30-Jan (Reuters, via BusinessInsider) – Greece’s government will not cooperate with the EU and IMF mission bankrolling the country and will not seek an extension to the bailout program, its finance minister said on Friday.
Jeroen Dijsselbloem, head of the euro zone finance ministers’ group who is in Athens for talks with the new government, said the two sides would decide what would happen next before the program ends on Feb. 28.
“This platform enabled us to win the confidence of the Greek people,” Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis told reporters after their meeting. “Our first action as a government will not be to reject the rationale of questioning this program through a request to extend it.”
30-Jan (WashingtonPost) — The world’s worst portmanteau is back: Grexit.
That’s short for “Greek exit,” as in Greece leaving the euro. And it’s once again a possibility now that the left-wing, anti-austerity party Syriza has won power in the latest elections. The risk, as I’ve said before, is that the rest of Europe is in good enough shape that Germany finally thinks it can let Greece leave, and Greece’s budget is in good enough shape that it finally thinks it can leave too. Neither of them wants that, but neither of them doesn’t want it so much that they’d do anything to avoid it—so both might call each other’s, as it turns out, non-bluffs if Syriza tries to force Germany to renegotiate Greece’s gargantuan debt.
Cue the market freakout in three, two, oh, it’s already here? Why yes, yes it is. Greek stocks fell 11 percent on Tuesday, another 9.2 percent on Wednesday, before stabilizing up 3.2 percent on Thursday. Three-year borrowing costs shot up to 16.9 percent. And worst of all, Greek banks collapsed between 30 and 45 percent in just the last week. That’s enough, as we’ll see in a minute, to make it much more likely that Greece leaves the euro.
PG View: Even after Greece’s talks today with the EU, bond yields continue to march higher, exceeding 19%.
28-Jan (Financial Times) — Greece’s new radical leftwing-dominated government signalled on Tuesday that friction with its European partners might extend from economic to foreign policy when it distanced itself from an EU call to consider broader sanctions against Russia.
A spokesman for the ruling coalition of Alexis Tsipras, prime minister, said Greece had not approved a statement from EU heads of government that asked their foreign ministers to review further sanctions in response to the latest flare-up of violence in eastern Ukraine, blamed by the US and most European nations on Russian-backed separatists.
28-Jan (Financial Times) — Greece’s new prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, said his government would refuse to give in to international pressure over its €240bn bailout but sought to reassure markets by telling his first cabinet meeting that the country would not seek a “mutually destructive clash” with creditors.
In a message to supporters who backed his Syriza party’s anti-austerity platform, Mr Tsipras told ministers that they “must not disappoint the voters who gave us a mandate”.
“We are coming in to radically change the way that policies and administration are conducted in this country,” he said.
27-Jan (Reuters) – Greek markets endured a second day of turmoil on Tuesday, after weekend elections resulted in an anti-bailout government that looks set on a collision course with the country’s creditors.
Three-year borrowing costs spiked above 14 percent, giving up over 4 percentage points since Sunday’s vote, while a collapse in bank stocks hauled down Athens’ main bourse. .ATG
Greece’s malaise also weighed on other low-rated bonds, although the blow was cushioned by the prospect of the European Central Bank’s new bond-buying scheme due to begin in March.
“There is a general anxiety about the situation in Greece and how it is all going to play out,” said Jakob Christensen, senior economist at distressed debt brokerage Exotix.
26-Jan (BBC) — The far-left Syriza party, the winner of Greece’s election, has formed an anti-austerity coalition with a right-wing party, the Greek Independents.
The coalition will have a comfortable majority in the new parliament.
Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras has vowed to renegotiate Greece’s bailouts, worth €240bn (£179bn; $268bn).
European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker congratulated Mr Tsipras while reminding him of the challenge of “ensuring fiscal responsibility”.
“The European Commission stands ready to continue assisting Greece in achieving these goals,” Mr Juncker said in a tweet which also referred to “promoting sustainable jobs and growth”.
26-Jan (USAToday) — Fresh concerns about the future of the eurozone resurfaced to unsettle markets Monday after Greece’s far-left Syriza party swept to power supported by voters opposed to the terms of the nation’s international bailout.
Syriza party leader Alexis Tsipras agreed to form a coalition government with the Independent Greeks party, a right-wing group that is similarly opposed to the budget cuts and other austerity measures demanded by the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund in return for a massive $270 billion bailout.
