Monthly Archives: March 2010

Simone Baribeau

We won’t. And we shouldn’t try to.

At least, not according to Atlanta Fed president Dennis P. Lockhart. Read more

Simone Baribeau

Restructurings haven’t yet worked on a large scale with home mortgage loans, but that hasn’t stopped the Fed from being hopeful that commercial real estate might benefit.

In a speech today to community bankers, Fed governor Elizabeth A Duke, said: Read more

James Politi

Good Friday – April 2 – may not turn out to be so great for the US labour market after all.

The labour department’s monthly report on non-farm payrolls and unemployment always attracts a lot of attention – but the March figures, due out on Friday, have been even more hotly anticipated than usual. In particular, hopes have risen that the payrolls data could show a big jump in job creation, with as many as 200,000 new positions on the books. Part of that jump will be attributed to a boost in hiring for the 2010 census, but the rest will come from private-sector job creation - though some of it will simply be hiring delayed from February because of the snowstorms. From President Barack Obama to Democrats in Congress to private economists, many have noted that this could be the month when the US begins to reverse the 8.4m jobs lost during the recession. Read more

By Jude Webber, Argentina correspondent

After weeks of legal wrangling, Argentina’s government is free – at least for now – to start using a chunk of central bank reserves to pay debt after judges overturned the suspension of a controversial emergency decree issued by President Cristina Fernández earlier this month. Read more

Alan Beattie

This letter the other day from Barack Obama, Gordon Brown, Nicolas Sarkozy, Lee Myung-Bak and Stephen Harper looks at first sight like the usual bland exhortations for everyone to do better. (Why didn’t Angela Merkel sign, btw? Too busy with Greece?) But the semiotics are a bit more complex. The bit about “We all understand that ongoing trade, fiscal and structural imbalances cannot lead to strong and sustainable growth” looks pretty much like a pointed jab at China.

So does this mean the currency wars are going to break out in the G20? Since the grouping is supposed to work on consensus, it has generally shied away from arguments about exchange rates, which have the potential to blow up any meeting or institution in which they take place. Throwing them into the mix will make G20 meetings a lot livelier, at least. I’m not convinced it’s wise, though, for a joint letter apparently aimed at China to be signed exclusively by a gang of rich countries. If the US wants to use the G20 to put pressure on the Chinese, it will have to get on board emerging market countries also suffering from renminbi undervaluation, Brazil being the obvious example. The last thing the US wants is to replicate the unhelpfully rigid rich-country-vs.-poor-country divisions that have blocked progress in the WTO.

Few punters wanted today’s final unlimited three- and six- month debt offers from the ECB.

In the six-month auction, €17.9bn was allotted, against consensus expectations of about €70bn. Perhaps those expectations were just wrong: at the last six-month offering, the allotment was €1.7bn. The tenfold increase represented an increased number of bidders, and increased debt appetite from each bidder. The December auction had 21 banks bidding; this auction had 62. Read more

Inflation jumped to 1.5 per cent in the eurozone in March, even as figures just released show Feburary unemployment reached 10 per cent in February, the highest since 1998. Higher unemployment typically pushes prices downwards as people rein in spending.

Prices have risen far more than expected, if this flash estimate from Eurostat proves accurate (figures by member state will be released April 16). Inflation across the eurozone was 1.0 per cent in January and 0.9 per cent in February. The aggregation of figures across 16 member states has a dampening effect, so a move of this magnitude is surprising.

A bizarre and temporary equality now reigns in European unemployment. Male and female rates are both 10 per cent, up from Read more

Simone Baribeau

If Lord Adair Turner has received heat for his sometimes controversial comments, today he could take comfort in an “atta-boy.”

The chairman of the Financial Services authority, much maligned for his comments on “socially-useless” bank trading practices last year, received nothing but praise from Paul Volcker, former Federal Reserve chairman.

The architect of the so-called ‘Volcker rule’ called Lord Turner “extremely sophisticated” and “thoughtful” and urged participants at a Peterson Institute for International Economic to read his “very closely reasoned” speech on financial reform. He praised the analysis, which was highly skeptical of the benefits of financial services.

He later referred a question on potential downside to the Volcker rule – which would ban proprietary trading at commercial banks – to Lord Turner’s analysis. “He says some liquidity’s good, but at some point let’s stop its growth.” Mr Volcker then concluded that there would be no negative impacts from the ban.

Other highlights from Mr Volcker’s talk: Read more

By Jonathan Wheatley, Brazil Correspondent

Henrique Meirelles, who is expected to resign as governor of Brazil’s central bank this week, was due to meet Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, president, on Tuesday to decide his political future. Read more

Inflation has fallen less than central bankers’ models would expect, Spencer Dale has said. The Bank of England’s chief economist said inflation dynamics were not well understood in economies where inflation expectations were centred around a central bank target.

