Tuesday 21st April 2015
NEWS TICKER MONDAY APRIL 20TH 2015: European President Donald Tusk has called an extraordinary European Council on migratory pressures in the Mediterranean for Thursday this week to discuss how to tackle the growing tragedy of hundreds of would-be immigrants dying at sea on the way to trying to build a better life. “The situation in the Mediterranean is dramatic,” says Tusk. “It cannot continue like this. We cannot accept that hundreds of people die when trying to cross the sea to Europe. The objective of the summit is to discuss, at the highest level, what we, the Member States and the EU institutions together, can and must do to alleviate the situation now. I do not expect any quick-fix solutions to the root causes of migration - because there are none. Had they existed, we would have used them long ago. But I do expect that the Commission and the European External Action Service will present options for immediate action. And I do expect Member States will contribute immediately.” – The Nasdaq Stock Market says trading was halted today in ForceField Energy Inc (Nasdaq:FNRG) at 10:21:37 Eastern Time for "additional information requested" from the company at a last price of $3.11. Trading will remain halted until ForceField Energy Inc. has fully satisfied Nasdaq's request for additional information. For news and additional information about the company, please contact the company directly or check under the company's symbol using InfoQuotes on the Nasdaq web site - PEGAS, the pan-European gas trading platform operated by Powernext, successfully launched physically settled Spot and Futures contracts, quoted in pence per therms, for the Belgian Zeebrugge Beach (ZEE) gas hub on April 17th 2015. On the same day, a Daily Average Price index for the Zeebrugge Trading Point (ZTP) in Euros per Megawatt-Hour was introduced. The first transaction was completed on the first trading day at 08:49 AM CET on ZEE May 2015 contract at 45.025 pence per therm with a volume of 25,000 therms. This represented the first cleared futures trade ever made on the Zeebrugge hub. 14 trading members are set up for trading of the new products, with more members currently in the process of being admitted. “With the addition of the new ZEE contracts and with the ZTP and ZTPL (ZTP L-gas) products launched in July 2014, PEGAS is offering new trading opportunities through the widest range of products in two of the most important European hubs”, comments Dr Egbert Laege, chief executive officer of Powernext. Moreover, PEGAS is now providing a new ZTP Daily Average Price (DAP) index which is the weighted average of all transactions during a trading day - The value of real estate trades in Kuwait fell by 27% to KWD956m and the number of transactions fell by 28% to 692 in the first quarter this year according to statistics from the real estate registration department at the Ministry of Justice - The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Arab Monetary Fund (AMF) have pledged to enhance cooperation to respond more effectively to the needs of their common membership in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The AMF and the IMF share common objectives of maintaining macroeconomic and financial stability, and accelerating broad-based and inclusive economic growth and job creation in the Arab region, in addition to strengthening capacity building. Under the MOU, the AMF and the IMF will continue to provide training opportunities to Arab officials, support the development of domestic capital markets in the Arab countries, and strengthen their collaboration on the Arabstat initiative, which aims at the development of efficient statistical systems in the region. The two parties also intend to carry out joint analytical work to inform Arab finance ministers and central bank governors, and to organise high level events on topics of mutual interests and priority for the region – The Kuwait Turk Bank will open in Frankfurt in July offering Shari’a compliant retail banking services having just received a licence from German market authorities. The bank already has a branch in Mannheim, but this new licence will allow it to operate as a fully functional bank in the country - The Joint Committee of the European Supervisory Authorities (ESAs) is organising the third Joint ESAs Consumer Protection Day on 3 June 2015 in Frankfurt am Main. The event will bring together, from all over Europe, thought leaders of consumer/investor organisations, national regulators, EU institutions, academics and key market participants. The keynote speech will be delivered by Jonathan Hill, European Commissioner for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union. The focus will be on conduct risk; the next decade in the banking, insurance, pensions and securities sectors and the growing digitalisation of financial services. The Joint Committee of the European Supervisory Authorities consists of the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA), the European Banking Authority (EBA), and the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA). The Straits Times Index (STI) ended 21.94 points or 0.62% lower to 3503.25, taking the year-to-date performance to +4.10%. The top active stocks today were SingTel, which declined 1.12%, DBS, which declined 0.80%, Keppel Corp, which closed unchanged, CapitaLand, which declined 1.09% and UOB, with a 0.29% fall. The FTSE ST Mid Cap Index fell 0.32%, while the FTSE ST Small Cap Index fell 0.57%. The outperforming sectors today were represented by the FTSE ST Health Care Index, which rose 1.77%. The two biggest stocks of the Index - Raffles Medical Group and Biosensors International Group – ended 1.02% higher and 5.03% higher respectively. The underperforming sector was the FTSE ST Utilities Index, which slipped 1.65%. United Envirotech shares rose 3.15% and Hyflux declined 1.07% - The performance of the UK buy-to-let (BTL) residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) market remained steady in the three months ended February 2015, according to the latest indices published by Moody's Investors Service. The 90+ day delinquency rate and outstanding repossessions stood at 0.7% and 0.1% respectively in February 2015, unchanged from November 2014. Moody's annualised total redemption rate decreased to 9.3% in February 2015 from 11.2% in November 2014, representing a 17.5% drop - Proserv and hazardous environment specialist JCE Group (UK) Limited have announced a strategic working partnership in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region. The agreement will see Proserv supporting JCE Group by offering its products and services whilst also delivering in-country engineering and technical support. Together, the companies aim to further build on their industry-leading standards of quality, service and reliability, and help cultivate a world-class QHSE culture - Deutsche Asset & Wealth Management (Deutsche AWM) has launched a physical replication exchange-traded fund (ETF) tracking the JPX-Nikkei 400 Index of Japanese stocks. At the same time, three new currency-hedged share classes of existing db X-trackers ETFs have also been listed. db x-trackers JPX-Nikkei 400 UCITS ETF (DR)1 tracks an index of 400 Japanese stocks selected on the basis of quantitative and qualitative screening. As the underlying index is not a standard capitalisation-weighted benchmark the ETF falls into the strategic beta – also known as ‘smart beta’ – category of investments.

