While the Western world has struggled with economic growth for the past 6 years, emerging economies such as China, Brazil and India have recorded some very high rates of growth. Throughout 2012, there were signs that these economies were not going to be the saviour of the global economy that we all thought. But, as we enter 2013, is it these economies that still hold the hope of the West for more positive figures and better economic times?
The article below from BBC News, in particular, considers the year ahead for the Asian economies and what it might mean for the Western world. Although these countries are by no means safeguarded against the impending approach of the US economy to their fiscal cliff or the ongoing eurozone crisis, they have seemed to be more insulated than the rest of the world. A crucial question to consider is whether this will continue. Furthermore, are the growth levels and policies of a country such as China sustainable? Can it continue to record such high growth rates in the face of the global economic situation?
The Japanese economy has been in serious trouble for a couple of decades, but measures to boost growth for this economy are expected. If these do occur, then western economies may feel some of their positive effects. At present, there is a degree of optimism as we enter the New Year, but how long this will last is anybody’s guess. The following articles consider the year ahead.
Asian economies face regional and global challenges BBC News (1/1/13)
Asia faces hard road ahead China Daily, Haruhiko Kuroda and Changyong Rhee (31/12/12)
Asia to continue rise despite US fiscal cliff Economic Times, Sugata Ghosh (1/1/13)
‘3.6% growth’ for global economy next year China Daily, Alvin Foo (28/12/12)
Asian economies surge ahead despite global slowdown Coast Week, Ding Qilin and Hu Junxin (4/1/13)
Global grind The Economist, Robin Bew (21/11/12)
- Why have the Asian economies been more insulated to the global economic conditions over the past few years, in comparison with the Western world?
- What challenges will the global economy be facing over the coming year?
- What challenges are the Asian economies facing? How different are they from the challenges you identified in question 3?
- Why is the rate of exchange an important factor for an economy such as Japan?
- What does a low exchange rate for the yen mean for European countries? Is it likely to be seen as a good or bad thing? What about for South Korea? Use a diagram to help you answer this question.
- Why is the economic situation in countries such as China and India so important for the rest of the global economy? Use a diagram to illustrate this.
The ECB president, Mario Draghi, has announced a new programme of ‘Outright Monetary Transactions (OMTs)’ to ease the difficulties of countries such as Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy. The idea is to push down interest rates for these countries’ bonds. If successful, this will make it more affordable for them to service their debts.
OMTs involve the ECB buying these countries’ bonds on the secondary market (i.e. existing bonds). This will be limited to bonds with no more than three years to maturity. Although restricting purchases to the secondary market would not involve the ECB lending directly to these countries, the bond purchases should push down interest rates on the secondary market and this, in turn, should allow the countries to issue new bonds at lower rates on the primary market.
The OMT programme replaces the previous Securities Markets Programme (SMP), which began in May 2010. This too involved purchasing bonds on the secondary market. By the time of the last actions under SMP in January 2012, €212 billion of purchases had been made. Unlike the SMP, however, OMTs are in principle unlimited, with the ECB president, Mario Draghi, saying that the ECB would do ‘whatever it takes’ to hold the single currency together. This means that it will buy as many bonds on the market as are necessary to bring interest rates down to sustainable levels.
Critics, however, argue that this will still not be enough to stimulate the eurozone economy and help bring countries out of recession. They give two reasons.
The first is that OMTs differ from the quantitative easing programmes used in the UK and USA. OMTs would not increase the eurozone money supply as the ECB would sell other assets to offset the bond purchases. This process is known as ‘sterilisation’, which is defined as actions taken by a central bank to offset the effects of foreign exchange flows or its own bond transactions so as to leave money supply unchanged.
The second reason is that OMTs will be conducted only if countries stick to previously agreed strong austerity measures. This is something that it looking increasingly unlikely as protests against the cuts mount in countries such as Greece and Spain.
