UK: Deloitte Monday Briefing: Central Banks To The Rescue

Last Updated: 17 September 2012
Article by Ian Stewart

Most Read Contributor in UK, August 2017

* Global equity markets have been heading up since June on the hope that central banks were planning something big to boost growth.

* This time policymakers have not disappointed.

* Ten days ago the European Central Bank (ECB) announced a programme to buy, without limit, government bonds of at-risk countries in the euro area. The creation of this theoretically infinite source of demand for government debt exceeded market expectations. Fears that the Single Currency might fail have eased and borrowing costs for governments in southern Europe have dropped sharply.

* Last Thursday the US Federal Reserve announced its third programme of Quantitative Easing since 2008. By buying mortgage backed securities the Fed aims to drive down interest rates and push liquidity into the US economy. The spending is open-ended and will carry on until the US jobs market improves.

* The unlimited nature of the interventions by the ECB and the Fed surprised and cheered financial markets. Since the ECB announcement, on September 6th, global equity markets have risen over 5%.

* Financial markets like what has been announced but the hard economic data remain pretty downbeat. In recent weeks economists have continued to cut their European growth forecasts for 2013.

* Much now hangs on whether the actions of the latest actions by the ECB and the Fed will boost activity.

* The ECB's move reduces borrowing costs for governments and buys the euro area more time. But the need for deep change in the peripheral economies remains.

* History shows that economies can achieve such change. Ireland has made significant headway in reducing costs and raising exports. But the pace of change elsewhere in Europe's periphery is slower and more erratic. These countries still face a long grind, shrinking public spending, reforming their economies and squeezing wages.

* America is in a stronger position than the euro area. The US has benefited from a weaker dollar and the Fed's aggressive response to the financial crisis. US housing no longer looks expensive and the US seems to be ahead of Europe in strengthening its banks.

* Investors also see US government debt as a safe haven from the troubles of the euro area. Yet America has fiscal challenges of its own. As a share of GDP its public sector deficit is as big as Spain's.

* There is no consensus on how the US should cut its deficit. Without a new Congressional agreement a series of automatic tax rises and spending cuts are due to take effect next January. These measures could remove the equivalent of 5% of GDP from the economy and plunge the US into recession in 2013.

* This represents a real risk both to the US and to the global economy. Last week's announcement of QE3 looks like an attempt to lend impetus to what has been a lacklustre and erratic US recovery ahead of the looming fiscal cliff.

* The actions of the ECB and the Fed have buoyed equity markets. The real test is whether they are sufficient to boost confidence and persuade companies and consumers to spend.

MARKETS & NEWS

UK's FTSE 100 ended the week up 2.1%, following the ECB and Federal Reserve announcements of market support plans.

Here are some recent news stories that caught our eye as reflecting key economic themes:

KEY THEMES

* The US Federal Reserve announced a rolling programme to buy $40bn of mortgage-backed securities every month, until there is a "sustained" improvement in the jobs market – quantitative easing

* The German Constitutional Court ratified the eurozone's bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), on the basis that German liability is limited to €190bn – euro crisis politics

* The Greek representative on the board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) claimed the country "will need additional financing" from international creditors – Greece

* The Greek government is investigating how much Germany might owe in outstanding reparations for war crimes during World War II, according to the Greek finance ministry – eurozone crisis politics

* UK employment in August rose to 29.6m people, the highest level in more than four years – employment

* The UK's export of goods rose to a record £26.5bn in July, driven by growth in exports to non-EU countries – export growth

* Chinese telecommunications equipment maker Huawei announced a $2bn investment in the UK over the next 5 years – foreign direct investment

* Eurozone industrial production rose by a better-than-expected monthly rate of 0.6% – manufacturing growth

* Japan's core machinery orders, an indicator of future capital spending, rose by a better-than-expected monthly rate of 4.6% in July – Japan

* US median household incomes fell 1.5% in 2011, the fourth consecutive annual decline after adjusting for inflation – squeezed consumers

* According to the Head of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards the elite unit is active in Syria and assisting the Syrian government – geopolitical risk

* The Japanese government announced plans to phase out the use of nuclear power by the 2030s – energy policy

* Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said that he could "not accept" any bailout that would dictate which policies "to cut or not cut" – eurozone crisis politics

* The President of the EU Commission Jose Manuel Barroso called for "a democratic federation of nation states" to address the "common problems" of eurozone countries – eurozone crisis politics

* McDonald's global sales rose at an annual rate of 3.7% in August, driven by growth in Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa – emerging markets

* Luxury car maker Ferrari reported record sales and profits for the first half of 2012, driven by strong growth from China, Russia, the Middle East and South America – emerging markets

* The Chinese government has been putting supplies of pork in cold storage to protect against predicted price rises and shortages next year, caused by the increased cost of pig feed – meat stocks

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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