Thursday 3rd September 2015
NEWS TICKER, THURSDAY, September 3rd: The Straits Times Index (STI) ended 28.3 points or 0.98% higher to 2906.43, taking the year-to-date performance to -13.63%. The top active stocks today were SingTel, which gained 0.82%, DBS, which gained 0.80%, UOB, which gained 1.40%, OCBC Bank, which gained1.13% and CapitaLand, with a 0.36%advance. The FTSE ST Mid Cap Index gained 0.55%, while the FTSE ST Small Cap Index rose 0.24% - Madrid City Hall announced it would dedicate €10m out of its 2016 budget to a "welcome plan for refugees" to include housing, integration, psychological support and legal aid, City Hall spokeswoman Rita Maestre (Ahora Madrid) said during a press conference on Thursday. Maestre said a budget had been decided upon but that specific numbers had not: "We want to welcome all those who are fleeing from war", adding that given their situation "a permanent housing solution" would be needed in the city. The Mayor of the Spanish capital, Manuela Carmena, said on Wednesday that a decision would be taken at the city government meeting today: "The city of the hug must, of course, be ready to welcome refugees" - The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is joining international efforts to clean up Tunisia’s Lake Bizerte with a €20m loan and technical assistance to support the expansion and rehabilitation of the sewerage network of the Bizerte region and the rehabilitation of three wastewater treatment plants located near the lake. The EBRD’s investment is part of an integrated environmental programme aimed at de-polluting Lake Bizerte and reducing sources of pollution through investments in wastewater, solid waste and industrial effluents. This programme is labelled by the Union for the Mediterranean and is part of the Horizon 2020 Initiative, which aims to de-pollute the Mediterranean by the year 2020. The European Investment Bank is providing a €40 million sovereign loan to the programme while the European Union Neighbourhood Investment Facility is contributing a €15m grant for both capital expenditure and technical cooperation - Analysis of illicit financial flows (IFFs) by Global Financial Integrity (GFI) shows that over the period 2003-2012 the global volume of IFFs grew by more than 9% annually (. In 2012 (the most recent year for which data are available), illicit flows were estimated at close to $1trn. In response to this unfettered surge in illicit capital leaving developing nations, the UN has endorsed target 16.4 in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which commits the global community to “significantly reduce” IFFs by 2030. This UN action “represents an historic moment in development policy given that it is the first time the international community has recognized the illicit flows problem and pledged to address it,” says GFI President Raymond Baker - US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker named Eduardo Leite, Chairman of the Executive Committee of Baker & McKenzie LLP, as the new chair of the US section of the US-Brazil CEO Forum. “Mr. Leite has served on the U.S. section of the CEO Forum for several years, and I am pleased that he has agreed to serve as Chairman,” said Secretary Pritzker. The new US section chair was named after the former chair, Ms. Patricia Woertz, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Archer Daniels Midland Company, submitted her resignation from the role. However, Woertz will remain a member of the U.S.-Brazil CEO Forum, and Leite will complete the current three-year term, which ends on August 13th 2016 - MarketAxess Holdings Inc. (Nasdaq:MKTX), the operator of a leading electronic trading platform for fixed-income securities, and the provider of market data and post-trade services for the global fixed-income markets, today announced total monthly trading volume for August 2015 of $75.5 billion, consisting of $43.7 billion in U.S. high-grade volume, $26.7bn in other credit volume, and $5.1 billion in liquid products volume. MarketAxess is providing both the reported and adjusted estimated US high-grade TRACE volumes on its website. The Company believes that the adjusted estimated volumes provide a more accurate comparison to prior period reporting.

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The European Review

By Patrick Artus, chief economist at Natixis

Is Greece offered any other choice to a slow death and a sudden death?

Friday, 06 July 2012 Written by 
Is Greece offered any other choice to a slow death and a sudden death? The adjustment programme that Greece is putting in place with the Troika, even if it is toned down and spread out over time, will eventually lead to a fall in Greeks' purchasing power until Greece's external deficit disappears. And in light of Greece's economic structure and the disproportion between its imports and exports, this will imply a collapse in living standards in Greece. The other possibility for Greece is to leave the euro and massively devalue its currency, but this would instantly mean a loss of purchasing power due to the deterioration of the terms of trade, and a massive decline in domestic demand, which would in any case be inevitable because there would then be no more lenders to finance Greece's external deficit. http://www.ftseglobalmarkets.com/

The adjustment programme that Greece is putting in place with the "Troika", even if it is toned down and spread out over time, will eventually lead to a fall in Greeks' purchasing power until Greece's external deficit disappears. And in light of Greece's economic structure and the disproportion between its imports and exports, this will imply a collapse in living standards in Greece. The other possibility for Greece is to leave the euro and massively devalue its currency, but this would instantly mean a loss of purchasing power due to the deterioration of the terms of trade, and a massive decline in domestic demand, which would in any case be inevitable because there would then be no more lenders to finance Greece's external deficit.

