September 2015

The US economy grew faster than previously thought by 3.9% in the second quarter of the year, exceeding economists’ expectations. New estimate fuels expectations the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates in 2015…

Powered by Guardian.co.uk

 

Government data suggested the world’s biggest economy grew at an annual pace of 3.9% between April and June, exceeding economists’ expectations for the GDP estimate to stay unchanged at 3.7%. It marked an even stronger bounceback from the sluggish 0.6% growth recorded in the opening months of 2015 when an especially harsh winter hit economic activity.

The report followed comments on Thursday from the head of the US central bank, Janet Yellen, who said she could start raising borrowing costs from their record low “later this year”.

US GDP

The dollar strengthened against other currencies and US stock markets rallied after the upward revision to GDP, which the Commerce Department said was largely driven by consumer spending being stronger than previously thought.

Economists said the figures left the door open for the US central bank to raise interest rates from their current record low of close to zero at policy meetings in October or December.

“Yellen has confirmed a hike can still occur in 2015, so speculation over a December move is currently rife in the market – with short-term dollar bulls hoping for an October move,” said Alex Lydall, senior trader at foreign exchange business Foenix Partners.

“With the exception of inflation, economic indicators are still solid for the domestic economy in the US, so the pertinent question remains: will the Fed risk looking irresponsible and delay rate hikes into 2016, or will they take the plunge this year, with perhaps a more cautious hike than the expected 0.25%? The jury is still out.”

The Federal Reserve held off raising borrowing costs at its policy meeting last week as it cited volatility in the global economy. But Yellen indicated in a speech on Thursday this week that there was a still a good chance the first hike for almost a decade could come before the year is out. She said US economic prospects “generally appear solid” and it was best not to wait too long to tighten policy, which has been ultra-loose since the global financial crisis.

However, some experts noted that GDP figures did not give the most up-to-date picture of the economy’s performance and that more timely economic indicators painted a gloomier picture.

The revision had “little bearing on US policy”, said Chris Williamson, chief economist at economic data company Markit, which tracks business activity in the US and other economies.

“It does little to change the story that the economy rebounded strongly in the spring after the weak patch seen earlier in the year. More important are the forward-looking indicators, which include a number of red flag warnings that growth is slowing amid headwinds of the strong dollar, slumping oil prices, financial market volatility and emerging market jitters,” he added.

“The more up-to-date survey data play into the hands of dovish policymakers and will reduce the odds of interest rates rising any time soon.”

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.


USA 

Alexis Tsipras and his party have returned to power with a mandate to govern Greece and implement the bailout deal. Syriza officials said the party would seek to form a stable government immediately with the aim of maintaining confidence in the country…

Powered by Guardian.co.uk

 

How well did Syriza and Alexis Tsipras do?

With 99.5% of the votes counted, Syriza had 35.5% of the vote, easily beating the centre-right New Democracy, the next biggest party on 28.1%. After Tsipras disappointed supporters by accepting a harsh eurozone-led austerity programme finalised in August, leftwingers appeared to be deserting Syriza, with polls showing New Democracy level just two weeks ago. But Syriza will now have 145 seats in the 300-member parliament – just four fewer than when Tsipras took power in January. Its share of the vote is also less than one percentage point down on its 36.3% share in January, although turnout was put at a record low of 55.6%.

What next for Syriza and Alexis Tsipras?

Syriza officials said the party would seek to form a stable government immediately with the aim of maintaining confidence in the country. Its former coalition partner, the small anti-austerity rightwing Independent Greeks party, is ready to use its 10 seats to forge a power-sharing agreement with Syriza. Independent Greeks’ leader, Panos Kammenos, joined Tsipras on stage to celebrate the result. Tsipras claimed the result gave him a mandate to govern and that he intended to serve a full term, promising relief for voters weary from five elections in six years.

Does this change the bailout deal with the EU?

No. Syriza campaigned on a pledge to implement the €86bn (£63bn) bailout, while pledging measures to protect vulnerable groups from some of its effects. In exchange for the bailout funds, Tsipras agreed to deficit-reduction measures including tax rises, changes to pensions and social welfare cuts. Other aspects include labour market reform, liberalisation of consumer markets and fewer perks for civil servants. Tsipras’s first task will be to persuade EU lenders that Greece has taken enough agreed steps to ensure the next payment. The bailout programme is up for review next month.

Could the IMF decline to join the bailout?

Yes. The International Monetary Fund has said it will refuse to take part in the bailout unless there is an “explicit and concrete” agreement on debt relief for Greece. The IMF has argued that Greece cannot bear the full burden of the austerity programme and that its creditors should include debt relief in the package. Without a long moratorium on repayments, perhaps of 30 years, or a reduction in the value of the debt, the burden will become unmanageable, the IMF has argued.

Will Greece need another bailout anyway?

Greece might need another rescue. Tsipras hopes Syriza’s electoral victory will give him renewed clout to negotiate debt relief and less onerous austerity measures from Greece’s creditors. But that stance will not be popular with Germany or European institutions that imposed draconian measures on Greece in the name of fiscal discipline. If Tsipras is unable to extract significant concessions, the economy will remain weak, endangering deficit-reduction targets in the current deal and potentially requiring another bailout to head off a debt default.

What do the markets think?

Reaction in financial markets was muted on Monday morning. The euro was little changed while Britain’s FTSE 100 share index, which has gyrated in the past in reaction to Greek events, rose slightly. The yield on Greek two-year bonds fell a little, meaning traders think the risk of default is reduced. Simon Smith, chief economist at the currency trader FxPro, said: “The immediate impact has been minimal, the single currency opening little changed versus Friday’s opening levels. In the wider picture, it’s not going to make life any easier for the likes of the EU, IMF and European Central Bank and the negotiations surrounding debt sustainability over the coming months.”

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.