“Eurozone economy grows, business confidence up and unemployment down”

This is the sort of headline we were all expecting, right!

WRONG.

Even after billions of Euros have been injected into the Eurozone economy these past months, the result so far is that the Eurozone economy is stagnant,  business confidence is low and unemployment is unchanged.

Here are the latest statistics:

The economies of the 19 countries that use the euro grew by about 0.3% between April and June, according to official figures.

The first estimate from Eurostat marks a slight slowdown from the 0.4% registered in the first quarter.

The statistics agency also announced that inflation in the eurozone was 0.2% in July, unchanged from June’s figure.

Eleven member states reported deflation in the month, with Cyprus recording the biggest drop at -2.4%. Malta reported the most inflation at 1.2%.

The euro fell sharply at the start of the year, shedding more than 8 percent on a trade-weighted basis between January and March – its weakest quarter ever. The single currency did gain back some ground in the second quarter, rising just over 2 percent, but since the start of the year it is down almost 6 percent.

Exports grew strongly in Germany, helped by the weaker euro. The German economy grew 0.4%, up from 0.3% in the first quarter. Italy’s economy grew 0.2%, slowing from 0.3% the previous quarter.

French finance minister Michel Sapin said his country’s economy was still on track to reach the government’s forecast of 1% growth for the year.

He highlighted strong exports, which grew 1.7% in the quarter, having grown 1.3% in the previous quarter.

Economic reports from other northern euro zone economies gave little reason for optimism even though they have been spared the worst of the currency bloc’s debt crisis.

In the Netherlands, the economy grew by 0.1 percent on the quarter in the April-June period.

In Finland, gross domestic product (GDP) contracted in April-June for the fourth consecutive quarter as the Nordic euro zone member struggles to revive exports to its major markets, Europe and Russia.

Finland’s economy recorded a second quarter of contraction, down 0.4% having recorded negative growth of 0.1% in the first quarter.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

On the face of it, none of these figures point to any great economic problems in the Eurozone. However, the real problems lie underneath these headline statistics.

Drive through Portugal. The country is starting to resemble a third world country. Greece’s economy is already a a basket case and Italy is hovering on the edge. Spain is not much better, struggling along, but not really good.

Then let’s look at the unemployment rates in the EU. In Spain, the unemployment rate is about 22%. Youth unemployment in Spain is about 50%. Only Greece’s unemployment rates are worse than Spain’s in the whole of the EU, and not by much!

Matt O’Brien a reporter for Wokblog on The Washington Post web-site and he covers economic affairs. He wrote this thoughtful little article, a few week’s ago.

The euro is a disaster even for the countries that do everything right

 by Matt O’Brien (17 July 2015)

The euro might be worse for you than bankruptcy.

That, at least, has been the case for Finland and the Netherlands, which have actually grown less than Iceland has since 2007. Iceland, you might recall, basically went bankrupt in 2008.

Now, it’s true that Finland and the Netherlands have had their fair share of economic problems, but those should have been manageable. Neither country is a basket case, and both have done what they were supposed to do. In other words, they’ve followed the rules, and the results have still been a catastrophe. That’s because the euro itself is. Or, if you want to be polite, the common currency is “imperfect, and being imperfect is fragile, vulnerable, and doesn’t deliver all the benefits it could.” That was European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi’s verdict on Thursday.

So what’s happened to them? Well, just your run-of-the-mill bad economic news. It’s only a slight exaggeration to say that Apple has kneecapped Finland’s economy. Its two biggest exports were Nokia phones and paper products, but, as the country’s former prime minister Alex Stubb has said, the iPhone killed the former and the iPad killed the latter. Now, the normal way to make up for this would be to cut costs by devaluing your currency, except that Finland doesn’t have a currency to devalue anymore. It has the euro. So instead it’s had to cut costs by cutting wages, which not only takes longer, but also causes more economic damage since you have to fire people to convince them to take pay cuts. The result has been a recession longer than anything in Finland’s living memory, longer even than its great depression in the early 1990s. It hasn’t helped, of course, that the rules of the euro zone have forced Finland’s government to cut its budget at the same time that all this has been happening.

