Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit explains: “The flash PMI survey data show the pace of economic growth easing for a fourth consecutive month in October. The weakened growth of new orders and downturn in business optimism suggest that growth and hiring could slow further in coming months. “Having signalled an annualised rate of GDP growth of approximately 3.5% in the third quarter, the October readings indicate that the pace of economic growth looks set to moderate in the fourth quarter, down to perhaps 2.5% or less if the PMI falls further in coming months. “There are clearly many concerns, ranging from worries about the impact of Ebola, the Ukraine crisis, the ongoing plight of the Eurozone , signs of further weakness in emerging markets and the Fed starting to tighten policy. “We should not lose sight of the fact that the pace of growth nevertheless remains robust, having merely eased from very strong rates in prior months. The survey is also indicating another month of non-farm payroll growth in excess of 200,000 in October. This sustained strength should help alleviate recent worries about a sudden deterioration in the economy’s health. The pace of expansion appears to be easing only moderately.”
Sunday, November 2, 2014
Thursday, October 30, 2014
Almost one in five of the eurozone’s biggest banks have failed the European Central Bank (ECB)’s comprehensive test of their financial safety. Twenty-five of the 130 lenders being assessed by the ECB have failed the stress tests - the biggest-ever single review of the single currency’s major banks - including nine Italian institutions. 13 of the 25 need to raise €25bn (£20bn) of fresh capital. The remaining 12 have already covered their shortfalls, the ECB said of the tests, which covered the banks' positions at the end of last year. Both the ECB and European Banking Authority (EBA) released the results of its stress tests at 11am on Sunday. The two bodies’ assessments, which model scenarios such as downturns in the housing market, a new recession and a spike in borrowing costs, cover similar ground but have important differences. The ECB conducted an additional review of eurozone banks’ assets ahead of it taking over as the primary regulator of banks that use the single currency; the EBA’s tests also cover European banks that are not part of the euro, including British ones. Rather than acting as a black mark against failing lenders, the tests are designed to restore confidence in the sector by giving banks that pass a seal of approval. The EBA has previously held two rounds of stress tests, the last one in 2011, but they were seen as too soft. I expect to see some renumbering of the whole exercise with about a 10% change on both sides. I also expect to see some form of assurance that this is a one-off 'change of statistical base' event.
I expect UK and perhaps all the others - Holland, Cyprus, Greece, Malta to get some form of instalment deal on the thing.
I also expect some political reciprocity. I know UK and Germany are irked with France's deferral of CAP reform talks that should be happening right now and I know Malta is enraged about response delays on ex-EU immigration issues. A whole interactive political bag has been opened by this 'announcement'.
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Ever since the global economy bottomed out in the spring of 2009, the hope has been that the world would return to the robust levels of growth seen in the years leading up to the financial crash. Time and again, the optimism has proved misplaced, with the IMF repeatedly revising down its forecasts. This year was no exception. “The recovery continues but it is weak and uneven,” said the IMF’s economic counsellor, Olivier Blanchard, as he announced that at 3.3%, growth rates would be 0.4 points lower than anticipated in the spring. What concerns the IMF is that the slowdown – particularly in the advanced countries of the west – may be permanent. The phrase being bandied around in Washington was “secular stagnation”, the notion that there has been a structural decline in potential growth rates. Blanchard said it was entirely possible that developed countries would never return to their pre-crisis growth levels, and that even achieving the lower rates of expansion now expected would require interest rates to be maintained at historically low levels.
Last week, the Bank of England announced that its official interest rate would be pegged at 0.5% – comfortably the lowest in its 320-year history – as it has been since March 2009. Although the City expects borrowing costs to start rising early next year, the peak is predicted to be far lower than the 5% average seen in the years since Gordon Brown gave the bank its independence in 1997. The message from the fund is that low interest rates, like low growth, are here to stay.
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Britain has been told it must pay an extra €2.1bn (£1.7bn) into the European Union budget by the end of next month because the UK economy is doing better relative to other European economies.
