Don't Shoot the Messenger

  • Germany’s Incredible Shrinking Economy

    The FT says this is worse than feared, and I say it is just what I was expecting (see here, I do hope that doesn’t make me one of those “visionaries” you are all so busy talking about).

    Germany’s economic slump in the final quarter of 2008 proved worse than feared, official figures showed on Friday, with the country posting the sharpest fall in gross domestic product since the country was reunified in 1990.The larger-than-expected 2.1 per cent plunge in GDP in the final three months of the year showed Europe’s largest economy contracting at a faster pace than the UK in the same period and threatening to drag down the performance of the 16-country eurozone.

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  • China – The Begining Of The End, Or The End Of The Beginnining?

    Is China about to lead the charge out of the current slump, or is the Chinese economy about to succumb to it? This appears to be one of the most interesting and most hotly debated questions of the moment. On the one hand the latest manufacturers PurchasingManufacturers Index seemed to suggest the contraction in China’s economy slowed in January, while other data, in particular producer price inflation, loan growth, employment figures and movements in external trade seem to give a rather different impression.

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  • Russian Debt And The Euro

    Keynes’s genius – a very English one – was to insist we should approach an economic system not as a morality play but as a technical challenge. Martin Wolf, Financial Times

    The euro fell again yesterday, by 1.1 percent against the dollar (to $1.2860) and by 1.2 percent against the yen (to 117.52 yen). The change, even if quite large in a short space of time, is hardly dramatic, but what is of more interest is the why. Russian companies announced yesterday that they were thinking of opening negotiations to “restructure” their debt. Bloomberg:

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  • Italy Needs EU Bonds And It Needs Them Now!

    You see, this isn’t a brainstorming session — it’s a collision of fundamentally incompatible world views. Paul Krugman

    As a wise man recently said, failure to act effectively risks turning this slump into a catastrophe. Yet there’s a sense, watching the process so far, of low energy. What’s going on? Paul Krugman

    First, focus all attention on reversing the collapse in demand now, rather than on the global architecture. Second, employ overwhelming force. The time for “shock and awe” in economic policymaking is now. Martin Wolf

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  • The (Credit) Drought In Spain Falls Mainly On The Plane

    Maybe many people outside (or even inside for that matter) Spain didn’t especially notice the fact, but last Sunday’s Barça match with Racing de Santander did not go out on regional TV as planned. This caused a few eyebrows to be raised among football supporters and commentators, but little in the way of serious analysis or comment. But the reason the match wasn’t broadcast is perhaps rather more interesting than many imagine, since behind Saturday’s blackout lies a dispute between the Catalan regional TV station and Barcelona football club which goes well beyond that sport where 22 able bodied men run up and down a pitch for 90 minutes and the Germans always win. The details of the present dispute are obscure, and this is not the place to go into them, but the nitty gritty is that Barça are asking local channel TV3 for 30 million euros, and the TV people quite simply aren’t coughing up. Which is in itself unusual, since it wasn’t all that long ago that the then President of the Spanish government, José Maria Aznar, was arguing that football was a question of national strategic interest in Spain. So it is clear (to me at least) that TV3 would pay (at least part of the quantity being asked for) if they could, but they obviously can’t. So why can’t they pay? This is when it all gets interesting, I think.

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  • Eurozone Manufacturing Contraction Continues To Be Severe

    The pace of the industrial contraction eased up a little in January, and manufacturing shrank at a slightly slower pace in January while factory prices tumbled at their fastest rate in at least six years, according to the latest report from Markit economics.

    The survey of around 3,000 manufacturers showed only Germany among the euro zone’s leading four economies registing a deeper contraction in January, while France, Italy, and Spain all saw some slowing in the pace of decline. The Markit Eurozone Manufacturing purchasing managers’ index for January rose to 34.4 from 33.9 in December, the eighth month in a row the index has been below the 50.0 mark that separates growth from contraction.

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  • Central Europe’s Manufacturing And Consumers In A State Of Shock

    Central Europe’s economies continued to contract in January – lead by their manufacturing industries – under the combined weight of a credit crunch and a slump in demand for their exports. My feeling as all three economies – Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary – are now in recession. Hungary’s is clearly the worst case, and events are moving rapidly and negatively there, but the slowdown in the Czech Economy is also very pronounced, and Poland seems finally to be falling into line, following some internal financial chaos back in October.

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  • China’s Manufacturing Sector Continued To Contract In January

    China’s manufacturing contracted for a sixth consecutive month in January as shrinking global demand hit the country’s export-driven economy. The CLSA China Purchasing Managers’ Index rose to a seasonally adjusted 42.2 from 41.2 in December. Since any reading below 50 indicates contraction, even though the rate of contraction dropped (and has been dropping since November, see chart below) China’s manufacturing sector (and hence China’s economy) is still contracting. What we don’t know at this point is how quickly China GDP is contracting, we won’t know that till someone with the time and ingenuity devises a way to calculate a rough and ready quarter on quarter (seasonally adjusted) output indicator. Come on, be famous for a day, go out and do it (since the Chinese statistics office apparently have no interest in the matter), I would, but I simply don’t have the time, since Europe, not China, is my focus. However, on a rough and ready, back of the envelope, basis my guess is that this months Chinese reading may be equivalent to something like a quarter on quarter contraction rate of around 0.5%, which means that what we have at this point is a 2% annual contraction rate, but we really need to see some actual data to calibrate all this a bit better I think.

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  • Why Latvia Needs To Devalue Soon – A Reply To Christoph Rosenberg

    IMF Senior Regional Representative For Central Europe and the Baltics, Christoph Rosenberg, recently took me to task on RGE Monitor about my Latvian devaluation proposal (as did RGE’s own Mary Stokes), and I would like now to take a closer look at some of the points they raise.

    In the first place, I would like to say that I obviously regard both Chrisoph and Mary as excellent economists, and I was in no way refering to them when I said that arguing in favour of sticking to the present currency peg constitutes trying to justify “virtually the unjustifiable” according to “the implicit consensus among thinking economists.” I do still hold that the consensus is with me, but that certainly does not mean I regard those who differ from me as “unthinking”, and certainly hope I didn’t give the impression that I was. And with that little “mea culpa”, let combat begin.

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  • Spain’s Recession Deepens

    Spain’s economy is now most evidently, and totally and completely officially, in its first recession since 1993. The final confirmation of this came yesterday when the Bank of Spain released its quarterly report on the Spanish economy. According to the bank, gross domestic product fell by 1.1% in the final quarter of 2008 (over the previous quarter), following a 0.2% decline in the third quarter. GDP fell year on year by 0.8%.

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Richard Wood Richard Wood

Richard has published papers on wages policy, the taxation of financial arrangements and macroeconomic issues in Pacific island countries. Views expressed in these articles are his own and may not be shared by his employing agency. He is the author of How to Solve the European Economic Crisis: Challenging orthodoxy and creating new policy paradigms