It’s been a different kind of story in the Netherlands. Its goods are more than competitive abroad—its trade surplus is an absurd 10 percent of economic output—but its domestic spending is a problem. The Netherlands had a huge housing bubble, fueled, in part, by the fact that interest payments are fully tax deductible, that has since deflated some 20 percent. That’s left Dutch households with a bigger debt burden than anyone else in the euro zone. On top of that, there’s been the usual austerity to keep its recovery from being much—or any—of one. Indeed, the Netherlands’ economy was slightly smaller at the end of 2014 than it was at the end of 2007. That’s a lot better than Finland, whose economy has shrunk 5.2 percent during that time, but, as you can see below, it still lags the 1.1 percent growth Iceland has eked out.

Now, it’s hard to do worse than Iceland. It basically turned its entire economy into a hedge fund that collapsed in 2008. Its banks defaulted, its government had to be bailed out, and its currency collapsed 60 percent. Not only that, but, between 2009 and 2014, Iceland did nearly twice as much austerity as the Netherlands and 12 times as much as Finland. And if that wasn’t enough, Iceland’s economic jeremiad also includes high household debt and capital controls that have prevented people from moving money out of the country and dissuaded them from moving it in.

But despite all this, Iceland has still managed to outperform Finland and the Netherlands. How is that possible? Well, it doesn’t have the euro. It has its own currency, the krona. And as much as it hurt Iceland’s people to lose 60 percent of their purchasing power on imported goods when the krona fell that much, it helped Iceland’s economy by making their goods more competitive overseas. That was enough to keep what could have been a depression from turning into anything other than a bad recession.

The euro, though, does the opposite. Countries can’t devalue their currencies or cut interest rates or even spend more when they get into trouble, and so they stay in trouble. All they can do is cut wages, cut spending, and then cut wages some more as penance for whatever economic transgressions they may or may not have committed. The euro straitjacket, in other words, turns ordinary problems into extraordinary ones (Finland) and extraordinary problems into historic ones (Greece). And that can happen whether or not you follow the rules.

The euro is a capricious god, meting out punishment to sinners and saints alike.”

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About Peter Smith

A "foot-soldier" in the wider Post Capitalism Movement. First task - keep spreading the words of change, hope & inspiration.
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8 Responses to “Eurozone economy grows, business confidence up and unemployment down”

  1. Pim says:

    I should have added to the last but one alinea.

    Lowering taxes would of course result in an increase of sovereign debt.

    Like

  2. Pim says:

    Peter,

    As far as the Dutch figures are concerned. Barely growth indeed, but that is because we had to cut our natural gas production with 25%. The cut will be permanent, so there will be no further effect in the following quarters. Growth at a higher rate is expected.

    Household debt in Holland is indeed (compared to other Eurozone countries) much higher, which is of course the result of stupid policies of a number of Dutch governments.

    If you add them together, you will see that there is very little difference in the total burden of debt per capita between Italy and Holland.

    Now Italy could easily decrease sovereign debt by increasing taxes. That, of course, wouldn’t make the government very popular. The Dutch government would make itself very popular if it would decrease taxes and by doing so allowing the Dutch households to pay off their debts.

    What I’m trying to say here, it is not only the sovereign debt that causes hardship. Before you are demanding debt relief from others, like Yanis does, you shouldn’t only look at sovereign debt, but you should also look at household debt.

    Like

    • LeaNder says:

      Thanks for repeating that, Pim. In the revolutionary business there is no such a distinction as private and public. After all they even seemed to have considered to take over the Bank of Greece. Although, without checking carefully before. Simply add anyone that has saved a little something to the larger group of oligarchs. 😉

      Before Raiding The Bank Of Greece, Look At Their Balance Sheet!

      Eric’s video link made it more visual then anything else. But really it was something that was vaguely on my mind, when I read Yanis 2010 Grand Hoover tale. It felt his intention was to somewhat redirect a mainly private (possession wise) German surplus. I couldn’t quite wrap my head around it. …

      Erik, is quite helpful. Did you take a look at the reports he linked. Look at link 3 introduction Ideally cross check the report before Jan-March.

      And thanks for the necessary humor, I seriously need it on topic like this, to keep me relatively stable. 😉

      Like

  3. LeaNder says:

    Ok, considering you have no idea about economics you are juggling well with it.

