The European Central Bank’s governing council is meeting against a backdrop of an improving eurozone economy. The ECB kept its benchmark interest rate at a record low 0.05 per cent and its deposit facility at -0.2 per cent on Wednesday and is expected to continue its €60bn a month landmark quantitative easing programme.
But it is not all optimism in the eurozone. The ECB’s bond buying has helped push German 10-year bund yields towards zero raising concerns about the potential for distortions in financial markets, while jitters over the growing possibility that Greece could default on a debt repayment provides a great deal for ECB President Mario Draghi to discuss at his press conference, which starts at 1.30pm UK time. By Ralph Atkins and Lindsay Whipp
When Mario Draghi gives his press conference, investors will be focusing on the details of the European Central Bank’s bond-buying programme. The purchases could eventually amount to about €850bn-worth of government bonds and the ECB is also likely to purchase just over €100bn-worth of bonds issued by eurozone institutions.
Mr Draghi will also be questioned extensively on the Greek bailout extension. By Ralph Atkins and Lindsay Whipp
It is a momentous day for the European Central Bank as it launches full-scale government bond buying. Mr Draghi started speaking at 13.30 GMT and the press conference usually lasts for an hour.
By Ralph Atkins and Lindsay Whipp
The crew that was dead set against raising consumption tax in Japan will be feeling vindicated. The economy unexpectedly fell back into recession in the third quarter, contracting 0.4 per cent quarter on quarter, or 1.6 per cent on an annualised basis. That makes it highly unlikely that prime minister Shinzo Abe will push ahead with a second round of VAT hikes, from 8 per cent to 10 per cent, after the first increase from 5 per cent in April. At least for now.
Here are seven charts showing the worrying side of Abenomics, and some reasons to be hopeful. Read more
November’s press conference by European Central Bank President Mario Draghi comes a week after the US Federal Reserve ended its monetary stimulus programme, and the Bank of Japan put a rocket booster under its already large volumes of bond buying.
In contrast, investors and analysts are expecting the ECB’s monetary policy committee to sit tight this month. It has announced that rates remain at a record low and predictions are for no change in its private-sector asset buying programme. But with eurozone deflationary fears showing no signs of receding in the stagnating economy, investors will be wanting Draghi to instil confidence in markets that he has his own bazooka ready to fire. By Lindsay Whipp and Emily Cadman
If there was a prize for which US president had had the more exclusive and expensive Japanese dining experience, Barack Obama would beat George W Bush hands down.
The incumbent US leader and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe dined in one of Japan’s – and thus the world’s – most exclusive sushi restaurants on Wednesday night – Sukiyabashi Jiro, where only 10 people can squeeze along the counter and there is one choice on the menu – a $300 course of exquisite sushi. Read more
I had hoped that my 25th trip to Davos would be marked by the award of a silver fondu set, at the very least. No such luck. The only prize is to be asked yet again to work on “reshaping the world”, this year’s theme.
That degree of repeat offending suggests either an astonishing inability to learn from experience, or some residual belief that the exercise is indeed worthwhile. Whether the state of the world has been improved over the 44 years the World Economic Forum has existed is a moot point: it depends on the hand you have been dealt. Chinese princelings, whether on the strength at JP Morgan or not, would no doubt tick the box; Syrian refugees, whose plight is firmly on this year’s agenda, would beg to differ. Read more
There are many party games to play at Davos. Some work better than others. The fashion now, perhaps driven by the success of TED conferences, is for strictly time-limited interventions, as short as possible. One economic historian was asked to summarise the development of the global monetary system over the last 150 years, and forecast the future of the dollar, the renminbi and the euro out to 2030 – all in three minutes. Actually he made a more than decent stab at it, but others, who may well have something interesting to say, have barely cleared their throats before the bar comes down.
