik

It suffered the collapse of its currency, economy and banking system so being invoked in a version of the notorious Nigerian email scam is one of the smaller humiliations endured by Iceland.

The confidence trick, which has roots in the 18th century, usually involves an email from someone claiming to be either a deposed African dictator or a Nigerian lawyer, promising a sum of money in return for help to access a substantial fortune.

But the latest spam email making its rounds purports to be from Iceland, one of the highest profile sovereign casualties of the global financial crisis. This version of the email is supposedly from a “devoted christian (sic)” from Iceland”, a widow seeking help to access $6 million in a Canadian bank left to her by her husband who worked for an oil giant for 19 years.

The bailout formerly known as TARP

It seems like only yesterday that U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson was up on Capitol Hill, asking Congress for a mere $700 billion to buy bad assets that were clogging up lending. The so-called Troubled Asset Relief Program isn’t buying troubled assets, but the TARP acronym lives on.

Until now. Thanks to Stephen Stanley, chief economist at RBS Greenwich Capital,

“Given that TARP is no longer an appropriate acronym, I propose to start a contest to rename the program,” Stanley said. “My submission is BEAST. Bail out Everyone And Sink the Taxpayer. Unfortunately, there are no prizes in this contest, but feel free to play.”

Send us your best ideas and we’ll be glad to forward them along.

Meet Macroscope …

The financial system is in the grips of its most violent
upheaval since the 1930s. A staggering amount of wealth has been
destroyed this year — $11 trillion wiped out from world stock
markets in the past nine months. The damage already is spilling
into the real economy, and fears are spreading among investors
of a deep and damaging downturn.

Macroscope is a new blog where Reuters journalists from
around the world look behind the headlines, the speeches and the
economic reports to bring you a fresh look at the factors
driving the world economy, and the people making the decisions that affect
your household budget.

It will look at the policymakers who are ripping up the rule books
in a desperate search for ways to get cash pumping through the seized-up money markets,
stabilise banks, revive stock markets and prevent the credit
crisis from turning an economic downturn in the United States
and Europe into a deeply damaging global recession.

Dear G20, welcome to Washington

Thank you for visiting. Admission is free, but your generous donation would greatly help with our capital improvement projects such as bank bailouts, depositor guarantees and mortgage overhauls. We normally like to keep this an intimate gathering of just the Group of Seven, but given our current predicament, the more the merrier.

Depositors gather outside a bank in 1933.

D.C. bank

As global stock markets tanked once again, the pressure was mounting on the G7 to come up with a comprehensive plan to guide the economy past the credit crisis that threatens to trigger a global recession. The G7 meets on Friday, and the broader G20, which includes reserve-rich developing economies such as China and Russia, will convene on Saturday.

The buzz words are “coherent” and “coordinated” as world leaders acknowledge that they can no longer afford to focus on problems at home when everyone is feeling the pain.