    But since I do not have the background to read it, and admittedly no big interest in economics, I got tired after a while.

    What’s your suggestion beyond my admittedly superficial grasp. Which reads:

    So the Eurozone is anti-growth and growth always has a trickle down effect. Just as it is the right way to go. Thus: instead of “playing extend and pretend” we should simply break up the Eurozone first and then the EU completely after?

    Like

    • Do not despair. Perhaps the best thing going for us novices is that we approach things with a fresh, untainted eye. No preconceived ideas or theories have been rammed down our throats in Economics school. You will be surprised how far you can go with just logic and common sense. That said, I am not discarding the experts. They have a role to play. But look where we are now? This is where our “experts” have got us. And it does not look pretty!

      The ideas that we amateurs toss around, discuss, criticize, discard and promote are to encourage debate on these issues and to help make things more understandable to the common-person-in-the-street. After all, when it comes to the politics, that is what is going to make the difference. The electorate is going to vote for the person/party who they think are going to make a positive difference to their lives. And if they are being bamboozled and misled, then they are going to end up having things that are not really what they wished for.

      “break up the Eurozone first and then the EU completely after” is, of course, a simplistic statement with not much real meaning. It has become obvious to me that the Eurozone and the EU in its current format has proven to be a mistake. All my studies lead me to conclude that a common currency cannot work well amongst nations with diverse economic conditions. As far as the EU is concerned, I believe that this is a good concept. However, the structure of this family of nations will need to be done differently, if the real benefits of “togetherness” are to be achieved. Otherwise it may just be better to go back to the way things were, right in the beginning.

      “extend and pretend” was a phrase originally coined by Yanis V, I believe, to describe the delusion of the Greek crisis cure. Keep extending more loans and pretend that the loans will get paid back sometime in the future. Yanis loves to use these slick and quick phrases to describe events. I like them too, but it can be confusing for a novice who does not appreciate the underlying meaning.

      Like

      • LeaNder says:

        Peter, that was sarcasm. But, yes, maybe I should have put that in the end.

        Yanis loves to use these slick and quick phrases to describe events. I like them too, but it can be confusing for a novice who does not appreciate the underlying meaning.

        So you are no novice in economics after all? Or you suddenly feel pretty expert once you meet a complete nitwit like me?

        I am not a complete novice in economics either, mind you. But it’s a complex field after all. I do in fact have a post-doc degree that covered two fields, economics and law in a special program, for a special type of people.

        But what are you trying to tell me. Once you enjoyed and embraced with all your heart the “slick and quick” phrases, you can vote slicked-y-quicky?

        No harm, meant. 😉

        ***********
        If left this comment today on your liked top blog:
        link to my friend Cerberos, aka Dean Passaras
        But it’s uber critical that Tsipras deals with the ND+Pasok problem now and extinguishes them as potent political forces for sometime to come. Opportunities like that don’t appear every day. Carpe diem. You don’t need to be Julius Caesar to understand this.

        I am pleased, the true revolutionary spirit is still alive!!! My dear friend DP or Cerberos, if I may?

        First step is to extinguish them. Absolutely no doubt. Would be a 95% vote be about enough?

        Be careful though, don’t simply sent them into the wilderness like it happened in Iraq. Since that may produce a counter-revolutionary-neo-revolutionary force. Make sure they are thoroughly extinguished, would be my advise.

        Like

      • No offense taken!

        You are really going to have to get a bit more self-confidence. Judging by your very intellectual comments that you make to posts, you are hardly a nit-wit……and definitely no more so than the economists and politicians running the show at the moment.

        PS. Dean P is a bit of a strange dude. I can’t always make out which side of the fence he is on sometimes. At one stage, I was wondering if he was Yanis’ alter-ego but then, of course, I realized that Yanis is such a straight shooter that he would never stoop to using such misleading tactics.

        Like

      • LeaNder says:

        Well, there is a lot of censorship going on, and he is always around. That’s enough for me to know.

        I am not sure either, if Yanis is a “straight shooter”, but I do not really care a lot about him either.

        Put more simply, I trust Iannos, I distrust Yanis. I will read Iannos book, I will hardly ever touch one of Yanis.

        Liked by 1 person

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