One innovation in the last few years which does work well is the so-called Ideaslab. I approached this with trepidation when asked to lead one a couple of years ago. Again, each presentation must be three minutes, no more, no less, and is accompanied by a slideshow of related images – not charts and graphs – which the speaker cannot control in any way. It’s a Swiss version of the BBC radio panel game “Just a Minute”: no hesitation, deviation or repetition allowed. Read more
Not a milestone to rejoice in. Japan’s debt has tipped into the “quadrillion” zone for the first time. That is, as of the end of June, central government debt, looked like this: Y1,008,628,100,000,000, or $10.4tn.
It surely could not be a clearer message to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that shilly-shallying over fiscal consolidation is no longer an option? Second-quarter economic output figures due on Monday are key to Abe’s decision about whether to raise consumption tax from 5 per cent to 10 per cent by 2015. Back in June in a speech in London, he pinned any decision to raise the tax – one he must make by October – on the strength of the economy in the second quarter. Read more
Austerity appears to be an increasingly dirty word in Europe. The past week alone has seen European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, Bill Gross of Pimco and Italy’s new prime minister Enrico Letta calling for an easing of austerity.
Spain’s surpassing of the 6m unemployed mark on Thursday added fuel to the debate. But even in Germany, the austerity police of the eurozone, cracks are beginning to show ahead of the elections with the emergence of an anti-euro party.
a) Are there any austerians left? Yes. Here are some of them.
- UK: Chancellor George Osborne hit back at criticism over his apparent excessive austerity by claiming there is no other alternative. And after a tough week when he was criticised by the IMF over the excessive pace of his austerity programme, this week has brought better fortunes for his stance as figures showed a lower deficit and the economy expanded 0.3 per cent in the first quarter.
- Germany: Chancellor Angela Merkel’s view as articulated this week couldn’t be clearer: “I call it balancing the budget. Everyone else is using this term austerity. That makes it sound like something truly evil.” Germany is the only eurozone country with a 2012 budget surplus.
- US: The situation here is different because of sequestration, which triggered automatic spending cuts and tax rises. And the White House faces a July deadline to raise the borrowing limit or default on its debt.
- Latvia: The tiny Baltic state is emerging from a state of uber austerity – part of its bid to join the euro later this year – and it could end up being seen as a poster child for successful deficit cutting implementation, with real growth of more than 5 per cent in 2011 and 2012, despite the broader recession in Europe.
- Spain: The push by Europe’s fourth-largest economy to cut spending and raise taxes has led to record unemployment topping 6m for the first time in its recent history. The government of Mariano Rajoy announced economic reforms and structural measures on Friday.
- Italy: The technocrat government of Mario Monti has been steadfast in carrying out fiscal consolidation. All eyes will be on Mr Letta, who has already said: “Europe’s policy of austerity is no longer sufficient”. Read more
If commodities exporters were pinning hopes on an acceleration in Chinese growth, Monday was not a good start to the week. The disappointing gross domestic product statistics for the first quarter give the likes of Australia, Brazil and Indonesia plenty to be worried about.
As one investor put it: “For the global economy this data is bad news. Commodity exporters are screwed (especially those needing exports to China as key component). I would be very worried about places like Brazil, Indonesia, Australia and the like. The current level of GDP growth in China is OK with China but not OK for the currencies above.” Read more
Two days is apparently not enough for all the talking that needs to be done, so here we are entering Davos Day Three. But as our morning reading shows, there are some worries that delegates are not ready yet to discuss.
Gillian Tett in her column this week highlights cyber attacks. She compares the “whispers in the corridors” with that of 2007, when there was a similar fear of articulating the credit bubble.
Here’s more from the WEF (you can find the FT stories on our in-depth page and many blog posts, including our live coverage on our World blog):
David Cameron, UK prime minister, had more to say on the country’s relationship with the EU and sought common ground with German chancellor Angela Merkel among others.
The FT’s Martin Wolf takes Cameron to task when he blogs that the prime minister may have set the UK on the path to an exit although he really wants to remain within the EU. Read more
IMF chief Christine Lagarde at Davos (AFP)
As our colleagues in the mountains don boots, bobble hats and gloves for day two of Davos, here’s some reading material from the comfort of the FT’s London office to help you limber up for Thursday’s talk-fest.