That rescue package has allowed Greece to avoid bankruptcy but has come at the cost of severe cuts to spending.
Syriza failed to win in Sunday’s election the requisite 151 out of 300 parliamentary seats that would have allowed it to form a government on its own based on an absolute majority, but the Independent Greeks party’s 13 seats means it can push ahead with its agenda all the same.
19-Jan (Reuters) – Germany’s chancellor made a rare public intervention in the debate about money printing by the European Central Bank on Monday, warning it was no substitute for economic reforms in the euro zone.
Speaking to an audience near Frankfurt that included ECB President Mario Draghi, Merkel said any move by the ECB to buy government bonds with new money should not be used as an excuse to put such reforms on the back burner.
“I have only one plea … and that is aimed at all the representatives of the ECB,” Angela Merkel said at the headquarters of German stock exchange operator Deutsche Boerse.
“It must be avoided that any action taken by the ECB in any respect whatsoever could result in the impression that what needs to be done in the fiscal and competitive spheres could be pushed into the background.”
29-Dec (New York Times) — Governments and investors across Europe braced for renewed economic upheaval on Monday after the Parliament in Greece failed to avert an early general election, reviving the toxic debate over austerity as the way to cure the Continent’s economic woes.
Senior European Union officials immediately urged Greek voters — now headed to the polls on Jan. 25 — to focus on continuing the policies that have enabled the country to ride out its previous monetary crisis and remain part of the eurozone, and that have begun to restore the country’s battered reputation for fiscal management.
But with household incomes down by a third from what they were before the policies were adopted, and unemployment higher than 25 percent, polls have indicated support for Syriza, a leftist party that opposes the deep budget cuts Greece has made in recent years as a condition of financial bailouts.
Syriza has said it wants to renegotiate the two bailouts, worth 240 billion euros, or about $292 billion, obtained from Greek’s so-called troika of lenders — the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund — since 2010, and get its creditors to write off some of Greece’s crippling debts.
28-Dec (Bloomberg) — Foreign investors have had just about enough of Abenomics.
After pumping record amounts of cash into Japanese shares last year, they’ve hardly added to holdings in 2014. Inflows are down 94 percent this year to 898 billion yen ($7.5 billion), on pace for the smallest annual amount since the 2008 global financial crisis. The month of April 2013 alone registered almost three times as much foreign investment in the stock market as all of 2014.
These figures provide the clearest look at how global investors have become disillusioned with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe after he pushed through a tax increase in April that sent Japan into recession. Fund managers from Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank Ltd. to MV Financial say to lure investors back, Abe needs to move beyond short-term stimulus and start enacting the structural changes he laid out in his initial plan, dubbed Abenomics, to end Japan’s two-decade economic malaise.
“We need to see a framework where growth isn’t dependent on monetary easing,” Ayako Sera, a market strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Trust, which oversees $325 billion in assets. “If not growth, then at least a way to increase productivity. For now there’s nothing like that, so I imagine it’ll be hard for stocks to keep going higher and for foreigners to take an interest in them.”
29-Dec (BBC) — The ruling coalition led by New Democracy is lagging in the polls behind Syriza, an anti-austerity party, whose rise reflects recent polls that show Greeks are frustrated with the EU and even suggest that more Greeks want to return to the drachma than keep the euro. It raises the spectre of Greece’s exit from the single currency – or “Grexit” – once again.
It may be unsurprising, since Greece has only just emerged from six years of recession; when it has been that long, it is really more of a depression. The economy is more than 25% smaller now than in 2008, unemployment is around 25%, and roughly a quarter of households live in poverty.
Some 100,000 businesses have closed, and there are many who wonder what could get the economy going, as borrowing costs (yields on 10 year government bonds) have climbed back to 8%, a level considered to be unaffordable. Greece faced those levels when it first sought a rescue.
So, the austerity measures imposed from the rescue programmes piled on top of economic misery help to explain the volatile political landscape.
If Syriza wins the upcoming election and stands by its pledge to challenge the austerity programme, then it again raises the spectre of euro break-up.
PG View: Greek yields have surged to 12% this morning.
