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Bailed-Out Euro Nations Expect Painful Challenges to Remain – Bloomberg

Bailed-Out Euro Nations Expect Painful Challenges to Remain – Bloomberg.

Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg
Adjustment in Greece, after four years of cuts and efforts to make the economy more competitive, has come at “an extremely high socioeconomic cost,” Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said.

Bailed-out euro-area countries are facing “painful” challenges with worse-than-anticipated consequences of economic adjustment, including high unemployment and slow growth, central banks and finance ministries said.

Officials and ministers from Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Cyprus, in responses to European Union lawmaker questions published yesterday, described how their countries’ emergency aid had been followed by social hardship and continuing economic difficulties.

The bailout program had a “worse-than-expected impact on both output and employment,” Portugal’s finance ministry said. The program in Cyprus was “rigorous and painful,” according to the island’s central bank. Adjustment in Greece, after four years of cuts and efforts to make the economy more competitive, has come at “an extremely high socioeconomic cost,” Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said.

The testimonies come three-and-a-half years after Greece became the first euro-area country to be bailed out, using EU and International Monetary Fund loans. Since then the German-led path of aid in return for reforms and debt cuts has seen 396 billion euros ($538 billion) committed to the region’s four most fragile economies, with an additional 100 billion euros pledged for Spain’s banking sector. The bloc has endured the longest recession in its history and unemployment has reached record levels.

Bond Rally

Government bonds in the euro-area’s most indebted nations have rallied this year, pushing Portugal and Ireland’s 10-year yields to the lowest since 2010 and 2006 respectively, as recovery sign’s in the region have boosted demand for higher-yielding debt.

Portugal expects to restart bond auctions in the first half of 2014, its debt agency said yesterday, after selling one-year bills at the lowest yield since November 2009. Greece’s Stournaras said last week that the government may sell five-year notes in the second half of the year, for the first time since being shut out of the bond markets in 2010. It would follow Ireland, which sold bonds last week for the first time since completing its bailout program.

Greek 10-year yields have dropped 68 basis points this year to 7.74 percent, after touching 7.53 percent on Jan. 13, the lowest since May 2010. The yield on similar-maturity Portuguese securities reached the lowest since August 2010 at 5.07 percent yesterday.

More Accountability

EU lawmakers questioned whether the so-called troika, comprising the European Commission,European Central Bank and IMF, which sets conditions for the countries receiving bailouts and monitors their progress, should have been more accountable and could have prevented the most painful effects of austerity. The European Parliament’s economic and monetary affairs committee is today discussing the responses received about the troika’s work.

European lawmakers will continue to work to make the troika more accountable, EU Parliament President Martin Schulz said on Twitter yesterday. Schulz is a member of Germany’s Social Democrats, the junior partner in the country’s coalition government.

While finance ministries and central bankers said that the hardships associated with the bailout conditions could not be ignored, they said they backed the process.

Inevitable Program

“The program, although rigorous and painful, is the only way that will enable the country’s exit from the crisis,” Cyprus’s central bank said in its letter to the 28-nation European Parliament.

Portugal’s finance ministry said that it “remained convinced” a bailout program had been inevitable and that “on the whole it remains a suitable and rational response to the crisis of credibility threatening our country.”

Ireland’s bailout-program exit last month and its return to financial markets “confirms that our strategy of providing assistance to euro-area countries that requested it in return for strict conditionality is working,” Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch finance minister who chairs meetings of his 17 euro-area counterparts, said in his letter to EU lawmakers.

He said that while growth is returning to the euro area and the economic outlook is improving “a number of important challenges remain, most importantly unacceptably high levels of unemployment.”

Ireland’s bailout program can be considered a success, Michael Noonan, Ireland’s finance minister, said in his response to the parliament. Even so, unemployment is still high, economic growth has returned more slowly than predicted and the country’s overall level of debt remains elevated, with a peak of slightly over 120 percent of gross domestic product expected this year.

To contact the reporters on this story: Ian Wishart in Brussels at iwishart@bloomberg.net;Rebecca Christie in Brussels at rchristie4@bloomberg.net

Nigel Farage Booms “Europe Is Now Run By Big Banks, Big Business, And Big Bureaucrats” | Zero Hedge

Nigel Farage Booms “Europe Is Now Run By Big Banks, Big Business, And Big Bureaucrats” | Zero Hedge.

With Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras settling into his role as EU President, UKIP’s Nigel Farage stunned the “Goldman Sachs puppet” with a 150-second tirade of truthiness he has likely never experienced. Farage sacrastically remarks how Greeks “will be dancing in the streets” at Samaras’ ‘successful’ negotiation on MiFiD reminding him that “60% of youth are unemployed and the neo-nazi party are on the march.” Europe is now run by “big business, big banks, and big bureaucrats,” Farage goes on, suggesting the smarmy-looking Samaras should “rename his party from New Democracy to No Democracy.” People do not want a United State of Europe, the outspoken UKIP leader explains, they want a “Europe of sovereign states,” and concludes ominously, “the European elections will be a watershed.”

 

 

…And you come here Mr Samaras and you tell us that you represent the sovereign will of the Greek people? Well, I’m sorry, but you’re not in charge of Greece, and I suggest you rename and rebrand your party – it’s called ‘New Democracy’, I suggest you call it ‘No Democracy’.

 

Because Greece is now under foreign control. You can’t make any decisions, you’ve been bailed out, and you’ve surrendered democracy, the thing your country invented in the first place.

 

And you can’t admit that joining the euro was a mistake – of course Mr Papandreou did that didn’t he, he even said there should be a referendum in Greece and within 48 hours, the unholy trinity (troika) that now run this European Union had him removed and replaced by a ex-Goldman Sachs employee puppet.

 

We are run now by big business, big banks and in the shape of Mr Barroso, big bureaucrats…

Ouch!!

Europe’s Future: Inflation and Wealth Taxes – Ludwig von Mises Institute Canada

Europe’s Future: Inflation and Wealth Taxes – Ludwig von Mises Institute Canada.

Tax burdens are so high that it might not be possible to pay off the high levels of indebtedness in most of the Western world. At least, that is the conclusion of a new IMF paper from Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff.

Reinhart and Rogoff gained recent fame for their book “This Time It’s Different”, in whichthey argued that high levels of public debt have historically been associated with reduced growth opportunities.

As they now note, “The size of the problem suggests that restructurings will be needed, for example, in the periphery of Europe, far beyond anything discussed in public to this point.” Up to this point in the Eurocrisis the primary tools used to rescue profligate countries have included increased taxes, EU and IMF bailouts, and haircuts on government debt.

These bailouts have largely exacerbated the debt problems that existed five short years ago. Indeed, as Reinhart and Rogoff well note, the once fiscally sound North of Europe is now increasingly unable to continue shouldering the debts of its Southern neighbours.

 

General government debt (% GDP) Source: Eurostat (2012)

General government debt (% GDP)
Source: Eurostat (2012)

Six European countries currently have a government debt to GDP ratio – a metric popularlised by Reinhart and Rogoff to signal reduced growth prospects – of over 90%. Countries that were relatively debt-free just five short years ago are now encumbered by the debt repayments necessitated by bailouts. Ireland is a case in point – as recently as 2007 its government debt to GDP ratio was below 25%. Six years later that figure stands north of 120%! “Fiscally secure” Scandinavia should keep in mind that fortunes can change quickly, as happened to the luck of the Irish.

The debt crisis to date has been mitigated in large part by tax increases and transfers from the wealthy “core” of Europe to the periphery. The problem with tax increases is that they cannot continue unabated.

Total government tax revenue (% GDP) Source: Eurostat (2012)

Total government tax revenue (% GDP)
Source: Eurostat (2012)

Already in Europe there are seven countries where tax revenues are greater than 48% of GDP. There once was a time when only Scandinavia was chided for its high tax regimes and large public sectors. Today both Austria and France have more than half of their economies involved in the public sector and financed through taxes. (Note also that as they both run government budget deficits the actual size of their governments is greater yet.)

With high unemployment in Europe (and especially in its periphery), governments cannot raise much revenue by raising taxes – who would pay it? With already high levels of debt it is questionable how much revenue can be raised by further debt issuances, at least without increasing interest rates and imperiling already fragile government finances with higher interest charges.

