Sunday 7th February 2016
NEWS TICKER: Friday, February 5th: According to Reuters, Venezuela's central bank has begun negotiations with Deutsche Bank AG to carry out gold swaps to improve the liquidity of its foreign reserves as it faces debt payments of some $9.5bn this year. Around 64% of Venezuela's $15.4bn reserves are held in gold bars, which in this fluid market impedes the central bank's ability to mobilise hard currency for imports or debt service. We called the central bank to confirm the story, but press spokesmen would not comment - The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) says official foreign currency reserves stood at $357bn (equivalent to seven times the currency in circulation or 48% of Hong Kong M3) as at the end of January, down compared with reserve assets of $358.8bn in December. There were no unsettled foreign exchange contracts at month end (end-December: $0.1bn) - BNP Paribas today set out plans to cut investment banking costs by 12% by 2019 to bolster profitability and reassure investors about the quality of its capital buffers. The bank is the latest in a line of leading financial institutions, including Credit Suisse, Barclays and Deutsche Bank which look to be moving away from capital intensive activities. BNP Paribas has been selling non-core assets and cutting back on operations including oil and gas financing for the last few years as it looks to achieve a target of 10% return on equity. Last year the bank announced a €900m write-down on its BNL unit in Italy, which pushed down Q4 net income down 51.7% to €665m - Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE)-listed tech company, Huge Group, will move its listing from the Alternative Exchange (AltX) to the JSE main board on March 1st - Moody's says it has assigned Aaa backed senior unsecured local-currency ratings to a drawdown under export credit provider Oesterreichische Kontrollbank's (OKB) (P)Aaa-rated backed senior unsecured MTN program. The outlook is negative in line with the negative outlook assigned to the Aaa ratings of the Republic of Austria, which guarantees OKB’s liabilities under the Austrian Export Financing Guarantees Act – As the first phase of talks between Greece and its creditors draws to an end, International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde stressed to journalists in Greece that debt relief is as important as the reforms that creditors are demanding, notably of the pension system. "I have always said that the Greek program has to walk on two legs: one is significant reforms and one is debt relief. If the pension [system] cannot be as significantly and substantially reformed as needed, we could need more debt relief on the other side." Greece's pension system must become sustainable irrespective of any debt relief that creditors may decide to provide, Lagarde said, adding that 10% of gross domestic product into financing the pension system, compared to an average of 2.5% in the EU, is not sustainable. She called for "short-term measures that will make it sustainable in the long term,” but did not outline what those measures might be. According to Eurobank in Athens, IMF mission heads reportedly met this morning with the Minister of Labour, Social Insurance and Social Solidarity, Georgios Katrougalos, before the team is scheduled to leave Athens today. According to the local press, it appears that differences exist between the Greek government and official creditors on the planned overhaul of the social security pension system. Provided that things go as planned, the heads are reportedly expected to return by mid-February with a view to completing the review by month end, or at worst early March. In its Winter 2016 Economic Forecast published yesterday, the European Commission revised higher Greece’s GDP growth forecast for 2015 and 2016 to 0.0% and -0.7%, respectively, from -1.4% and 1.-3% previously - Fitch says that The Bank of Italy's (BoI) recent designation of three banks as 'other systemically important institutions' (O-SIIs) has no impact on its ratings of the relevant mortgage covered bond (Obbligazioni Bancarie Garantite or OBG) programmes. Last month, BoI identified UniCredit, Intesa Sanpaolo. and Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena as Italian O-SIIs. Banco Popolare and Mediobanca have not been designated O-SIIs. This status is the equivalent of domestic systemically important bank status under EU legislation. Fitch rates two OBG programmes issued by UC and one issued by BMPS, which incorporates a one-notch Issuer Default Rating (IDR) uplift above the banks' IDRs. The uplift can be assigned if covered bonds are exempt from bail-in, as is the case with OBG programmes under Italy's resolution regime and in this instance takes account of the issuers' importance in the Italian banking sector – Meantime, according to local press reports, Italian hotel group Bauer and special opportunity fund Blue Skye Investment Group report they have completed the rescheduling and refinancing of Bauer’s €110m debt through the issue of new bonds and the sale of non-core assets, such as the farming business Aziende Agricole Bennati, whose sale has already been agreed, the Palladio Hotel & Spa and a luxury residence Villa F in Venice’s Giudecca island – Meantime, Russian coal and steel producer Mechel has also agreed a restructuring of its debt with credits after two intense years of talks. The mining company, is controlled by businessman Igor Zyuzin - Asian markets had a mixed day, coming under pressure. Dollar strengthening worries investors in Asia; from today’s trading it looks like dollar weakening does as well. Actually, that’s not the issue, the dollar has appreciated steadily over the last year as buyers anticipated Fed tightening; but it has hurt US exports and that has contributed to investor nervousness over the past few weeks, which is why everyone is hanging on today’s The nonfarm payrolls report, a bellwether of change – good or bad in the American economic outlook. Back to Asia. The Nikkei 225 ended the day at 16819.15, down 225.40 points, or 1.32%; and as the stock market fell the yen continued to strengthen. The Nikkei has shed 5.85% this week. The dollar-yen pair fell to the 116-handle, at 116.82 in afternoon trade; earlier this week, the pair was trading above 120. It is a hard lesson for the central bank, whose efforts to take the heat out of the yen by introducing negative interest rates has done nothing of the sort. Australia's ASX 200 closed down 4.15 points, or 0.08% after something of a mixed week. The index closed at 4976.20, with the financial sector taking most of the heat today, with the sector down 0.7%. In contrast, energy and materials sectors finished in positive territory, buoyed by gains in commodities. The Hang Seng Index closed at 19288.17, up 105.08 points (or 0.55%) while the Shanghai Composite was down 0.61%. down 17.07 points to 2763.95. The Shenzhen composite dropped 20.36 points (1.15%) to 1750.70, while the Kospi rose marginally by 0.08% to 1917.79. Today is the last day of trading on the Chinese exchanges for a week.