David Cameron’s speech yesterday on Britain’s future in Europe provided much fodder for journalists – with reaction from leaders across the continent and further. Le Monde’s Marc Roche takes the theme of tact to interpret his speech, while in Der Spiegel Christoph Scheuermann argues that Cameron “missed an opportunity on Wednesday to haul Britain back to the centre of Europe“. The New York Times’ Andrew Higgins writes that “while the acute phase of the financial crisis has passed, the challenge to Europe’s mission and even its membership has not”. Cameron will be taking to a podium again this morning, this time in Davos. Read more
The Davos conference centre (AFP).
The World Economic Forum’s 43rd annual shindig is kicking off in Davos this morning and to get you started ahead of our live blog, here’s some reading to accompany your morning coffee. You’ll find all the FT pieces on our WEF page. And here’s the WEF home page. Enjoy.
From our A-List blog of guest writers Howard Davies, who will be blogging for from the conference, in an amusing take on why the forum is like Scientology.
Peter Vanham guides us through what is being touted as one of the main themes at the bash - how to capitalise on the strength of emerging markets over developed ones – on our Beyondbrics blog.
On Alphaville, David Keohane, gives us the Davos D-List, and introduces the lovely Mdm D. Deville as the blog’s own special correspondent. Do follow her on @DavosDeville. Read more
As if concerns over whether Syria’s chemical weapons might fall into the wrong hands amid the increasingly violent civil war weren’t enough to worry about, behind the scenes nuclear experts are now expressing fresh fears over the security of what may be 50 tonnes of unenriched uranium in the country.
As the FT’s diplomatic editor James Blitz reported on Wednesday, concerns centre on the whereabouts of this as yet unconfirmed stash. It is believed by some to have been meant for Syria’s supposed al-Kibar nuclear facility – before Israel destroyed it in a secret mission back in September 2007, a mission that David Makovsky dissected in the New Yorker last September.
For its part, Syria has always denied ever having a nuclear programme. So, did it have one or not? Below are some interesting articles that wade into these extremely murky waters. Read more
Controversy has swirled around the candidacy of Chuck Hagel as secretary of defence, centred on past comments the Republican former senator made about the “Jewish lobby” intimidating congress, sanctions and military action against Iran, and the Pentagon budget.
Amid the his nomination, there have also been an increasing number of opinion pieces in the US press dissecting what James Fallows in The Atlantic describes as a “de-legitimizing campaign” against the decorated Vietnam veteran.
- Fallows uses a headline from the US satirical news website The Onion to suggest that the imminent nomination could be a “this is bullshit” (‘this’ being the campaign against Hagel) moment for President Barack Obama.
- Commentary fiercely critical of the nomination has been published, among others, in the neo-con Weekly Standard, citing a top Republican Senate aide emailing: “Send us Hagel and we will make sure every American knows he is an anti-Semite.” In the Wall Street Journal, Brett Stephens also aired his disapproval at Hagel’s perceived prejudices against the Jewish community.
Gen David Petraeus and his wife Holly walk into a Senate hearing, watched by amongst others PAula Broadwell (seated). (AFP)
It’s not everyday that serious newspapers get to combine sex, spies and the military into one story. But the escalating scandal surrounding the former head of the CIA David Petraeus over his extramarital affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell and the involvement of a growing number of other people, has provided just such an opportunity.
The saga has generated the full range of commentary. The serious questions are being asked: Why is the FBI so deeply involved in what essentially appears to be an email harassment case? Why did it take so long for lawmakers to be told? What does this say about military personalities? What are the implications for US national security? Read more
It has been a fun ride for journalists covering Mitt Romney’s US presidential campaign. They have been treated to a smorgasbord of gaffes from the Republican nominee – about-turns on policy, questionable facts to base his arguments on, ill-received comments such as his response to the killing of the US ambassador to Libya last week or his scepticism over London’s readiness to host the Olympics. Read more