29-Dec (Bloomberg) — Greece faces snap elections next month that risk severing the international lifeline that has supported the country since it sparked Europe’s sovereign debt crisis in 2010.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said in a live broadcast in Athens today that he will recommend parliamentary elections are held on Jan. 25, almost 18 months before his coalition’s term was due to end. Samaras spoke after he failed in his third attempt to persuade lawmakers to back his candidate for head of state, forcing the legislature’s dissolution.
“The government did everything possible to get a new president elected and a minority of MPs now drags the country to early elections,” Samaras said on state-run Nerit TV. “I will do all to guarantee that the country stays on the path of reforms.”
17-Dec (Bloomberg) Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s bid to elect a new head of state faltered in parliament after he failed to gather enough support from lawmakers for his nominee in the first of three attempts.
With voting ongoing in Athens, more than 100 lawmakers in the country’s 300-seat chamber withheld their backing for Samaras’s candidate, Stavros Dimas, ensuring that he falls short of the 200 votes required for his election as president. Samaras has 155 lawmakers in his governing coalition.
Attention now turns to the second vote on Dec. 23, when Samaras again needs a two-thirds majority to win. If he fails in the third attempt, set for Dec. 29, parliament is dissolved and early elections called.
PG View: One step closer to a political crisis in Greece that could reignite concerns over a “Grexit”.
14-Dec (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate on Saturday passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill that lifts the threat of a government shutdown as Congress attempts to wrap up a two-year legislative session marked by bitter partisanship and few major accomplishments.
The Senate’s 56-40 vote sends the measure to President Barack Obama, who is expected to sign it into law before federal spending authority expires at midnight on Wednesday.
Passage of the 1,603-page bill was a long, tough struggle in the Senate and the House of Representatives marked by bitter disputes over changes to banking regulations and Obama’s recent executive order on immigration.
15-Dec (Reuters, via IndiaExpress) — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, brushing aside suggestions that a low turnout tarnished his coalition’s election win, vowed on December 15 to stick to his reflationary economic policies, tackle painful structural reforms and pursue his muscular security stance.
But doubts persist as to whether Abe, who now has a shot to become a rare long-lasting leader in Japan, can engineer sustainable growth with his “Abenomics” recipe of hyper-easy monetary policy, government spending and promises of deregulation.
“We heard the voice of the people saying ‘Move forward with Abenomics’,” Abe told a news conference at his ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) headquarters, adorned with giant posters of the premier and his campaign slogan “This is the only path”.
“I want to boldly implement the ‘Three Arrows’,” Abe said, adding he would compile stimulus steps before the year’s end and ask business leaders to boost wages, which have not kept pace with rises in consumer prices.
11-Dec (Reuters) – Congressional Democrats objected on Wednesday to controversial financial and political campaign provisions tucked into a $1.1 trillion U.S. spending bill, keeping the risk of a government shutdown alive.
The complaints from House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats clouded the chances for passage of the funding bill as a midnight Thursday deadline drew near.
Republicans were preparing a one-or-two day extension to keep federal agencies open past the deadline, but were unwilling to make any concessions on dozens of provisions added to the bill.
PG View: Same old, same old.
01-Dec (AP, via NPR) — Lame-duck lawmakers return to Washington on Monday facing a stacked agenda and not much time to get it all done before the new Congress convenes in January and a Republican takeover is complete.
Their to-do list includes keeping the government running into the new year, renewing expired tax breaks for individuals and businesses and approving a defense policy measure that has passed for more than 50 years in a row. They hope to get it all done in two weeks without stumbling into a government shutdown.
…The No. 1 item is preventing a government closure when a temporary funding measure expires on Dec. 11. The House and Senate Appropriations committees are negotiating a $1 trillion-plus spending bill for the budget year that began Oct. 1 and are promising to have it ready by the week of Dec. 8.
18-Sep (The Wall Street Journal) — Voters in Scotland chose to remain in the U.K. in an Independence referendum on Sept. 18.
Yes: 45% 1,617,989 votes
No: 55% 2,001,926 votes
10-Sep (BusinessInsider) — This paragraph from Credit Suisse should scare those in Scotland who might want independence from Great Britain:
Risk of an economic crisis: In our opinion Scotland would fall into a deep recession. We believe deposit flight is both highly likely and highly problematic (with banks assets of 12x GDP) and should the BoE move to guarantee Scottish deposits, we expect it to extract a high fiscal and regulatory price (probably insisting on a primary budget surplus). The re-domiciling of the financial sector and UK public service jobs, as well as a legal dispute over North Sea oil, would further accelerate any downturn. In our opinion, as North Sea oil production slows, we estimate that the non-oil economy would need a 10% to 20% devaluation to restore competitiveness. This would wages, driven by a steep rise in unemployment.