The demand is certain to be used against David Cameron by the growing camp who want the UK to quit the EU.
British and European commission officials confirmed that the Treasury had been told last week that budget contribution calculations based on gross national income (GNI) adjustments carried out by Eurostat, the EU statistics agency, had exposed a huge discrepancy between what Britain had been asked to contribute and what it should be paying, because of the UK’s recovery.
The bombshell, first reported by the Financial Times, was dropped into the middle of an EU summit in Brussels where Cameron and 27 other leaders were mired in tough negotiations over climate-change policy and attempts to agree big reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. A Downing Street source said: “It’s not acceptable to just change the fees for previous years and demand them back at a moment’s notice. The European commission was not expecting this money and does not need this money and we will work with other countries similarly affected to do all we can to challenge this.” The prime minister on Thursday evening conferred with Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, as the Netherlands has also been ordered to pay more than €600m extra into the budget, while other countries such as Germany and France are likely to have excess contributions returned. The commission told the various countries of the revamped figures on 17 October, EU officials said. They said the British had until 1 December to provide €2.1bn, roughly a fifth of the UK’s annual net contribution to the EU.
Monday, October 27, 2014
Europe was alight with speculation on Friday about verdicts on the financial health of the region’s 130 largest lenders.
The big question was - and, well 25 failed - which banks might fail the central bank’s review and how much new capital might be needed for the banks to survive. Estimates of the capital shortfall varied widely, from about 10 billion euros, or about $12.6 billion, to as much as €50 billion. The central bank’s review was based on figures at the end of 2013. Banks that have not passed muster and have not taken steps to shore up their finances will have nine months to top up their reserves. Otherwise, they risk being shut down. The central bank noted the results would not be final until approved by its governing council Sunday morning. “Until that time, any media reports on the outcome of the tests are by their nature highly speculative,” it said. Banks were informed of the preliminary results of the review and stress tests on Thursday. They will not know for sure whether they passed or failed until Sunday, shortly before the public disclosure. Most analysts expected the shortfall to be relatively modest, in part because bankers have known for a year that the test was coming and have sold risky assets and raised more capital, money that is available to absorb losses and is crucial to a bank’s survival in a crisis. “The number of banks that would need to raise additional capital will be limited,” analysts at Barclays said in a note to clients on Friday. “This is due to the substantial pre-emptive measures that the banks have already undertaken.” Betting on which banks would do better or worse than expected was rampant on Friday. Trading was suspended on Friday in shares of the Italian bank Monte dei Paschi di Siena after they jumped more than 10 percent on the strength of speculation that it would fare better than expected under European Central Bank scrutiny. The larger question is whether the review, which included an audit of bank holdings followed by so-called stress tests of their ability to withstand a crisis, will remove doubts about the underlying health of eurozone lenders and make it easier for them to raise money that they can lend to customers.
Jörg Krämer, chief economist at Commerzbank in Frankfurt, was pessimistic about the effect that the review would have on the eurozone economy. The reason for declining credit in the eurozone is not that banks cannot lend, he said on Friday, but that businesses do not want to borrow. “The stress tests will help certain countries like Italy and Spain,” Mr. Krämer said in a meeting with a small group of journalists. “But it won’t be a breakthrough for the whole eurozone.” There could be a sell-off in financial markets on Monday if the central bank uncovers a bigger capital gap than expected. But there is also a risk of a negative market reaction if the review appears to be too lax. Previous stress tests by other regulators gave stamps of approval to banks that later failed, undermining trust in the whole banking system. The European Central Bank has a strong incentive to be tough. It will become the overall supervisor of eurozone banks on Nov. 4, and needs to show it has the skills and backbone to do the job. “If convincing enough, the assessment can support sentiment, the eurozone economy and the banks,” Suvi Kosonen, an analyst at ING Bank, said in a note on Friday.
