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UK economy may be at risk as trade war and brexit are growing

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England/LONDON (Reuters) – Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said a global trade war and a no-deal Brexit were growing risks to Britain’s economy which might need more help to cope with a downturn, prompting investors to increase their bets on a BoE interest rate cut.

Carney highlighted a “sea change” in concern among investors about the world economy, caused in large part by the trade policies of U.S. President Donald Trump.

“The latest actions raise the possibility that trade tensions could be far more pervasive, persistent and damaging than previously expected. The rationales for action are broadening,” he said in a speech.

Carney said low inflation in many advanced economies might mean the so-called equilibrium interest rate – which keeps inflation on target and the economy operating at full capacity – is lower than central banks believe.

But he also suggested that government spending increases or tax cuts would be needed to offset a shock, given how low borrowing costs already are in many parts of the world.

“Monetary policy space could be more limited in some jurisdictions, increasing the desirability that fiscal policy supplement it if a downturn materialises,” he said.

Both of the candidates to become Britain’s next prime minister have promised higher spending and tax cuts to help the economy after Brexit.

Sterling fell on Carney’s comments, hitting a two-week low against the U.S. dollar and pushing the 10-year gilt yield below the BoE’s Bank Rate – currently 0.75% – for the first time in a decade, according to data from Tradeweb.

Investors put a 57% probability of a rate cut by the BoE by the end of the year, up from 41% earlier in the day.

“I don’t think he is telling us that a rate cut is imminent but at the very least the balance of risks has changed,” said Ross Walker, an economist with NatWest Markets.

Despite dovish signals from the U.S. Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank, the BoE has stuck to its message that rates will need to rise in a gradual and limited way if Britain manages to exit the European Union with a transition deal to absorb the economic shock.

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Carney acknowledged the widening differences between that position and the more pessimistic view of investors, especially after Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt – the candidates to replace Theresa May as prime minister – said they were prepared to leave the EU without a deal if necessary.

Carney said the central bank was working on the assumption that both candidates would achieve their stated aim of reaching a deal with the EU.

If that happened, the outlook for Britain’s economy could improve quickly, which is why the BoE has not changed its main message about the outlook for rates.

“In the UK, the combination of the relatively strong initial conditions – including a tight labour market and inflation at target – and the prospect of greater clarity emerging in the near term regarding the UK and EU’s future relationship argues for a focus on the medium-term inflation dynamics,” Carney said.

He said the BoE would “explore how to best illustrate these sensitivities” in an August update of its economic forecast, when it would also assess the implications of the “global sea change” in concerns among investors about the economic outlook.

Carney also noted how sharply markets had reversed their bets on further U.S. rate hikes and were pricing in rate cuts by the Federal Reserve in the face of uncertainty.

“In some jurisdictions, the impact may warrant a near-term policy response as insurance to maintain the expansion,” he said.

“Markets are currently pricing in much more stimulus than this, suggesting greater pessimism about trade developments as well as potentially concerns about the absence of inflationary pressures.”

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EU incoming economy chief calls for less restrictive budget policies

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By Gavin Jones

ROME (Reuters) – The European Union needs looser budgetary policies and an overhaul of its fiscal rulebook, the bloc’s designated economics commissioner said in an article published on Sunday.

Writing in Italian financial daily Il Sole 24 Ore, Paolo Gentiloni said that while the EU’s deficit and debt rules must not be ignored, they needed to be “reviewed and updated”.

“It’s time for countries which have fiscal space to use it, in an overall context of less restrictive budgetary policies,” Gentiloni, due to replace Pierre Moscovici as economic and financial affairs commissioner on Nov. 1, said.

The former Italian prime minister warned that with the EU economy slowing, “the risks of a prolonged period of low growth must not be overlooked” and the task of stimulating the economy “cannot be left to monetary policy alone”.

Gentiloni will have an important role in scrutinizing Italy’s draft 2020 budget which was submitted to the Commission last week.

The budget plan raises next year’s structural deficit — which excludes the effect of GDP growth fluctuations — by 0.1% of gross domestic product, reversing a previous commitment by Rome to lower it by 0.6%.

EU Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis told Reuters on Friday that Brussels would ask Italy for “clarifications” over its budget intentions.

However, even though the budget seems to flout EU rules, many analysts expect the Commission to take a lenient approach and avoid a prolonged dispute with Rome like the one that broke out last year when Italy had a less EU-friendly government.

Gentiloni, who comes from the pro-Europe Democratic Party which now governs with the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, said it was crucial that the budget plan comes from a government that has a constructive approach toward the EU.

Among what he termed new instruments needed help growth and stability, Gentiloni cited an EU-wide unemployment insurance scheme, without going into details.

(Reporting by Gavin Jones; Editing by Canada News Media)

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Lebanese continue protests, demand government to fix economy

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Tens of thousands of demonstrators have gathered in Lebanon‘s streets on Sunday for a fourth day of anti-government protests that have led to the resignation of a Christian party from the government.