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The European Review

By Patrick Artus, chief economist at Natixis

France’s industrial crisis: predictable and set to last

Friday, 03 August 2012 Written by 
France’s industrial crisis: predictable and set to last France’s industrial sector is in the midst of a steadily worsening crisis. There has been a decline in production, employment and productive investment, the external deficit remains significant, and export market shares are declining rapidly. We would argue that this situation was foreseeable, particularly if we add up issues with supply, domestic and external demand, and the impact of the eurozone crisis. Unfortunately, not a lot can be done about the weakness of demand, and the remedies to the supply problem are difficult to implement rapidly. http://www.ftseglobalmarkets.com/

France’s industrial sector is in the midst of a steadily worsening crisis. There has been a decline in production, employment and productive investment, the external deficit remains significant, and export market shares are declining rapidly.

We would argue that this situation was foreseeable, particularly if we add up issues with supply, domestic and external demand, and the impact of the eurozone crisis. Unfortunately, not a lot can be done about the weakness of demand, and the remedies to the supply problem are difficult to implement rapidly.

Let’s go through these issues, their causes and their implications.

Cause no. 1: The supply problem



Supply conditions for goods and services continue to deteriorate in France. The low profitability of companies discourages investment hence the production capacity of French industry is on the decline.

Since 2001, French industry sales prices have been falling relative to unit wage costs. Such falls reflect the excessive level of unit wage costs compared to the sophistication of industrial production in France. The downmarket nature of French industrial production prevents an increase in its selling prices, because of the high level of the price elasticity of demand for industrial products made in France: 0.9 versus 0.3 in Germany.

However, the rise in the unit wage cost – relative to selling prices – does not come as a result of the trend in productivity, but what has been happening to wages. This is because the level of costs is pushed up by the level of employers’ welfare contributions.

The subsequent fall in French industry’s profitability is substantial, reducing its capacity to invest and create jobs. This leads to the off-shoring of production capacity to countries where industrial profitability is higher, thereby weakening industry financially and threatening it with a serious crisis in the event of a recession and falling demand.

Cause no. 2: The demand problem

Between 2011 and 2012, French industry suffered from the weakness of both domestic and external demand. This resulted in a lower capacity utilisation rate than normal, which makes the problem of low profitability even more detrimental. And the decline in demand may deteriorate further if there is a fall in real wage incomes and government expenditure.

Cause no. 3: The euro-zone crisis

The eurozone crisis has two negative effects on French industry:

  1. it weakens demand and therefore imports in the eurozone countries that usually would have been France’s customers. This is significant because the eurozone accounts for 46% of French exports – the United Kingdom, which is also mired in a recession, accounts for 6%;
  2. it reduces domestic demand and capacity utilisation rates in Spain and Portugal and persuades industrial companies in these countries to turn to exports. As wage costs are lower in these countries, there is an increase in the competition that has a direct impact on French industry. France’s export market share tends to decline, whereas those of PortugalSpain and Ireland have recovered.

Remedies are very difficult to implement

Of the three issues mentioned, weakness of demand and the effects of the eurozone crisis cannot be controlled, particularly in a situation where there is private-sector deleveraging and a reduction in fiscal deficits. The question for French industry is therefore which remedies can be implemented on the supply side? We have put together the following list of possible measures:

 

  • an improvement in the sophistication of industrial production and in the differentiation of products, which will require innovation, investments, and marketing;
  • increased geographical diversification in companies' sales to increase the weight of emerging countries, which is currently quite low in France;
  • a major reform of the financing of social welfare in France to reduce the weight of welfare contributions paid by companies;
  • a fall in the hourly labour cost, either through a fall in the per capita wage, or through an increase in the number of hours worked (which is obviously a source of conflict).

 

However, these measures are all very difficult to implement rapidly.

It is also important to understand the major fragility of companies that are not very profitable (i.e. they have a shortfall in supply) when they are faced with a significant and lasting decline in demand.

Unfortunately, it looks as though this French industry crisis is not going to go away any time soon.

Patrick Artus

A graduate of Ecole Polytechnique, of Ecole Nationale de la Statistique et de l'Adminstration Economique and of Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris, Patrick Artus is today the Chief Economist at Natixis. He began his career in 1975 where his work included economic forecasting and modelisation. He then worked at the Economics Department of the OECD (1980), before becoming Head of Research at the ENSAE. Thereafter, Patrick taught seminars on research at Paris Dauphine (1982) and was Professor at a number of Universities (including Dauphine, ENSAE, Centre des Hautes Etudes de l'Armement, Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées and HEC Lausanne).

Patrick is now Professor of Economics at University Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne. He combines these responsibilities with his research work at Natixis. Patrick was awarded "Best Economist of the year 1996" by the "Nouvel Economiste", and today is a member of the council of economic advisors to the French Prime Minister. He is also a board member at Total and Ipsos.

Website: cib.natixis.com/research/economic.aspx

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