Instead, Reinhart and Rogoff see two facts of life for Europe’s future: financial repression through higher inflation rates and taxes levied on savings and wealth. This time is no different than other cases of highly indebted countries in Europe’s history – just look to the post-War examples as similar cases in point. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

David Howden is Chair of the Department of Business and Economics, and professor of economics at St. Louis University, at its Madrid Campus, Academic Vice President of the Ludwig von Mises Institute of Canada, and winner of the Mises Institute’s Douglas E. French Prize. Send him mail.

ECB Sees Bad-Debt Rules as Threat to Credible Bank Review – Bloomberg

ECB Sees Bad-Debt Rules as Threat to Credible Bank Review – Bloomberg.

The European Central Bank is concerned that national differences in how bad debt is classified could cripple its probe into the health of euro-area banks, according to an internal ECB document.

Bad-debt classification practices across Europe show “material differences that, if not considered, would severely affect the consistency and credibility of the exercise,” according to the undated document obtained by Bloomberg News. A person familiar with the text said it was drawn up in late November and contains the ECB’s latest thinking on the subject. An ECB spokeswoman declined to comment.

Zombie Banks

The Frankfurt-based ECB is conducting a three-stage assessment of bank assets before it assumes oversight of about 130 lenders across the 18-member euro area this November. Using a strict definition of bad debt could threaten banks in countries hit hardest by Europe’s debt crisis, while a laxer rule may not reveal the true condition of the region’s financial system.

“A more ambitious definition would be consistent with the need to convey to external observers that the AQR is a thorough exercise,” the document said, referring to the Asset Quality Review stage of the Comprehensive Assessment. That’s set to culminate with a stress test run in cooperation with the European Banking Authority before October this year.

Photographer: Ralph Orlowski/Bloomberg

The headquarters of the European Central Bank (ECB) stands illuminated at night in Frankfurt.

Credit Quality

The ECB document said that not all countries may be able to comply with simplified definitions of non-performing loans set out in October by the London-based EBA, the EU’s top bank regulator, while saying that alignment to those rules is “of the essence.”

European banks’ bad loans are classified according to a variety of national rules, which makes a comparison among lenders difficult. The European Central Bank is struggling to harmonize the definition of non-performing loans so that it can give more credibility to its assessment of the credit quality of the region’s lenders.

In the first half of last year, total doubtful and non-performing loans as a proportion of lending calculated according to national rules exceeded 21 percent in Greece and were less than 1 percent in Sweden, ECB data show.

“It’s crucial to find common rules and a shared vision to overcome the national lobbies,” Karim Bertoni, a senior analyst on European equities at de Pury Pictet Turrettini & CIE SA in Geneva, said by telephone. “This is the main challenge for the ECB, which would allow a better management of banks and risk control.”

Simplified Definition

The ECB signaled it would apply the EBA’s simplified definition as a minimum, and where possible increase the level of detail on loans made by banks. The EBA sets financial standards for the 28 nations in the European Union, and is working with the ECB on the final part of the Comprehensive Assessment.

That minimum means the ECB would define as non-performing all exposures, including loans, debt securities, financial guarantees and other commitments, which are past due for more than 90 days. That differs from final, more complex, standards, due to be implemented by EBA by the end of this year, that include data on the likelihood of the borrower repaying. Only half of the countries examined could supply that data, according to the ECB report, while limiting the definition to the 90-day rule “seems feasible for the majority of countries.”

Financial Turmoil

Euro-area lenders from Banco Santander SA (SAN) in Spain to Alpha Bank SA (ALPHA) in Greece will come under ECB supervision, with oversight forming the first pillar of a nascent banking union designed to mitigate future financial turmoil.

ECB policy makers have said the central bank will provide more information on the treatment of non-performing loans and the parameters of the concluding stress test by the end of January.

While the simplified EBA rules should be adhered to in the Comprehensive Assessment as a minimum, adding further detail to the assessment could be possible since ECB officials will already be in contact with bank staff, the document said.

“Given the possibility to perform more granular analysis during the on-site visits, it is proposed that this analysis takes into account a more ambitious definition including the unlikeliness to repay criterion,” according to the document.

The ECB said that as there are so many variations between countries on the definition of forbearance — where banks shift the terms of a loan to account for a change in the debtor’s own income — the only possibility is to accept national definitions where they exist, as well as loans that were considered in that category until the end of 2012 but have since been recategorized.

For countries where no standard definition exists, the ECB said it may ask states to report all loans for which concessions have been granted as forborne.

