Amid a fresh escalation in a row over its bailout conditions, Greece’s stubbornly high unemployment rate is showing no sign of improvement.
The country’s jobless rate – which is the highest in the eurozone and has been above 20 per cent for six years – stuck at 23 per cent in November despite a general uptick in its economic prospects at the end of 2016.
It comes as the country’s creditors in the EU and the International Monetary Fund have publicly clashed over their respective forecasts for the state of the economy and the level of austerity attached to Greece’s three-year bailout programme this week.
The IMF has been accused by Athens and Brussels of an “overly pessimistic” view on the Syriza government’s ability to hit a 3.5 per cent budget surplus target over the next decade, which has led it to a wrong-headed forecast on Greece’s “explosive” debt dynamics.
The Fund’s latest report on the Greek economy suggest its debt-to-GDP mountain could reach 275 per cent over the next two decades without major debt restructuring. Unemployment meanwhile will only fall to 21.7 per cent this year, while the country’s long-term growth rate was downgraded to 1 per cent, IMF economists predict.
The Bank of Japan’s holdings of Japanese government bonds has topped 40% of the outstanding balance for the first time, the central bank said Wednesday.
The BOJ has been snapping up JGBs in large quantities since it implemented drastic monetary easing measures in April 2013.
Statistics released by the bank show that its JGB holdings stood at about 358 trillion yen ($3.19 trillion) as of the end of January, or about 40% of the outstanding total of some 894 trillion yen.
Last September, the BOJ switched its policy focus from quantity to interest rates, aiming to keep long-term rates at around 0% to achieve its inflation target. Nevertheless, its JGB holdings continue to rise, with the bank sticking to its annual target of 80 trillion yen for JGB purchases.
With the amount of such bonds circulating in the market declining, “the bank will reach the limits of its bond purchase program as early as the first half of 2019,” said Takenobu Nakashima of Nomura Securities.
This morning, Minneapolis Fed Chairman Neel Kashkari penned an essay “Why I Voted to Keep Rates Steady” in which the former Goldmanite says that while core inflation “seems to be moving up somewhat, it is doing so slowly, if at all.” He adds that “financial markets are guessing about what fiscal and regulatory actions the new Congress and the Trump administration will enact. We don’t know what those will be, so I don’t think we should put too much weight on these recent market moves yet.”
Repeating a on often heard lament about the lack of rising wages, Kashkari points out that “the cost of labor isn’t showing signs of building inflationary pressures that are ready to take off and push inflation above the Fed’s target” and adds that “it seems unlikely that the United States will experience a surge of inflation while the rest of the developed world suffers from low inflation.”
The European Central Bank rejected U.S. accusations of currency manipulation on Monday and warned that deregulating the banking industry, now being openly discussed in Washington, could sow the seeds of the next financial crisis.
Arguing that lax regulation had been a key cause of the global financial crisis a decade ago, ECB President Mario Draghi said the idea of easing bank rules was not just worrying but potentially dangerous, threatening the relative stability that has supported the slow but steady recovery.
Draghi’s words are among the strongest reactions yet from Europe since U.S. President Donald Trump ordered a review of banking rules with the implicit aim of loosening them. That raises the prospect of the United States pulling out of some international cooperation efforts.
“The last thing we need at this point in time is the relaxation of regulation,” Draghi told the European Parliament’s committee on economic affairs in Brussels. “The idea of repeating the conditions that were in place before the crisis is something that is very worrisome.”
The ECB supervises the euro zone’s biggest lenders.
Andreas Dombret, a member of the board of Germany’s powerful central bank, the Bundesbank, said that reversing or weakening regulations all at once would be a “big mistake”, because it would increase the chance of another financial crisis.
“That is why I see a possible lowering of regulatory requirements in the U.S., which is under discussion, critically,” said Dombret, who is also a member of the Basel committee drafting new global banking rules.
The Bank of Japan is poised to upgrade its three-year economic growth outlook in the final days of January in light of strong recent indicators, though stronger inflation forecasts will be a harder sell.
