PARIS (Reuters) – The French economy is still on course to rebound 5% this year despite the uncertainty created by the coronavirus pandemic, the head of the central bank said on Tuesday, reiterating its December forecast.
The euro zone’s second-biggest economy suffered its deepest post-war recession last year, with gross domestic product contracting 8.3% due to the coronavirus outbreak and measures to contain it, including two national lockdowns.
“I can confirm our forecast for 5% growth for the whole of 2021. It’s robust and rather cautious while reflecting of course the great uncertainty around the health situation,” Bank of France Governor Francois Villeroy de Galhau said in an interview with the Ebra regional newspapers group.
Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has built the 2021 budget on a forecast for 6% growth this year, although he has in recent weeks indicated that that might be a stretch.
The central bank estimated on Tuesday that the economy was likely operating this month down 5% from pre-crisis levels, unchanged from the previous two months.
Companies consulted by the central bank in its monthly business climate survey reported stable expectations for business activity despite high uncertainty over the health outlook, the Bank of France said in a monthly report.
The French government has for now held off on imposing a new, third national coronavirus lockdown although it has also not ruled such action out if the outbreak risks spiralling further out of control.
Last month the government tightened restrictions by moving an 8:00 pm curfew to 6:00 pm and required large shopping centres to close as well as the hospitality and entertainment sectors, which have already been largely closed for months.
Reflecting such restrictions, the central bank’s survey showed that the service sector continued to be harder hit than the industry, where production capacity reached 74% in January compared with a pre-crisis average of 79%.
(Reporting by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Hugh Lawson)
Biden on brink of passing historic $1.9tn boost to US economy – Financial Times
Joe Biden is on the brink of securing final approval from Congress for his $1.9tn stimulus bill — a bet that massive fiscal intervention aimed at lower and middle class families will speed up America’s recovery without overheating the economy.
After the US Senate voted to approve the package on Saturday, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives is poised to give its final green light to the bill on Tuesday, allowing it to be signed into law by Biden.
Barring any last-minute trouble in the House, where Democrats hold a slim majority, the stimulus legislation will mark a big political victory for Biden, who made it his top priority since entering the White House on January 20.
The stimulus bill — known as the American Rescue Plan — represents one of the largest US government interventions in the economy of the post-world war two era — just short of the size of the $2.2tn March 2020 pandemic stimulus, but larger than the $787bn recovery plan during the 2009 financial crisis.
The prospects for its passage have already led many private-sector economists to upgrade their forecasts for US growth this year. Federal Reserve officials are likely to do the same when they publish their latest economic projections next week.
But the plan has attracted criticism from Republican lawmakers — who have so far unanimously opposed the plan — as well as some economists, including Lawrence Summers, the treasury secretary under Bill Clinton — who say it risks a harmful spike in inflation.
A recent sell-off in long-term government debt — with yields on 10-year Treasury bonds rising above 1.5 per cent for the first time in more than a year — has fuelled those concerns, though senior US policymakers including Janet Yellen, the treasury secretary, and Jay Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, have dismissed the worries.
Around the world, the US stimulus package could give a fresh jolt to the global recovery amid hopes that widespread vaccinations throughout the year will help reopen many economies. But any unintended jump in US inflation or debt yields could unsettle markets and prove particularly harmful for emerging markets.
Domestically, Biden’s top aides and many Democrats on Sunday touted the plan as “historic and transformational” legislation for families that have struggled through the pandemic. The bill — which will be financed entirely by adding to the US deficit — will dispatch $1,400 means-tested payments to most Americans; extend emergency federal jobless benefits worth $300 per week until September; increase a tax credit for children; provide aid to states and local governments; and boost funding for schools and vaccinations.
“This is a bill that reflects President Biden’s belief that the best way to get the economy back on track and get it growing is to invest in working people and middle class people,” Kate Bedingfield, the White House communications director, told CNN. “It is urgent aid that is going to help people all across the country but it’s also making a long-term investment,” she added.
The US president had applauded passage of the Senate’s version in remarks on Saturday, following an all-night session in the upper chamber of Congress.
Biden was on Sunday expected to sign an executive order to boost voting rights, at an event commemorating the civil rights protesters who were tear-gassed and beaten by state troopers in Selma Alabama 56 years ago.
Senate passage of the stimulus legislation — by a party-line 50 to 49 vote — was held up for hours as Democratic leaders sought to get the decisive consent of Joe Manchin, the moderate West Virginia Democrat, who was insisting on tighter terms for the jobless benefits.
On Sunday, Manchin did the rounds of US television networks to trumpet his role in the talks, rejecting any fears that the Biden plan was excessive.
“I can assure you, we have helped every segment of society right now, more so than ever before with this piece of targeted legislation,” he told Fox News Sunday.
The global economy won't recover if we don't get vaccines to developing countries, too – CNN
First, step up efforts to end the health crisis
Second, step up the fight against the economic crisis
Third, step up support to vulnerable countries
With many vaccinated, Israel reopens economy before election – NEWS 1130 – News 1130
JERUSALEM — Israel reopened most of its economy Sunday as part of its final phase of lifting coronavirus lockdown restrictions, some of them in place since September.
The easing of restrictions comes after months of government-imposed shutdowns and less than three weeks before the country’s fourth parliamentary elections in two years. Israel, a world leader in vaccinations per capita, has surged forward with immunizing nearly 40% of its population in just over two months.
Bars and restaurants, event halls, sporting events, hotels and all primary and secondary schools that had been closed to the public for months could reopen with some restrictions in place on the number of people in attendance, and with certain places open to the vaccinated only.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government approved the easing of limitations Saturday night, including the reopening of the main international airport to a limited number of incoming passengers each day.
Netanyahu is campaigning for reelection as Israel’s coronavirus vaccine champion at the same time that he is on trial for corruption.
Israel has sped ahead with its immunization campaign. Over 52% of its population of 9.3 million has received one dose and almost 40% two doses of the Pfizer vaccine, one of the highest rates per capita in the world. After striking a deal to obtain large quantities of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines in exchange for medical data, Israel has distributed over 8.6 million doses since launching its vaccination campaign in late December.
While vaccination rates continue to steadily rise and the number of serious cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, drops, Israel’s unemployment rate remains high. As of January, 18.4% of the workforce was out of work because of the pandemic, according to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics.
At the same time that it has deployed vaccines to its own citizens, Israel has provided few vaccines for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, a move that has underscored global disparities. It has faced criticism for not sharing significant quantities of its vaccine stockpiles with the Palestinians. On Friday, Israel postponed plans to vaccinate Palestinians who work inside the country and its West Bank settlements until further notice.
Israeli officials have said that its priority is vaccinating its own population first, while the Palestinian Authority has said it would fend for itself in obtaining vaccines from the WHO-led partnership with humanitarian organizations known as COVAX.
Israel has confirmed at least 800,000 cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic and 5,861 deaths, according to the Health Ministry.
Ilan Ben Zion, The Associated Press
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