Pierre's Feed
Dec 16, 2014
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Rouble free fall throws Russia into ugly spiral

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The Central Bank of Russia was successful for about two hours. Its overnight decision to hike the main interest rate from 10.5 percent to 17 percent initially shocked markets enough to arrest the rouble’s fall after the currency sank almost 12 percent on Dec. 15. But the Russian currency quickly resumed its slide, smashing record lows – as if the central bank hadn’t moved at all. That leaves policymakers with few sensible short-term options. Further out, only an end to the Ukrainian stand-off and related Western sanctions or sharply higher oil prices could soothe markets. Neither is likely to happen soon.

The rouble rout was triggered by a central bank forecast that oil prices settling at around $60 a barrel would push Russia into severe recession next year. Shrinking oil revenue, together with the sanctions-induced lack of foreign currency funding, explain why companies have been hoarding dollars to meet some $138 billion worth of debt payments by mid 2016. Individual depositors, who remained remarkably calm throughout the year as the rouble fell, may also have accelerated the conversion of their deposits into dollars in recent days, prompting the central bank’s shock-and-awe approach.

Dec 10, 2014
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French reform bill more talk than walk

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By Pierre Briançon

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

In most Western countries, a lawyers’ strike would just provide fodder for stand-up comics. In France, where strikes are taken seriously, it is a sign that the government must be doing something right – taking on an entrenched interest group.

Dec 3, 2014
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Sinking rouble puts debt squeeze on Russia Inc

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By Pierre Briançon

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Russia does not have an external debt problem. At around 37 percent of GDP – versus 1.5 to three times GDP, say, for developed European economies – it should be easily manageable. For Russian companies and banks, it’s a different story.

Nov 7, 2014
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Only Putin can stop rouble’s fall

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By Pierre Briançon

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

The rouble is down 28 percent since the beginning of the year. The Central Bank of Russia has not been able to cushion the fall against its chosen dollar-euro reference basket. It is not at fault.

Oct 8, 2014
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Russian central bank intervention is a dead end

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By Pierre Briançon

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

The Russian central bank is doing what it can. The problem is that it cannot do much. It spent $1.4 billion on Oct. 3 and 6 to try stemming the rouble’s slide. But the currency keeps falling. Spending foreign exchange reserves can make sense – a little – when markets seem lost in a temporary moment of insanity. And the Russian central bank has $470 billion worth of it to spend. But there is nothing irrational about the rouble’s weakness. Its root causes are the deep flaws of the Russian economy, and the country’s new aggressive foreign policy.

Aug 26, 2014
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France’s housing slump is sign of deeper woes

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By Pierre Briançon

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

François Hollande could live with a housing bubble. That would at least signal euphoria in a significant part of the French economy. But house prices are declining, a reflection of the depth of the country’s economic woes, and its president’s inability to address them.

Jul 30, 2014
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EU will find Russian sanctions worth the pain

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By Pierre Briançon

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. 

It took time for European Union leaders to agree on tough economic sanctions against Russia. The EU is slow. Its members have conflicting interests. Their economies don’t all have the same exposure to Russia. Yet they have finally agreed with the United States on a list of measures to punish Russian banks and oil companies. The already weak EU economy will suffer in return. But over time, Europe will find that the sanctions were worth the pain.

Jul 8, 2014
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French persist in dead-end strong-euro moaning

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By Pierre Briançon

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Once again, a senior executive of Airbus  is complaining about the euro’s strength. Fabrice Brégier, the pan-European aircraft maker’s current boss, told the Financial Times that the European Central Bank should do something about the “crazy” currency, the strength of which is hurting earnings. A few years ago it was Louis Gallois, then chief executive of Airbus’ parent EADS, who regularly vented his frustration with the central bank. Curiously, those complaints are never heard when Airbus or EADS is headed by a German executive.

Jul 2, 2014
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Sarkozy probe latest sign of sick French politics

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By Pierre Briançon

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.  

France has sunk a little deeper into political paralysis with the corruption probe against Nicolas Sarkozy. The former president, who denies the charges, has been put under formal investigation for trying to convince a judge in France’s highest court to tell him about one of the many judicial probes of his behaviour.

Jul 1, 2014
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BNP’s Prot should go

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By Pierre Briançon

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Baudouin Prot should go. The French establishment has circled the wagons, and there is little chance that the chairman of BNP Paribas, who was the bank’s chief executive at the time of the criminal activities it just admitted to, will resign or be asked to. He will then fail to do the decent thing after the bank’s unprecedented guilty plea and near-$9 billion fine.

    • About Pierre

      "Pierre Briançon is Reuters Breakingviews' Paris correspondent. He joined Breakingviews.com in 2006, after heading the Dow Jones Newswires Paris Bureau Chief for three years. Previously, he had been: business editor of Libération, then the newspaper's Moscow and Washington correspondent; deputy editor of L’Expansion; and a producer/columnist for French radio and TV. He is also the author of Messier Story (2002), on the fall of Vivendi’s former chief executive, Héritiers du désastre (1992) on the collapse of the Soviet Union, and San Quentin Jazz Band (2008)."
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