Wednesday 4th March 2015
NEWS TICKER, TUESDAY, MARCH 3RD 2015: The number of Spaniards registered as unemployed fell by 13,538 people in February, a fall of 0.3%. Even so, the government acknowledges that a massive 4,512,153 people remain without work. In a press release, the Ministry for Employment says said reduction in jobless was best monthly improvement in February since 2001. Seasonally-adjusted unemployment fell by 49,653 people. The government also says 300,333 fewer unemployed people since February 2014 was: "the largest year-on-year reduction in unemployment since 1999". The total number of unemployed Spaniards this month—the fourth February with Mariano Rajoy as Prime Minister—was still higher than all of the February data points for the last four years of the Zapatero government. The number of people registered with Spain's social security system rose by 96,909 in February - Record high inflows send Japanese ETFs’ AUM higher, surpassing $160bn. The Apac region excluding Japan has also seen strong inflows, pushing the AUM mark past $78bn. Investors are still avoiding the riskiest names in the region; firms whose CDS spreads have widened the most have seen negative returns - CBOE Futures Exchange reports February average daily volume in VIX futures was 166,547 contracts, a decrease of 23% from February 2014 and a decrease of 27% from January 2015. Total volume in VIX futures for February was 3.2m contracts, down 23% from a year ago and down 31% from the previous month - The Straits Times Index (STI) ended +1.03 points higher or +0.03% to 3403.89, taking the year-to-date performance to +1.15%. The FTSE ST Mid Cap Index declined -0.39% while the FTSE ST Small Cap Index declined -1.14%. The top active stocks were SingTel (+0.47%), DBS (-1.48%), OCBC Bank (-0.86%), Noble (-3.08%) and UOB (-0.04%). The outperforming sectors today were represented by the FTSE ST Consumer Goods Index (+0.68%). The two biggest stocks of the FTSE ST Consumer Goods Index are Wilmar International (+0.31%) and Thai Beverage (+2.14%). The underperforming sector was the FTSE ST Basic Materials Index, which declined -3.44% with Midas Holdings’ share price gaining +1.61% and Geo Energy Resources’ share price declining -1.57%. The three most active Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) by value today were the STI ETF (-0.29%), IS MSCI India (+0.37%), SPDR Gold Shares (+1.10%). The three most active Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) by value were Ascendas REIT (+1.62%), CapitaCom Trust (-0.57%), CapitaMall Trust (+1.90%). The most active index warrants by value today were HSI25000MBeCW150330 (-7.69%), HSI24200MBePW150429 (-3.94%), HSI24400MBePW150330 (-7.32%). The most active stock warrants by value today were OCBC Bk MBeCW150803 (-13.56%), UOB MB eCW150701 (-1.97%), DBS MB eCW150420 (-22.61%).

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The European Review

By Patrick Artus, chief economist at Natixis

Without lax monetary and FX policies, fiscal consolidation in the euro zone is impossible

Friday, 01 June 2012 Written by 
Without lax monetary and FX policies, fiscal consolidation in the euro zone is impossible In the past, successful fiscal consolidations occurred through a combination of restrictive fiscal policy, expansionary monetary policy and sharp depreciation of the currency. In many euro-zone countries, as the policy mix is restrictive, fiscal consolidation is failing due to falling real economic activity. All possible ways to make monetary policy in the euro zone more expansionary must therefore be explored. Although there remains little leeway to lower short-term interest rates, it is possible to reduce long-term interest rates in the euro-zone countries where they are abnormally high, both by restoring fiscal credibility and through bond purchases by the ECB. Above all, the euro must be weakened, requiring interventions in the FX market. And if the current trend of restrictive fiscal policies without drastic monetary measures persists, euro-zone countries will end up in recession and with higher, not lower fiscal deficits. http://www.ftseglobalmarkets.com/

In the past, successful fiscal consolidations occurred through a combination of restrictive fiscal policy, expansionary monetary policy and sharp depreciation of the currency. In many euro-zone countries, as the policy mix is restrictive, fiscal consolidation is failing due to falling real economic activity. All possible ways to make monetary policy in the euro zone more expansionary must therefore be explored.