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The European Review

By Patrick Artus, chief economist at Natixis

The likelihood of another global recession

Monday, 20 August 2012 Written by 
The likelihood of another global recession There is real concern over the present state of the global economy, due to a slowdown in global trade and dwindling production prospects. Indeed, it is not out of the question that another global recession is looming. Economic crises can be found in both the eurozone and the United Kingdom, there is also a marked slowdown in the US economy and continuing stagnation in Japan. There is a justified fear that the crises could spread to open economies via global trade. And although emerging countries could implement expansionary fiscal and monetary policies to allay concerns about their growth models, these policies might not benefit the global economy because of the structural nature of the countries’ problems. The question remains, does the world have the economic policy weapons to combat a new global recession? http://www.ftseglobalmarkets.com/

There is real concern over the present state of the global economy, due to a slowdown in global trade and dwindling production prospects. Indeed, it is not out of the question that another global recession is looming. Economic crises can be found in both the eurozone and the United Kingdom, there is also a marked slowdown in the US economy and continuing stagnation in Japan.

There is a justified fear that the crises could spread to open economies via global trade. And although emerging countries could implement expansionary fiscal and monetary policies to allay concerns about their growth models, these policies might not benefit the global economy because of the structural nature of the countries’ problems. The question remains, does the world have the economic policy weapons to combat a new global recession?

The slowdown in emerging countries’ growth

We would argue that another global recession is a possibility, because – as previously mentioned – the global economy is being hit simultaneously by a number of events.



Since early 2010, in particular, there has been a marked slowdown of growth in large emerging countries, mainly due to these countries’ problematic growth models. For instance: 

  • There has been a loss of competitiveness and profitability in China, due to sharp wage increases since 2010;
  • India has seen a stagnation in its industrial production capacity, partly due to hiring difficulties but also issues to do with its education and labour mobility;
  • Brazil’s exchange rate still has a lasting overvaluation despite the recent depreciation, which has not gone far enough;
  • And there is also the dominating concern that any of the crises could spread to open economies (such as Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Sweden and Central European countries) via global trade.

All things considered, the fact that practically all regions are affected means there is a serious threat for global growth.

Fundamentally, we believe the problems are down to:

  • OECD countries continuing to deleverage in public and private sectors;
  • China halting a growth model that was driven by low-end production, exports and migration;
  • the delayed growth in Brazil’s and India’s industry.

Faced with this risk of recession, does the world have the capacity to react with its economic policies?

In OECD countries, there is no longer any room for manoeuvre in monetary policies. This is because interest rates are already very low, and liquidity is already extremely abundant. These countries cannot necessarily implement further fiscal policies because of very high fiscal deficits and public debts. Of course, other options are conceivable, such as quantitative easing in the United States, further VLTROs or asset purchase policies in the eurozone, another extension to the Gilt purchase programme in the United Kingdom, and the creation of liquidity in Japan. But there is a possibility these expansionary monetary policies would have very little effect on the economy.

In emerging countries, interest rates can be lowered. And as the debt ratio is much lower than in OECD countries, in addition to lower fiscal deficits and public debts, monetary policy ought to be more efficient.

The issue is therefore not whether emerging countries are able to conduct more expansionary economic policies, but whether these policies could restore global growth:

(a) If emerging countries have structural economic problems, counter-cyclical policies will not resolve them. Boosting credit and investment in construction by state-owned companies in China would improve neither the sophistication of the product range nor cost-competitiveness. Running fiscal deficits or lowering interest rates in India would not resolve their issues in the education sector. Likewise in Brazil, it would not be able to fix its overvaluation, nor the fall in investment and employment in its industry.

(b) If additional expansionary monetary policies in emerging countries lead to a depreciation of their currencies – which we can see happening now – the situation would improve in emerging countries but deteriorate in OECD countries. Viewed as a whole, there would be no improvement in the situation of the global economy. It is striking to see that even the Chinese RMB has depreciated against the dollar; the Brazilian real and the Indian rupee have depreciated sharply since 2011.

Global growth in 2012-2013 should cause more concern

Current forecasts continue to point to a recovery in global growth between 2012 and 2013 and then in 2014. But we believe there is cause to be more concerned. The reasons for such an outlook lie in the slowdown in growth that affects all regions and has structural causes. Also, OECD countries no longer have the room for manoeuvre to conduct counter-cyclical economic policies. And although emerging countries still have the room to manoeuvre and conduct such policies, the fact remains they could still prove ineffective, regardless.

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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