To contact the reporters on this story: Sonia Sirletti in Milan at ssirletti@bloomberg.net; Jeff Black in Frankfurt at jblack25@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Craig Stirling at cstirling1@bloomberg.net; Frank Connelly at fconnelly@bloomberg.net

Greece begins EU presidency by saying austerity policies are intolerable | World news | The Guardian

Greece begins EU presidency by saying austerity policies are intolerable | World news | The Guardian.

Greek EU Presidency

The start of Greece’s six-month European Union presidency reinforced the isolation of German chancellor Angela Merkel. Photograph: Alkis Konstantinidis/EPA

Greece kicked off six months in charge of the European Union on Wednesday declaring that the imposition of austerity, spending cuts and fiscal policy by Berlin and Brussels could no longer be tolerated.

Coinciding with a growing backlash across the EU against the austerity policies mainly scripted in Berlin, the start of Greece’s EU presidency reinforced the isolation of German chancellor Angela Merkel, who has dominated the policy response to the EU crisis for the past four years.

Following four years at the sharpest end of Europe‘s debt and currency crisis and €250bn in bailout funds, the Greek government declared enough was enough.

“Greece does not want to have any more fiscal conditionality,” the finance minister, Yannis Stournaras, said on Wednesday. “It is out of the question because it is already too tough.”

The cry of exhaustion from a country that went broke, sank into years of slump and mass unemployment, slashed labour costs, and saw incomes collapse by more than a third is finding an echo not only across southern Europe but in the prosperous north, too, as leaders fear for their career prospects.

They have had enough of austerity, leaving Merkel, the main architect of spending cuts as the cure to Europe’s malaise, isolated as seldom before in what is becoming less of a financial crisis and more of a political battle for Europe’s future direction.

“The acute phase of the financial crisis is now over,” the US financier, George Soros, said last week. “Future crises will be political in origin.” He foresaw a bleak period of Japanese-style stagnation worsened by constant bickering between EU national leaders.

“What was meant to be a voluntary association of equal states has now been transformed by the euro crisis into a relationship between creditor and debtor countries that is neither voluntary nor equal. Indeed, the euro could destroy the EU altogether.”

The political frictions are visible, with leaders using vivid language to try to sway one another and win the argument. Merkel recently likened the situation to that of 1914, complaining of complacency and speaking of sleepwalking European leaders who led the continent into the first world war. She also evoked parallels with growing up under communism in East Germany, a rare public reference to her childhood experiences.

Describing the mood among most EU national leaders, a senior policymaker in Brussels said: “The worst of the crisis is over. So the pressure to take tough measures is off. We’ve had enough of discipline, enough of sanctions, we’re sufficiently unpopular already. The worst is over, so let’s stop now.”

Merkel, whose steering of the euro crisis propelled her to soaring popularity at home and a third term, has become increasingly resented among elites in other EU capitals, underlining the differences between Germany and the rest.

“The problem in Europe is that there is a government headed by one person,” a west European ambassador said in reference to Merkel. “That’s the issue and how to deal with it. All decisions are taken by one leader. This is what is happening now.”

If that has been a big part of the narrative for the past few years, however, the story went into reverse just before Christmas in the first week of Merkel’s new term. She went to a Brussels EU summit determined to push a new policy of compelling structural reforms on the economies of the eurozone. But she found herself supported by not one single other national leader, opposed not only by her foes, but also her friends such as the Dutch, Austrians and Finns.

“It was really a strange discussion,” said the policymaker, “difficult from the start, full of prejudice, ideology and fear.” Merkel was said to be disappointed. That much is clear from her private remarks to fellow leaders at the summit. A transcript of the exchange, obtained by Le Monde, highlighted her frustration.

She said: “Sooner or later the currency will explode without the necessary cohesion. If everyone behaves as they could under communism, then we are lost.”

Merkel’s plan was to empower the European commission in Brussels to police structural reforms in eurozone countries and to sweeten the pain of the changes by partially subsidising them. She denied that she was dictating anything, but said it was better to spend €3bn on the changes now than €10bn later.

She was supported by three European presidents, José Manuel Barroso of the commission, Herman Van Rompuy chairing the summit and Mario Draghi at the European Central Bank. None of the trio have to face the voter. All the other elected leaders were against and the plan was shelved.

