Daily Archives: March 2, 2010

Simone Baribeau

Much has been made recently of the gender gap in US unemployment, with good reason. Last August the unemployment rate for men hit 11 per cent, 2.7 percentage points above the rate for women, the largest difference in the post-war era.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York today released a paper looking into the reasons for the differences between the unemployment rates. The upshot of the paper is two-fold. One, we’re achieving greater workforce equality (because the job market for men is getting worse) and two, it’s going to take us a long time to recover jobs, because the employment changes are structural.

It turns out that, perhaps not surprisingly, that after men and women are unemployed, they have almost as difficult a time getting a job. But men are becoming unemployed in larger numbers than women, both because they are losing their jobs in greater numbers and because a greater number of men who have left the labour force are reentering it. Read more

From Reuters:

The current situation, where Greece’s fate depends on the decision of a single credit rating agency, is not acceptable, European Central Bank Governing Council member Ewald Nowotny said on Tuesday. Read more

Surprise, surprise. George Osborne’s, favourite statistic is – how shall I put it politely – nonsense.

I fear pointing out dodgy claims and counter-claims will become a regular feature of the blog during the election so, as a precaution, I’ve added a number to the title.

In his Mais lecture last week and appearing today, the shadow chancellor claimed:

“We are coming to the end of the first full Parliament since the Second World War when national income per person has actually declined.”

I was initially quite impressed by the statistic until I checked it out. Don’t believe it. It is not true. In the 1979 to 1983 Parliament, real national income per head also fell.

Mr Osborne also phrases the question a little differently. Last week he said:

“When people ask the famous question – “are you better off than you were five years ago?” – this will be the first election in modern British history when the answer from the government must be ‘no’.”

This is more difficult since we do not yet have the full statistics yet. Obviously, people’s circumstances differ, but for most people, the most accurate answer to the question is Read more

The Swiss National Bank has issued a characteristic response to questions of market intervention to weaken the Swiss franc: “We’re not commenting on that,” a spokesman told Reuters. Some traders had reported market activity by the bank, although it’s not conclusive from the chart when compared to the spike last Tuesday, when similar rumours were reported.

European house prices are more sensitive than American house prices to credit supply shocks. But there is a stronger role for housing in the transmission of monetary policy shocks in the US than in Europe.

These are the main findings of an ECB working paper just out that compares housing, consumption and monetary policy in the US and EU. Read more

Nigeria’s central bank has kept its benchmark interest rate at 6 per cent, but cut its deposit rate from 2 to 1 per cent, reports Reuters. The press release will be available here. Sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest energy producer wants to stimulate lending: “We will reduce the level of interest the banks earn with us to encourage them to seek other areas, which means lending,” central bank governor Lamido Sanusi is quoted as saying.

Russia’s rouble strengthening policy continues, with the lower boundary of its trading band now sitting at 34.65. The rouble is measured against a euro-dollar basket, and it is clear from the chart that the currency has strengthened more consistently against the dollar in the past 10 days.

Reuters is reporting traders who are reporting a $700m central bank purchase of foreign currency, which is an effective rouble sale, pushing down the currency. This is typically married with a 5-kopeck shift of the trading boundary. A kopech is a hundredth of a rouble. Read more

The central bank of Canada has decided to hold the overnight rate target at 0.25 per cent, and has reiterated its commitment to keeping it there till the end of Q2.

Growth has been slightly higher than expected: “the economy grew at an annual rate of 5 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2009, spurred by vigorous domestic spending and further recovery in exports,” said the Bank. Read more

From ft.com.

Last week Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, the International Monetary Fund and the UK Treasury all laid out plans for their respective exits from extraordinarily loose monetary, fiscal and financial policies. Read more

The central bank of Australia has raised the cash rate from 3.75 to 4 per cent, as expected. A rate rise had been expected last month, but concerns for the global recovery and domestic credit caused a surprise stay of execution.

The increase is effective tomorrow. Normalisation is how the bank sees it. “The Board judges that with growth likely to be close to trend and inflation close to target over the coming year, it is appropriate for interest rates to be closer to average. Today’s decision is a further step in that process.”

Ralph Atkins

Germans love a trade exhibition, or Messe, but the giant Cebit information technology fair in Hanover, has long had a special place in their hearts.

Travelling to the north German city in the late 1990s, I was bewildered (horrified?) by the sheer scale of the enterprise – the biggest IT exhibition in the world. More than 7,000 exhibitors filled the equivalent of 90 football pitches, and built upwards as well: some stands were four storeys high and including their own restaurants. Even if you understood German, the tech-speak was impossible to follow.

Cebit said a lot about the German economic thinking at that time. The idea then was that somehow the country could keep pace with the US. Read more

If you can exercise rights by owning just one share of a stock, imagine what you could do with $440bn.

Europe’s largest stock investor – already following quite strict ethical guidelines – is to become more proactive in its pursuit of good. For example, where the Government Pension Fund might previously have excluded a company from its investment universe, it might now use the stock-holding to effect some change. “Active ownership or observation might reduce the risk of continued violations of norms,” says the Finance Ministry statementRead more

By Tom Braithwaite

The Federal Reserve would receive additional consumer protection responsibilities as part of a proposal circulated on Monday by Chris Dodd, the Senate banking committee chairman, in a surprising reversal of the central bank’s political fortunesRead more

By Jude Webber in Argentina

After more than two months of legal and congressional battling, Argentine President Cristina Fernández on Monday unveiled a new bid to tap central bank reserves to pay off debts. Read more