Super Mario to the rescue Financial Standard, Benjamin Ong (7/9/12)
Outright monetary transactions: Lowdown on bond-buying scheme Irish Times, Dan O’Brien (7/9/12)
Draghi comments at ECB news conference Reuters (6/9/12)
ECB’s Mario Draghi unveils bond-buying euro debt plan BBC News (6/9/12)
ECB Market Intervention: Outright Monetary Transactions (“OMT”) – A Preliminary Assessment Place du Luxembourg (9/9/12)
Evaluating the OMT: OrlMost Too late? Social Europe Journal, Andrew Watt (7/9/12)
Mario Draghi speech: what the analysts said The Telegraph (6/9/12)
ECB challenges German concern over bond-buying Irish Times, Derek Scally (26/9/12)
Draghi: efforts helping to support stable future MarketWatch, Tom Fairless (25/9/12)
Mario and Mariano versus the man with the beard BBC News, Paul Mason (6/9/12)
Good week for the euro – but also a warning BBC News, Stephanie Flanders (12/9/12)
The price of saving the eurozone BBC News, Robert Peston (26/9/12)
Special Report – Inside Mario Draghi’s euro rescue plan Reuters, Paul Carrel, Noah Barkin and Annika Breidthardt (25/9/12)
ECB to face biggest test on euro gambit Financial Times, Michael Steen and Peter Spiegel (25/9/12)
ECB: Monetary policy decisions ECB Press Release, (6/9/12)
- What are the key features of the OMT programme? How does it differ from the former Securities Markets Programme (SMP)?
- In what ways does the OMT programme differ from the quantitative easing programmes in the USA and UK?
- How will the ECB’s buying bonds in the secondary market influence the primary bond market? What will influence the size of the effect?
- How does sterilisation work in (a) the bond market; (b) the foreign exchange market?
- Why is it claimed that the OMT programme is a necessary but not sufficient condition for solving the crisis in the eurozone? What additional measures would you recommend and why?
- What are the risks associated with the OMT programme?
In the second part of this blog, we look at an interview with the Guardian given by Robert Chote, Chair of the UK’s Office of Budget Responsibility. Like Mervyn King’s, that we looked at in Part 1, Robert Chote’s predictions are also gloomy.
In particular, he argues that if Greece leaves the euro, the effects on the UK economy could be significant, not just in the short term, but in the long term too.
The concern is that you end up with an outcome in the eurozone that creates the same sort of structural difficulties in the financial system and in the economy that we saw in the past recession, and that that has consequences both for hitting economic activity in the economy, but also its underlying potential. And it’s the latter which has particular difficulties for the fiscal position, because it means not just that the economy weakens and then strengthens again – ie, it goes into a hole and comes out – but that you go down and you never quite get back up to where you started. And that has more lingering, long-term consequences for the public finances.
The interview looked not just at the effects of the current crisis in the eurozone on the eurozone, British and world economies, but also at a number of other issues, including: the reliability of forecasts and those of the OBR in particular; relations between the OBR and the Treasury; allowing the OBR to cost opposition policies; the economic effect of cutting the 50p top rate of income tax; the sustainability of public-sector pensions; and tax increases or spending cuts in the long term.
In Part 3 we look at attempts by the G8 countries to find a solution to the mounting crisis.
Robert Chote interview: ‘I would not say in the past there’s been rigging’ Guardian, Andrew Sparrow (18/5/12)
UK ‘may never fully recover’ if Greece exits euro Guardian, Andrew Sparrow, Helena Smith and Larry Elliott (18/5/12)
British economy may ‘never quite recover’ from a severe Euro collapse The Telegraph, Rowena Mason (18/5/12)
Economic and fiscal outlook Office for Budget Responsibility (March 2012)
- Why is it very difficult to forecast the effects of a Greek withdrawal from the euro?
- Why may Greek withdrawal have an effect on long-term potential output in the UK and the rest of Europe?
- Why are economic forecasts in general so unreliable? Does this mean that we should abandon economic forecasting?
- Why are public finances “likely to come under pressure over the longer term”?
- Why might the cut in the top rate of income tax from 50% to 45% have little impact on economic growth? Distinguish between income and substitution effects of the tax cut.
A negative outlook for the UK economy – at least that’s what Moody’s believes. The credit rating agency has put the UK economy’s sovereign credit rating, together with 2 other European nations (France and Austria) on the ‘negative outlook’ list.
The UK currently has a triple A rating and we have been able to maintain this despite the credit crunch and subsequent recession. However, with weak economic data and the continuing crisis in the eurozone, Moody’s took the decision to give the UK a ‘negative outlook’, which means the UK, as well as France and Austria have about a 30% chance of losing their triple A rating in the next 18 months.
Both Labour and the Coalition government have claimed this decision supports their view of the economy. Labour says this decision shows that the economy needs a stimulus and the Coalition should change its stance on cutting the budget deficit. However, the Coalition says that it shows the importance the Credit ratings agencies attach to budget deficits. Indeed, Moody’s statement showed no signs that it feels the UK should ease up on its austerity measures. The statement suggested the reverse – that a downgrade would only occur if the outlook worsened or if the government eased up on its cuts. The Coalition’s focus on cutting the deficit could even be something that has prevented the UK being put on the ‘negative watch’ list, as opposed to the ‘negative outlook’ list. The former is definitely worse than the latter, as it implies a 50% chance of a downgrade, rather than the current 30%.