Although there remains little leeway to lower short-term interest rates, it is possible to reduce long-term interest rates in the euro-zone countries where they are abnormally high, both by restoring fiscal credibility and through bond purchases by the ECB. Above all, the euro must be weakened, requiring interventions in the FX market. And if the current trend of restrictive fiscal policies without drastic monetary measures persists, euro-zone countries will end up in recession and with higher, not lower fiscal deficits.

Monetary measures during fiscal consolidations in the past

In the nineties, Sweden, Canada, Finland and Italy all successfully consolidated their fiscal position through rapid reductions in fiscal deficits, without negative effects on economic growth and unemployment. This was because fiscal consolidation was systematically combined with a very expansionary monetary policy that included lower interest rates and, above all, a sharp depreciation in the exchange rate to kick things off.



In these countries, the fall in government expenditure was offset by an increase in exports linked to the devaluation of the currency as well as an increase in domestic demand linked to the fall in interest rates.

In the absence of sufficient monetary measures, the fiscal consolidations in several euro-zone countries are failing

The ECB’s policy rate is actually low, but long-term interest rates in the troubled countries have risen markedly, which results in long-term interest rates for the euro zone as a whole that are far too high.

Moreover, although it has depreciated since 2008, the euro is still overvalued against the dollar. And, since euro-zone countries want to reduce their fiscal deficits as quickly as possible, the euro zone’s policy mix is on the whole too restrictive. So it is unsurprising that activity is declining in countries with restrictive fiscal policies: Greece, Portugal, Italy, Spain, Ireland and even the Netherlands.

Indeed, the decline in growth is so substantial that fiscal deficits stopped narrowing in early 2012 in several countries (Spain, Greece, France, Italy and Portugal), requiring additional fiscal austerity measures to be adopted. But these measures will further weaken growth, especially because they are being adopted simultaneously by most of Europe (the euro zone and the United Kingdom). This could lead to an absurd situation later in the year whereby unemployment soars while the fiscal deficits fail to fall. European countries are moving increasingly to the right of the Laffer curve, where a more restrictive fiscal policy subsequently leads to a higher fiscal deficit due to a fall in economic activity.

The only solution: Expansionary monetary and exchange-rate policy

Euro-zone countries are at an impasse if the current policy mix is too restrictive, and the resulting fall in economic activity prevents them from reducing their fiscal deficits. The only solution is then to emulate the successful fiscal consolidations in the nineties by changing over to an expansionary monetary and exchange-rate policy. So – while there is no longer much to be gained from short-term interest rates in the euro zone – it is possible to reduce long-term interest rates in the countries where they are abnormally high.

In order to achieve this, these countries need to regain medium-term fiscal credibility, i.e. financial markets need to be convinced of their determination to stabilise their public debt ratios. This would enable the ECB to resume its government bond purchase programme (SMP) – aimed at accelerating the decline in interest rates – without fear of encouraging these countries to not reduce their deficits.

Furthermore, the euro must be weakened. Indeed, exchange-rate depreciation played an important role in the fiscal consolidation programmes of the nineties. And like Switzerland, China, or once again Japan, the ECB could accumulate foreign exchange reserves (in dollars in the ECB’s case) to push down the euro’s exchange rate against the dollar.

A depreciation of the euro would directly benefit the countries with large-scale industry (Germany, Italy, Ireland, Finland, Austria and Belgium) as well as countries with large-scale exports outside the euro zone (Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands and Germany), while Spain, France, Portugal and Greece would indirectly benefit from the positive effects of the euro depreciation on these other euro-zone countries.

Averting disaster

Although resuming its government bond purchase programme and accumulating foreign exchange reserves runs counter to the ECB’s culture, if it does not do this, several euro-zone countries will soon reach the absurd situation of the simultaneous increase in both unemployment and fiscal deficits at the same time that fiscal deficit reduction policies are being carried out. Indeed, the examples from the past clearly show that successful fiscal consolidations have always been combined with expansionary monetary and exchange-rate policy.

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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