Demonstrators, who have been on the streets since Thursday, have pledged to continue marching despite the resignations late on Saturday of four government members from the key political party, Lebanese Forces.

Labour Minister Camille Abousleiman, one of the four to quit the government, told Al Jazeera shortly after the decision that they had “lost faith in the government’s ability to effect change and address the problem”.

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Lebanese citizens have been suffering from tax hikes and dire economic conditions in the heavily indebted country.

Lebanon’s public debt stands at around $86bn – more than 150 percent of gross domestic product, according to the finance ministry.

The grievances and anger at the government’s lack of solutions erupted into protests on Thursday, sparked by hikes in taxes including a proposed $0.2 tax on calls via messaging apps such as WhatsApp.

Such calls are the main method of communication for many Lebanese and, despite the government’s swift abandonment of the tax, the demonstrations quickly swelled into the largest in years.

“It is day four and protesters are back on the street. It’s not just in the capital Beirut, but across the country. The message they [protesters] are giving is of defiance and that they will continue to demand the resignation of the government,” said Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr, reporting from Beirut.

“While there are tens of thousands on the street protesting, there are still people who are backing the political parties, so it is not going to be easy to bring a change. These people out there want a nationalist leader whose loyalty is to Lebanon and not a political party.”

In an attempt to appease demonstrators, Lebanon’s finance minister, following a meeting with Prime Minister Saad Hariri, announced that they had agreed on a final budget that did not include any additional taxes or fees.

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“We want everybody to join us on Sunday and also Monday to topple the government,” one protester said.

On Friday, Hariri gave a 72-hour deadline to his partners in government to agree on a solution to the country’s economic woes without imposing new taxes.

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, whose movement is part of the government, warned on Saturday that a change in government would only worsen the situation.

The army on Saturday called on protesters to “express themselves peacefully without harming public and private property”.

What is the solution to Lebanon’s economic and political crisis?

On Saturday evening, thousands were packed for a third straight night into the Riyadh al-Solh square in central Beirut, despite security forces having used tear gas and water cannon to disperse similar crowds a day before.

Amnesty International said the security forces’ reaction was excessive, pointing out that the vast majority of protesters were peaceful.

“The intention was clearly to prevent protesters gathering – in a clear violation of the right to peaceful assembly,” it said.

Small groups of protesters have also damaged shop fronts and blocked roads by burning tyres and other obstacles.

The Internal Security Forces said 70 arrests were made on Friday on accusations of theft and arson.

But all of those held at the main police barracks were released on Saturday, the National News Agency (NNA) said.

SOURCE:
Al Jazeera and news agencies

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Finance Officials Focus on Economy

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The IMF managing director, Kristalina Georgieva, said the threat from trade wars was a chief point of discussion for finance officials.

She said the IMF has estimated that the tariffs already imposed or threatened could shave 0.8% off global growth by the end of next year. Much of that stems from the fallout on business confidence.

In trade wars, “everybody loses,” she said. “Policymakers ought to take very seriously their obligations to international cooperation in trade.”

The World Bank’s president, David Malpass, said this week’s finance discussions had focused on how to address multiple challenges.

“Growth is slowing, investment is sluggish, manufacturing activity is soft and trade is weakening,” he said. “Climate change and fragility are making poor countries more vulnerable.”

He said the World Bank was committed to helping to address these challenges to provide a better life for the 700 million people in the world living in extreme poverty.

The IMF, in an updated economic outlook, projected the global economy would expand by 3% this year, the weakest in a decade, and said 90 percent of the world was experiencing a downshift in growth. But the IMF forecast growth will accelerate slightly to 3.4% in 2020, still below the 3.6% rate in 2018.

Jubilee USA, a religious organization fighting global poverty, said in a statement that while the IMF outlined a number of serious threats, the recommendations for dealing with them fell short.

“Risky investing, trade tensions and developing countries borrowing too much are serious concerns for financial stability,” said Eric LeCompte, the group’s executive director.

While Trump’s trade policies were a prime topic of discussion at the meetings, finance officials for the most part avoided direct criticism of the American president.

Christine Lagarde, who dealt with the Trump administration during her last three years as head of the IMF, was a bit more direct in an interview to be broadcast Sunday on CBS’s “60 Minutes.”

Asked about Trump’s trade war with China, she said it would give the world’s economy “a big haircut” and should be resolved by having all parties “sit down like big men, many men in those rooms and put everything on the table, and try to deal bit by bit, piece by piece, so that we have certainty.”

On Trump’s frequent Twitter attacks on Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, Lagarde said central bankers need to be independent to do their jobs well.

“Market stability should not be the subject of a tweet here or a tweet there. It requires consideration, thinking, quiet and measured and rational decisions,” she said.

Lagarde is scheduled to take over on Nov. 1 as the head of the European Central Bank, which manages monetary policy for the 19 countries who use the euro currency.

(KR)

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