The triple A rating doesn’t guarantee market confidence, but it does help keep the cost of borrowing for the government low. Indeed, the UK government’s cost of borrowing is at an historic low. A key problem therefore for the government is that there is a certain trade-off that it faces. Moody’s says that 2 things would make the UK lose its rating – a worsening economic outlook or if the government eases on its austerity plans. However, many would argue that it is the austerity plans that are creating the bad economic outlook. If the cuts stop, the economy may respond positively, but the deficit would worsen, potentially leading to a downgrade. On the other hand, if the austerity plans continue and the economy fails to improve, a downgrade could also occur. The next few days will be crucial in determining how the markets react to this news. The following articles consider this issue.
The meaning of ‘negative’ for Mr Osborne and the UK BBC News, Stephanomics, Stephanie Flanders (14/2/12)
Relaxed markets remain one step ahead of Moody’s move The Telegraph, Philip Aldrick (14/2/12)
George Osborne tries to be positive on negative outlook for economy Guardian, Patrick Wintour (14/2/12)
Moody’s wants it may cut AAA-rating for UK and France Reuters, Rodrigo Campos and Walter Brandimarte (14/2/12)
Moody’s rating decision backs the Coalition’s path of fiscal consolidation The Telegraph, Damian Reece (14/2/12)
Moody’s rating agency places UK on negative outlook BBC News (14/2/12)
Britain defends austerity measures New York Times, Julia Werdigier 14/2/12)
- What does a triple A rating mean for the UK economy?
- Which factors will be considered when a ratings agency decides to change a country’s credit rating? What similarities exist between the UK, France and Austria?
- Which political view point do you think Moody’s decision backs? Do you agree with the Telegraph article that ‘Moody’s rating decision backs the Coalition’s path of fiscal consolidation’?
- If a country does see its credit rating downgraded, what might this mean for government borrowing costs? Explain why this might cause further problems for a country?
- How do you think markets will react to this news? Explain your answer.
- What action should the government take: continue to cut the deficit or focus on the economic outlook?
- Why has the eurozone crisis affected the UK’s credit rating?
There has been much talk of a double-dip recession, with many suggesting that the UK economy is already in a recession. However, according to the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), a recession is not inevitable. Although the businesses surveyed showed that the economy had significantly weakened, John Longworth the Director General of the BCC said that a ‘new recession is not a foregone conclusion’.
Even though many of the figures showed a continued weakening of the economy, the results are still not as bad as they were back in 2008. The concern is that if the weakness continues, as it is predicted to do in the first quarter of 2012, confidence will remain low and then the economy may stagnate and a recession becomes a more likely scenario. Action is needed to prevent this from happening, especially with the eurozone crisis still causing concern. As John Longworth said:
The UK does have the potential to recover and make its way in the world. We have the talent, the energy and the enterprise. All we need is an environment that puts business first.
At the beginning of December 2011, many analysts thought retail sales would remain low, as they had been throughout 2011. However, British consumers came through in the second half of December and retail sales were up by 4.1% compared with a year ago. According to the British Retail Consortium, this Christmas rush should not be seen as a fundamental change in the direction of the economy and will have done little to boost the overall annual sales of most retailers.
Recession ‘not foregone conclusion’ Guardian (10/1/12)
UK economy likely to shrink amid eurozone crisis, says BCC The Telegraph, Angela Monaghan (10/1/12)
UK recession is not yet inevitable, survey says BBC News (10/1/12)
UK risks recession and lengthy stagnation – BCC Reuters, David Milliken (10/1/12)
U.K recession fears build Wall Street Journal, Ilona Billington (10/1/12)
BoE stimulus expansion may not be enough for recovery, BCC says (quick ad before article appears) Business Week, Scott Hamilton (10/1/12)
- How is a recession defined?
- What data has the BCC used to come to the conclusion that a recession is not inevitable?
- What action is needed by the government to tackle ‘short term stagnation and a lack of business confidence’?
- What could explain the 4.1% increase in sales in December compared with the previous year? Why is this data not thought to represent a ‘fundamental change in the circumstances of UK consumers’?
- What is expected to happen to UK inflation and employment during the first quarter of 2012?
- Why does the eurozone crisis present a problem for confidence and British exporters?