“The experience of many countries thus far is that inflation appears to be more resilient than our models would suggest. Inflation responds less to measures of slack,” Mr Dale told the annual conference of the Royal Economic Society. Read more

From Bloomberg:

The European Central Bank made its final offer of unlimited funds over six months as policymakers continue to withdraw the measures put in place to fight the financial crisis.

The ECB called for bids today in a tender where the rate paid will be indexed to the average of the ECB’s main rate over the life of the loans. It will announce the results tomorrow at around 11:15 am.

 Read more

Chris Giles

As far as the economy and the election is concerned, I have been struck for some time by the similarities with the 1992 election. After finding some contemporary analysis of the 1992 election, on which I worked as a cub researcher, my memory has been playing tricks on me. There are even more similarities than I remembered:

 Read more

Central banks of the world, prepare to welcome a new addition to the family: the Gulf central bank.

Its leaders have just been announced by the new joint monetary council, in what will probably be seen as the inaugural meeting of the new joint central bank. Jurisdiction will cover Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain. Reuters reports the bank chairman as Saudi central bank chief, Dr Muhammad Al-Jasser. His deputy will be Bahrain’s central bank chief Mr Qassim Mohammed Fakhro.

With leaders chosen, meetings underway and an ultimate head office location of Riyadh (see map), what more is required? “There are certain legislative and financial measures that have not been completed” for the monetary union, Kuwait central bank governor Sheikh Salem Abdulaziz Al-Sabah told a news conference. Today’s meeting is expected to approve plans and a timeframe for the new institution. Read more

Chris Giles

After a rather inspiring hour of TV debate, here was my take. Who won? No-score draw, I reckon. Will it change anything? No. Was it worth it? Not really. For another take go to the Westminster blog, which is plumping for Vince Cable as the victor.

So boxed-in are the three candidates for chancellor by the budgetary arithmetic that there was broad agreement on the main tasks facing the next occupant of Number 11.

All agree that cutting the budget deficit is a top priority and it will require a tougher spending settlement than those under Mrs Thatcher in the 1980s. None wanted to tell the audience in the studio or at home what deep cuts they had in mind although they each had some small examples to give the impression they were tackling the problem.

They all accepted that pensions for public sector workers should be trimmed and those employed by the state could not have a guarantee of their jobs. They all agreed taxes would rise and did not rule out changing income tax or value added tax. A brain drain of the richest was an exaggerated threat, they chorused, suggesting their priorities lay elsewhere. The government should address inequalities and bankers’ bonuses were outrageous. Banks should lend more and this was one the necessary ingredients for securing growth in the economy.

That much was agreed, so the disagreements were relatively minor.

Alistair Darling and Vince Cable rounded on George Osborne for Read more

Simone Baribeau

If all goes well in the post-recovery world, the Americans will be saving and the Chinese will be buying, according to Paul Jenkins, Senior Deputy Governor of the Bank of Canada.

In a speech today, Mr Jenkins spelled out Canada’s view of the world’s economic future. He predicts industrial economies have a potential growth rate of between 2 and 2.5 per cent and emerging-market economies have a rate of between 5 and 8 per cent. Emerging markets’ growth will so far outstrip developing countries growth, he says, that by 2020 emerging-market economies will likely account for over 55 per cent of global output, compared with 45 per cent today.

And emerging-markets won’t just be producing more, they’ll be consuming more too. Read more

Chris will be posting on the economic aspects of the programme. Also, please note that our Westminster Blog colleagues are doing a live blog.

Romania and Hungary cut interest rates to record lows on Monday as central bankers looked to support growth following improved investor risk perception in central and eastern Europe.

The National Bank of Romania lowered its monetary policy rate from 7 per cent to 6.5 per cent, while the Magyar Nemzeti Bank in Budapest trimmed the base rate from 5.75 per cent to 5.5 per cent, the lowest since the fall of communism.

Romanian and Hungarian currencies have strengthened in recent weeks and it has become cheaper to insure against the risk of their debt defaulting, as investors bet that eastern Europe is gradually overcoming the worst of the financial crisis. Greek banks hold significant assets in Romania, but so far contagion risks appear benign. Read more

No recovery until 2011 or later: this is the base case of 31 top retail executives, including Sir Stuart Rose and Peter Marks, CEO of the Co-operative Group. The retailers also expect inflation, a hike in the VAT rate and increasing mergers and acquisitions in the industry, shows The long and winding road, a report by Sarah Butler for Kreab & Gavin Anderson.

Today’s European confidence figures, by contrast, are mostly up, driven by bullishness in the industrial sector. A lower euro is helping producers. But lower sterling is having the opposite effect on retailers. “Sterling has weakened and that will feed through to non-food prices because of Read more