For Greece to escape a slow death (austerity programme) or a sudden death (exit from the euro), a massive European aid plan would be needed to rebuild the Greek economy and create jobs, a plan that is unlikely at present, and very different from the present bailout which merely finances debt servicing on Greek government bonds held by public investors.

The logic of the adjustment programme for Greece: Slow death



Even if Greece and the Troika renegotiate the adjustment programme, its fundamental characteristics will remain the same:

·                                  a restrictive fiscal policy to eliminate the fiscal deficit;

·                                  a fall in wages to improve competitiveness and reduce domestic demand, until Greece's external deficit disappears.

The main idea of the adjustment programme is that Greece's domestic demand exceeds its production capacity, thereby generating a structural external deficit. So Greeks "are living beyond their means", with a rise in living standards far exceeding growth in production capacity, and it is therefore legitimate to reduce domestic demand both through a restrictive fiscal policy and wage cuts.

The fall in wages could also bring about an improvement in competitiveness, hence an improvement in foreign trade, but its main objective is to reduce domestic demand and imports.

The problem with this approach is that:

·                                  it is showing its ineffectiveness: despite the decline in domestic demand, the current-account deficit has declined little; due to the shortfall in activity, public finances are no longer improving;

·                                  its cost in terms of jobs and purchasing power is gigantic. Greece is a country in which the weight of industry is very small and where, as a consequence, the disproportion between imports and exports is very great.

A substantial decline in purchasing power in Greece is therefore needed to eliminate the external deficit, with a further fall of about 30% in real wages. Purchasing power would have to be brought back to the level of the early 1990s to balance the current account, and this is of course rejected by the population. The fundamental problem is twofold:

·                                  even if there is a fall in wages, the improvement in price-competitiveness is limited by price stickiness;

·                                  since the size of industry is small, the adjustment must be achieved mainly through a fall in imports, hence a decline in income.

Exit from the euro and devaluation: Sudden death

Faced with this prospect of a "slow death" due to the austerity programme, Greeks could decide to leave the euro and devalue. But in that case the shock would be sudden and terrible, because there would be both:

·                                  a rise in import prices;

·                                  an obligation to eliminate the external deficit, because no one (neither the private sector nor the public sector) would any longer lend to Greece;

·                                  a weak positive impact of the gain in competitiveness, due to the small size of industry.

Greece would default on its gross external debt, and would therefore no longer have to service that debt, which is positive (it would gain six percentage points of GDP in interest payments on external debt). But the rise in import prices would even further exacerbate the foreign trade imbalance, while the potential for external borrowing would disappear. There would inevitably have to be a reduction in domestic demand to restore the foreign trade balance despite the rise in import prices, hence inevitably a collapse in imports in volume terms.

This is reminiscent of the process in Argentina, in similar circumstances, in the early 2000s: a collapse of activity following the huge devaluation, the need to switch to a current-account surplus which required dividing imports by three - hence a collapse in the real wage due to imported inflation, and in domestic demand and employment.

From 2003 onwards, there was  a sharp improvement in Argentina's situation, but it is important to remember that it had considerable structural advantages by comparison with Greece at present:

·                                  substantial weight of industry (22% of jobs);

·                                  before the crisis, exports and imports of the same size;

·                                  a smaller current-account deficit to reduce (five percentage points of GDP).

The shock would be far more violent and prolonged for Greece.

So what would be the solution for Greece?

We have seen that Greece is at present offered two solutions:

·                                  a "slow death", through a stifling of the economy via the austerity plan, even if it is softened down;

·                                  a "sudden death", if there is an exit from the euro and devaluation.

In either case, gradually or suddenly, there must be a substantial decline in purchasing power to eliminate the external deficit which is no longer financeable. For Greece to escape this dreadful choice, Europe's aid would have to be allocated not to debt servicing on Greece's government bonds held by public investors (EFSF, ECB) - which in and of itself is an incredible situation where Europe is borrowing in order to pay to itself the servicing of the Greek debt it holds - but to help rebuild the Greek economy and create jobs, which is definitely not being done at present.

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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