PG View: Polling on the issue of Scottish independence has moderated somewhat recently, perhaps the Scottish people have gotten wind of this.
03-Sep (Der Spiegel) — The debate over Germany’s insistence on euro-zone austerity has flared anew as an ailing France continues to demand economic stimulus. The European Central Bank may now be siding with Paris, leaving Merkel looking increasingly alone.
The chancellor peered at her impassioned interviewer as if he were some kind of rare insect. An orange microphone in her left hand and eyebrows severely arched, Angela Merkel sank deeply into the armchair on the stage of the Berliner Ensemble theater, as though trying to put the greatest possible distance between herself and the journalist from the political magazine Cicero. Gesticulating wildly, he had just asked for her thoughts on the pain felt in France at being left behind by Germany economically. “Can Germany continue to play such a dominating role?” he demanded.
Her response was evasive. After a pause, she commended France for its military operations in Mali and the Central African Republic. Beyond that, though, not much praise for Paris would be forthcoming that evening on the last Wednesday in August. Merkel’s larger message was the same as it has been for years: France has to solve its structural problems. Only then can it resume its role among Europe’s leaders.
PG View: If the ECB joins France and the rest of the stimulus crowd, Germany is going to have to open the collective purse yet again…
03-Sep (The Wall Street Journal) — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe overhauled his government Wednesday, rolling out a lineup that signaled his determination to push ahead with changes to boost the economy and raise the country’s military profile.
Mr. Abe’s first cabinet reshuffle since he took power 20 months ago introduced some surprise new faces while retaining ministers in major posts such as finance and foreign affairs.
…”We will continue to put the economy first, aim to snuff out deflation and do whatever we can to implement growth strategies,” Mr. Abe said at a news conference. “It’s the mission of the new Abe cabinet to solidify economic growth and make sure its fruit is felt in every nook and cranny of the land.”
…Robert Feldman, an economist at Morgan Stanley MS +0.61% MUFG in Tokyo, said the new cabinet lineup “suggests extra momentum for third arrow reforms in some key areas,” referring to the structural changes under Mr. Abe’s pro-growth strategy known as Abenomics. The first two arrows are monetary easing and more government stimulus spending.
25-Aug (AP, via US News and World Report) — Ukraine’s president has dissolved parliament and called for early elections in October as his country continues to battle a pro-Russian insurgency in its eastern regions.
President Petro Poroshenko announced in a statement posted on his website Monday that he has dissolved parliament and called for snap elections on October 26.
He said the move was in coherence with the Ukrainian constitution, noting that the ruling coalition collapsed several weeks ago.
25-Aug (Washington Post) — After years of bold action following the global financial crisis, the world’s central bankers are ready to pass the baton.
The consensus at the annual gathering of these stewards of the economy this year was that the power of monetary policy to drive global growth is nearing its limit. Further progress will now depend on whether government leaders are willing to step up to the plate.
“The only conclusion that we can safely draw, in my view, is that we need action on both sides of the economy,” European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said in a speech at the conference, which is hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City and wrapped up on Saturday. “Only if the strategy is truly coherent can it be successful.”
The normally staid world of monetary policy entered the spotlight during the financial crisis when central bankers slashed interest rates, pumped trillions of dollars into the financial system and exercised broad authority to rescue failing institutions. Their actions were unprecedented and untested – and largely credited with staving off a global depression.
But averting disaster is not the same as ensuring growth. The global economy is forecast to expand 3.4 percent this year, less than previously expected. Inflation in some countries remains dangerously low. The job market in advanced economies is still not fully healed.
PG View: If the central banks really plan on passing the baton off to politicians, you can almost bank on said-baton being dropped.
25-Aug (ABC News) — French President Francois Hollande dissolved the government on Monday after open feuding in his Cabinet over the country’s stagnant economy.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls offered up his Socialist government’s resignation after accusing the outspoken economy minister of crossing a line with his blunt criticism of the government’s policies. Hollande accepted the resignation and ordered Valls to form a new government by Tuesday.
