Thursday, December 22, 2011

Evidence to support my blog post of 16 December comes from the chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, Olivier Blanchard - 'substantial fiscal consolidation is needed, and debt levels must decrease. But it should be, in the words of Angela Merkel, a marathon rather than a sprint'. This is because IMF research suggests that 'it does not take large multipliers for the joint effects of fiscal consolidation and the implied lower growth to lead in the end to an increase, not a decrease, in risk spreads on government bonds'.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Daniel Gros provides a clear economic analysis of an issue that has been prominent in recent debates. The question is whether austerity measures can, by reducing growth, serve to worsen government budget deficits. Gros finds that this is indeed possible in the short run, but not in the long run.

The long run finding is not surprising - to find otherwise would imply that (simply by reversing austerity measures) we could get 'money for nothing'. It is the short run finding that is both interesting and important - because it places importance on the pace with which austerity measures are applied. Few (if any) serious commentators would argue with the need to narrow the budget deficit. The choices are about how best to achieve this.

Monday, December 05, 2011

President Sarkozy and Chancellor Merkel are engaged in discussions about how to ensure fiscal discipline in the Eurozone. Amidst much rhetoric about fiscal union, there are differences about how this should be achieved. Merkel favours strict control of member states' budgets by the European institutions, with heavy penalties for members that violate limits. Sarkozy is reluctant to cede sovreignty. Both leaders are in glass houses; the early violations by their countries of the budget deficit limits of the 1997 Stability and Growth Pact set the scene for more widespread transgressions.

The leaders must tread a tough line - going too far too fast threatens democracy, but not going far enough threatens to prolong the crisis. A key part of the solution should surely involve automatic imposition of disciplinary measures. Conditional bonds continue to look as though they offer an attractive (albeit maybe only partial) solution.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

It's good to see some sense of sanity returning in one place at least - the spread between French and German rates on 10 year bonds has tumbled back down to more sensible levels.

Meanwhile, the corresponding spread for Italy is proving to be somewhat more stubborn, though it has fallen by more than 0.75% points since 9 November.

Concerted action by several central banks, aimed at increasing liquidity by making it cheaper to borrow dollars, has been well received by the markets - possibly less for itself than because it hints at a growing awareness that the European Central Bank will indeed need to intervene through quantitative easing.