ECB Confirmed Recession

At Bratislava´s meeting, the Governing Council of the ECB rewrote the monetary history of the Eurozone. The Council decided to lower basic interest rates to 0.5 % starting from May 8th 2013. It is nothing but a confirmation that nothing was solved within the Eurozone. Otherwise, they would raise rates. Mario Draghi’s press conference looked like a communist party meeting: he celebrated a new release of five-euro bank note with happy children and he stated that ECB is prepared to use negative interest rates for bank deposits if necessary to stipulate velocity of money, but insisted that the economy would recover later this year as many times. The move was somehow expected because it comes on the heels of dismal economic indicators. In recent months, economic confidence has worsened and unemployment has risen over 12 percent across the currency zone. But the real problem is youth unemployment. French youth unemployment has risen within 13 months in a row to a record 26.5%; the Spanish one is at 57.2% and the Greek one is a stunning 59.1%. Other candidates for records are Italy and Portugal with 38.4%. Even the German economy showed signs of weakening. So, it was necessary to do something to stipulate the economy. But easier credit just stipulates projects which need not be sustainable and without new stipulations will cause more problems in the future. There is no such thing as a free lunch.

Spain fell deeper into recession in the first three months of the year. The data showed that Spain’s gross domestic product contracted 0.5 percent in the first quarter from the last three months of 2012, mainly because of sliding domestic demand. One of the most significant problems for the economy is housing market. Standard and Poor’s warned that Spanish house prices are to fall a further 13pc by the end of next year, which means only more problems to their banking sector and claims for more help from other EU member states. The agency is warning that the housing slump is deepening across the Eurozone and the Netherlands and France are next countries with troubles. French declines are “gaining momentum,” with prices likely to fall 5pc this year and a further 5pc in 2014, agency said.

According to France labor ministry, the number of unemployed jobseekers hit 3.224 million, which means a new record. March was the 23rd consecutive month of rising unemployment in the country. The ministry did not provide a current unemployment rate, but said it was at 10.2 percent at the end of 2012 and remained below the 10.8 percent record set in 1997.

And do you still think that Cypriot nationalization of bank accounts over € 100,000 by rate of 90 % was something exceptional? If so, you could be interested to learn the Spanish government started to require from any resident with an overseas asset worth more than €50,000 and who lives in Spain at least six months (183 days) of the year to declare what they own abroad. As relatively few Spaniards have assets outside Spain, those most affected will be British pensioners and retirees. They are required to declare UK bank account numbers, mortgages and other details under the threat of €10,000 penalty.

Greece is finally forced to make some reforms to transform its unsustainable welfare state. 15,000 state employees lose their jobs in Greece as the Greek parliament passed a new law which overturns what had been a constitutional guarantee for civil servants of a job for life. Some 2,000 civil servants will lose their jobs by the end of June, another 2,000 by the end of the year, and a further 11,000 by the end of 2014.

FED will not change its policy as we emphasize for a few weeks, and will continue with $85 billion a month asset purchasing program. The main reason behind is still a weak economic growth. Chicago PMI hit 49, which indicates that expectations about economy are not good and it seems that nobody told the respondents that the economy is recovering. The central bank’s balance sheet has ballooned to more than $3.3 trillion and it is planned to be $ 4 trillion at the end of this year. If you want to understand some monetary language you could try to puzzle out this statement: “The Committee is prepared to increase or reduce the pace of its purchases to maintain appropriate policy accommodation as the outlook for the labor market or inflation changes”. Good luck.

Matus Posvanc