France has had effectively no economic growth this year, unemployment is hovering around 10 percent, and Hollande’s approval ratings are in the teens. The country is under pressure from the European Union to get its finances in order, but Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg has questioned whether the austerity pressed by the EU will kick start French growth.
03-Jul (Politico) — When the latest sign of a troubled economy emerged last week, Congress had a ready response: Nothing.
The same week that new data came out showing the U.S. economy shrank nearly 3 percent in the first quarter, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced plans to sue President Barack Obama for abusing his executive authority. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), meanwhile, garnered headlines for denouncing the name of Washington’s football team. Both chambers then went into an 11-day recess.
The reaction at the White House wasn’t much stronger. Officials there bashed Republicans, and then argued the overall economy is doing just fine now.
The collective shrug highlights Washington’s inability — or unwillingness — to make bipartisan deals that would assist Americans still struggling to recover from the 2008 economic collapse.
PG View: Worth noting that Congress notched a new record low approval rating of just 16% in June according to Gallup.
25-Oct (CNBC) — Sen. Rand Paul is threatening to put a hold on the nomination of Janet Yellen to chair the Federal Reserve, a source close to the Kentucky Republican said Friday.
Paul is insisting on a vote on his Fed transparency bill, and has informed Senate leadership of his intentions, the source said.
…The senator’s bill would mandate a complete audit of the Federal Reserve.
16-Oct (The Wall Street Journal) — Senate leaders on Wednesday struck an 11th-hour agreement to avoid a U.S. debt crisis and fully reopen the federal government, putting lawmakers on track toward ending a stalemate that worried investors world-wide and provided striking evidence of congressional dysfunction.
House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio), in a statement released Wednesday afternoon, said House Republicans will allow the Senate deal to come up for a vote. “Blocking the bipartisan agreement reached today by the members of the Senate will not be a tactic for us,” Mr. Boehner said.
…House Rules Chairman Pete Sessions (R., Texas) said passage of the bill was a “foregone conclusion.”
“I do expect it to pass,” Mr. Sessions said.
16-Oct (Politico) — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will soon announce an agreement to reopen the government and avert default on U.S. debt, according to several sources familiar with the talks.
The House plans to move on the Senate’s bill first, sources say, a move that would clear a path to end the first government shutdown in 17 years and avoid the first potential economy-shaking default on U.S. debt. It remains unclear when a final vote would occur in the Senate.
If the House passes the bill first and sends it to the upper chamber, it would eliminate some burdensome procedural hurdles in the Senate and require just one procedural roll call with a 60-vote threshold needed to advance the bill toward final passage in the Senate.
…It still is not assured that Congress will send President Barack Obama a bill to sign by Thursday, when the Treasury Department warns the country will start running out of cash to pay its bills for the first time in history.
01-Oct (Washington Post) — The U.S. government began to shut down for the first time in 17 years early Tuesday, after a Congress bitterly divided over President Obama’s signature health-care initiative failed to reach agreement to fund federal agencies.
Hours before a midnight deadline, the Republican House passed its third proposal in two weeks to fund the government for a matter of weeks. Like the previous plans, the new one sought to undermine the Affordable Care Act, this time by delaying enforcement of the “individual mandate,” a cornerstone of the law that requires all Americans to obtain health insurance.
The new measure also sought to strip lawmakers and their aides of long-standing government health benefits.
27-Sep (New York Times) — The Senate on Friday overwhelmingly approved stopgap spending legislation to keep the federal government open without gutting President Obama’s health care law, setting up a weekend showdown with the House that will decide whether much of the government shuts down at midnight Monday.
The 54-to-44 vote for final passage followed a more critical moment when the Senate, in a bipartisan rebuke to Republican hard-liners, cut off debate on the legislation. The 79-to-19 vote included the top Republican leadership and easily exceeded the 60-vote threshold to break a filibuster.
The Senate then voted along party lines, 54 to 44, to strip out House Republican language that tied further funding of the government to defunding the health care law. That vote required only a simple 51-vote majority.
…Now Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio faces a defining choice: accept the Senate bill, which funds the government through Nov. 15 without Republican policy prescriptions, or listen to his conservatives, who will accept a government shutdown unless serious damage is done to the health care law.
PG View: This seems like much ado over a CR that only provides an additional 6-weeks of funding for the government. Even if it is passed by the House, we’ll be right back at this silliness in mid-November with an even more contentious debt ceiling battle ahead as well.