One prime minister warned that the years of austerity had given rise to increasing populism. In Athens on Wednesday, the deputy Greek prime minister, Evangelos Venizelos, spoke of the growing appeal of neo-Nazis, racists and xenophobes. “In most of the EU we see a new wave of euro-scepticism.”

Soros went so far as to blame the German chancellor for this. “Angela Merkel’s policies are giving rise to extremist movements in the rest of Europe.”

The strength of the new anti-European movements on the far right and the hard left will be tested in the elections for the European parliament in May when they are expected to make gains at the expense of the centre and possibly win the poll outright in countries such as Britain, France, the Netherlands and Greece.

Fear of the impact of more extreme politics helps to explain the current aversion in most of Europe to the crisis solutions scripted in Berlin.

Spain Youth Unemployment Rises To Record 57.7%, Surpasses Greece | Zero Hedge

Spain Youth Unemployment Rises To Record 57.7%, Surpasses Greece | Zero Hedge.

There has been much speculation recently about some immaculately conceived Spanish economic recovery. And while it has certainly sent the local Ibex stock market soaring, we fail to see any indication of such a recovery, at least in official economic data. The latest example being, of course, today’s European unemployment for November, which at the Euroarea level remained flat at 12.1%, which also is the all time record high following a prior revision. However, what is more troubling is that according to the official European statistics keeper, Spanish unemployment in November was 26.7%: tied for the all time high seen in October and hardly an indicator of some imminent economic renaissance. There is, of course, always December – that month in the New Normal when hiring really picks up.

But where things get really bad is when one looks at Spain’s youth unemployment. At 57.7% in November, nearly two in three Spaniards under 25 had no job, and the nail in the coffin for the “recovery” is that this rate is now well above the latest update from Greece, where the youth unemployment was “only” 54.8% as of September.

And now, buy Spanish bonds and stocks, because “the recovery.”

Source: Eurostat

Chart Of The Day: Greek Poverty | Zero Hedge

Chart Of The Day: Greek Poverty | Zero Hedge.

And now, the saddest chart of the day: Greek poverty since the crisis, and in 2013, when the so-called “Grecovery” arrived.

Here is how Greek Kathimerini describes the fact that nearly half of all Greek incomes, some 44%, had an income below the poverty line in 2013 according to estimates by the Public Policy Analysis Group of the Athens University of Economics and Business (AUEB).

The poverty threshold is measured as 60 percent of the price-adjusted average income in 2009, or up to 665 euros per person per month and up to 1,397 for a couple supporting two underage children. The AUEB researchers also found that last year 14 percent of Greeks earned below the adequate living standards, compared with 2 percent of the population four years ago.

The blame, of course, was placed squarely on austerity, or the fact that Greece, whose epic socio-economic problems stem primarily from its massive overleveraging leading up to 2008, did notleverage some more to “fix” itself.

The group’s report, published last week, suggested that during the crisis instead of strengthening support to the unemployed – which is one of the most efficient methods to rekindle demand – the state was forced to reduce it.

Well, not all the blame: some was reserved for where it rightfully resides: an incompetent, corrupt, crony and quite criminal political system:

… besides the austerity policies of the last few year, the inability of the state to contain the collapse of social structures is due to the lack of targeted strategies and to the inefficient use of resources, problems that dogged Greece even before the onset of the crisis.

No mention that Greece was merely a pawn in the “political capital” invested in the failed Eurozone experiment, in which the main thing at stake is the vested interest of the legacy oligarchs and, of course, the bankers.

As for the Greece: don’t cry for it – it still has the euro – that symbol of successful European integration – so all is well.

Bond Tab for Biggest Economies Seen at $7.43 Trillion in ’14 – Bloomberg

Bond Tab for Biggest Economies Seen at $7.43 Trillion in ’14 – Bloomberg.

The world’s biggest economies will need to refinance $7.43 trillion of sovereign debt in 2014 as bond yields begin to climb from record lows, threatening to raise borrowing costs while nations struggle to bring down elevated budget deficits.

The amount of bills, notes and bonds coming due for the Group of Seven nations plus Brazil, Russia, India and China is little changed from 2013 after dropping from $7.6 trillion in 2012, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. At $3.1 trillion, representing a 6 percent increase, the U.S. faces the largest tab. Russia, Japan and Germany will see refinancing needs drop, while those of Italy, France, Britain, China and India increase.