The central bank conducted the stress tests with the European Banking Authority, which will simultaneously release results on Sunday that include lenders in European Union countries that are not in the eurozone, like Britain and Sweden. Banks found short of capital will have two weeks to submit a plan to the central bank on how they will shore up their finances. Even banks that pass could find themselves under pressure to raise more capital, if they pass only narrowly. The audit will expose that banks may have been overvaluing their assets or failing to set aside enough money to cover bad loans.(source NYT)
Sunday, October 26, 2014
BRUSSELS (EUObserver) - Herman Van Rompuy and Jose Manuel Barroso said goodbye to EU leaders on Friday (24 October) after attending their final summit as presidents of the EU council and commission. For the Belgian Van Rompuy it marks almost the end of an almost 5-year term in which he worked behind the scenes to keep the EU united as it went through its deepest-ever economic crisis and tried to find solutions from preventing it ever happening again. He was the first ever permanent president of the European Council, meaning the poetry-writing politician got to define the parameters of the job, making it a chairman rather than presidential post and preferring to be low-key. "Politics is a rough trade" he noted but said he had been given loyalty and respect by colleagues. "I am leaving with the feeling that I have done all that I could." He recalled the bitter negotiations on the EU's longterm budget as requiring the most political skill and, like Barroso, remembered the pride of collecting the EU's Nobel peace prize. "Not only is my mandate coming to a close but so is my political and public life which has filled a large part of my life," said Van Rompuy, who formally steps down on 30 November. He added, in his typical style, "in my life I have never had the feeling of being irreplaceable. There was a European Council before me. There will be a European Council without me." Barroso, whose term finishes next Friday (31 October), noted that he had attended 75 EU leader summits since he became commission president ten years ago. He said that how the EU had evolved over the years made him optimistic about its future, and spoke of "great" and "very difficult" moments over the past decade. The Portuguese politician, who was generally regarded as reactive rather than visionary president, spoke for longer at the final press conference than Van Rompuy and mentioned that he had gathered his "testimonies" which could be downloaded "for free". An earlier ceremony among leaders saw the two leaders given porcelain plates as gifts a long with a signed 'family photo' of all the leaders. Van Rompuy's plate was inscribed with one of his Haikus (Japanese poetry form) about Europe, written in his native Dutch; Barroso a plate with his motto "Let's build Europe together". German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave a little speech on behalf of everyone. She was chosen, she said, because she was now the longest-serving EU leader. She said Barroso worked as a lynchpin between the EU main institutions and reminded member states of the rules "whether we liked it or not" and said leaders would "miss" having Van Rompuy at the helm. While it was the two politicians' last summit, the meeting is most likely to be remembered for a row with Britain over it having to pay an extra €2bn towards the EU. Prime Minister David Cameron, in a podium-banging press conference, said he would not pay it by the 1 December deadline. The dispute escalated because it was initially unclear how the figures were arrived at. Barroso spent much of his final press conference as EU commission president going through the finer details of EU budget calculations for member states.
European banking regulators warned on Sunday that 24 banks in the European Union had a €25bn (£19.6bn) capital hole after being tested over their financial strength. The outcome puts the focus on Italian banks, nine of which were found to have a total shortfall of €9.4bn, the largest of which was at Banca Monte del Pashi di Siena. In Greece, three banks failed the stress tests, with the same number failing in Cyprus. The European Banking Authority (EBA) also found that a number of banks were close to failing the tests, which examined whether they had enough capital to withstand a series of economic shocks, such as a rise in unemployment and declining economic growth. UK banks passed the tests but Ireland’s Permanent TSB failed. The banks being tested had combined assets of €28tn – 70% of assets in the EU. Twenty-six of them, including the Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group, had their restructuring plans approved before the tests started. The banks now have two weeks to tell the European Central Bank how they intend to plug the gaps in their balance sheets. Their financial strength was tested at the end of 2013, along with their likely position at the end of 2016 after being subjected to market and economic shocks.