The central bank will compile its quarterly outlook on economic activity and prices at a two-day policy meeting beginning Monday. The report will outline the BOJ’s forecast for each of the three years through fiscal 2018,
The last report, released in November, pegged gross-domestic product growth at 1% for fiscal 2016, 1.3% for fiscal 2017 and a slim 0.9% for fiscal 2018. Discussions this time are expected to center on the first two years, with the fiscal 2017 growth forecast thought to be headed for the mid-1% range.
Signs for an upgrade are strong. The BOJ in December boosted its outlook for Japan’s economy as a whole for the first time in 19 months. Such goods as smartphone parts and automobiles are driving up exports and industrial production, while consumer spending on durable goods such as cars is on the rebound as well. Changes made late last year to the GDP calculation method will also give the figure a boost: companies’ research and development spending, which has shown consistent growth over the years, now counts as investment.
BOJ Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda said at a World Economic Forum panel discussion Jan. 20 that he expects Japan’s economy to grow by around 1.5% in fiscal 2016 and fiscal 2017, significantly exceeding the country’s potential growth rate.
With Yellen hell-bent on tightening into Trump’s fiscal stimulus, and inflationary impulses popping up all around the world, ECB president Mario Draghi better note some serious downside looming (after leaving rates/taper unchanged) that opens the door to his un-tapering or the stagflationary pressures building everywhere willcome back to bite his precious asset prices.
As we noted earlier, with the market not expecting any changes from the ECB this morning, so far that is precisely what it got, when moments ago the ECB announced that it kept all of its rates unchanged as expected, keeping the rate on the main refinancing operations and the interest rates on the marginal lending facility and the deposit facility at 0.00%, 0.25% and -0.40%, respectively.
In additional language relating to non-standard measures, the ECB also said that “it will continue to make purchases under the asset purchase programme (APP) at the current monthly pace of €80 billion until the end of March 2017 and that, from April 2017, the net asset purchases are intended to continue at a monthly pace of €60 billion until the end of December 2017, or beyond, if necessary” and “in any case until the Governing Council sees a sustained adjustment in the path of inflation consistent with its inflation aim.“
It also said that “the net purchases will be made alongside reinvestments of the principal payments from maturing securities purchased under the APP” and cautioned that “if the outlook becomes less favourable, or if financial conditions become inconsistent with further progress towards a sustained adjustment in the path of inflation, the Governing Council stands ready to increase the programme in terms of size and/or duration.”
In other words, it may move QE up or down, depending on what happens with inflation, in line with the ECB’s December announcement.
With Trump’s border tax adjustment looking increasingly likely, the stock market – as JPM has warned in recent days – is starting to fade the relentless Trumponomic, hope-driven rally since election day instead focusing on the details inside the president-elect’s proposed plans. And, as explained earlier in the week, if the border tax proposal is implemented, economists at Deutsche Bank estimate the tax could send inflation far above the Federal Reserve’s 2% target and drive a 15% surge in the dollar.
While this would be bad for stocks, as a 5% increase in the dollar translates into about a 3% negative earnings revision for the S&P 500 all else equal, a surge in inflation would also wreak havoc on bond prices, and send interest rates surging, at least initially, before they subsquently plunge as a result of a rapidly tightening, deep “behind the curve” Fed unleashes a curve inversion and recessionary stagflation becomes the bogeyman du jour.
The Bank of Japan revised its economic outlook for the first time in 19 months during the two-day policy meeting that ended Tuesday. But that is apparently the only step the central bank is taking at this time.
“The headwinds seen in the first half of this year have ceased,” BOJ Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda told reporters following the meeting. Markets were riled by heightened concerns directed at emerging economies at the beginning of 2016, only to be shocked in June by Britain’s referendum to exit the European Union. The BOJ was forced to loosen its policy in July, raising its target for exchange-traded fund purchases.
During the second half of 2016, the economic landscape has slowly brightened, beginning with U.S. readings. The Japanese economy has followed suit with increased exports and production. Consumption also recovered from a slump caused by a soft stock market and inclement weather at the beginning of the year.
“Japan’s economy has continued its moderate recovery trend,” the BOJ said in a statement published after the meeting. The central bank had previously qualified that view by highlighting sluggish exports and production.