While budget deficits in developed nations have fallen to 4.1 percent of their economies from a peak of 7.8 percent in 2009, they remain about double the average in the decade before the credit crisis began. The cost for governments to borrow may rise further after average yields last year rose the most since 2006, as the global economy shows signs of improving and the Federal Reserve pares its unprecedented bond buying.

“Refinancing needs remain elevated in many developed nations, particularly the U.S.,” Luca Jellinek, the London-based head of European rates strategy at Credit Agricole SA, said in a Dec. 30 telephone interview. “The key here is demand rather than supply. If demand drops as growth picks up, and we expect it will, that could put pressure on borrowing costs.”

Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg

A man is silhouetted against the sun as he walks his bicycle down a flight of stairs in…Read More

Debt as a proportion of the economies of the 34 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development will rise to 72.6 percent this year from 70.9 percent last year and 39 percent in 2007, according to the group’s forecasts.

Deficit Spending

The amount of government debt obligations contained in a benchmark Bank of America Merrill Lynch index has more than doubled to $25.8 trillion since the end of 2007 as countries from the U.S. to Japan financed increased spending to counter the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

After interest-rate cuts around the world and the Fed’s bond purchases pushed down average yields on government notes to an all-time low of 1.29 percent in May, borrowing costs have since jumped, according to the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Broad Market Sovereign Plus Index.

Yields climbed to 1.84 percent by the end of December, making the 0.41 percentage point increase in 2013 the biggest in seven years, the data show. That represents an extra $4.1 billion in annual interest on every $1 trillion borrowed.

Bond buyers are demanding more compensation as the Fed plans to scale back its own monthly debt purchases in January to $75 billion from $85 billion and the U.S.-led recovery prompts investors to seek assets with higher returns such as equities.

Risk Premium

Government debt lost an average 0.36 percent worldwide last year, the first decline since 1999.

Based on 41 economists surveyed by Bloomberg on Dec. 19, the Fed will reduce its buying by $10 billion in each of the next seven meetings before ending its stimulus in December.

The U.S., the world’s largest economy, will expand 2.6 percent this year after 1.7 percent growth in 2013 and accelerate 3 percent in 2015, which would be the fastest in a decade, according to economists surveyed by Bloomberg. With Europe and Japan also forecast to grow, the three economies will all expand for the first time since 2010.

“With the Fed pulling back on bond purchases and growth picking up, bond investors will demand higher yields to justify investment,” Mohit Kumar, a money manager at GLG Partners, a hedge-fund unit of Man Group Plc, said by telephone from London. “We need to price in higher risk premium in an environment where rates and market volatility are likely to increase.”

Debtor Nations

Even as faster growth helps increase tax revenue, higher refinancing costs may squeeze governments that are still contending with fiscal deficits. Spending will outstrip revenue in the world’s largest economies by 3.3 percent of their gross domestic product this year, versus an average of 1.75 percent in the 10 years through 2007, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

In the U.S., the world’s largest debtor nation with $11.8 trillion of marketable debt obligations, the amount due this year will increase by about $187 billion, data compiled by Bloomberg show. France, faced with an economy that has barely grown in two years, will see the amount of debt securities due this year rise by 15 percent to $410 billion.

China will lead emerging-market economies with the amount of maturing bonds increasing by 12 percent to $143 billion.

Japan will have $2.38 trillion of bonds and bills to refinance this year, 9 percent less than in 2013, while the amount of German debt maturing this year will decrease by about 5.3 percent to $268 billion.

Public Debt

Including interest payments, the amount of debt that needs to be refinanced by the G-7 countries plus the BRIC nations this year increases by about $712 billion to $8.1 trillion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“There has been a shift of a significant amount of debt” into the public sector during the crisis, saidNicholas Gartside, London-based international chief investment officer for fixed-income at J.P. Morgan Asset Management, which oversees $1.5 trillion. “Despite some improvement on the debt front, there is still a lot of deleveraging to go. The process is still ongoing and will continue for many years.”

Forecasters are overestimating the likelihood government debt costs will increase because the global economic recovery remains fragile and disinflation is starting to emerge, according toSteven Major, head of global fixed-income research at HSBC Holdings Plc, Europe’s largest bank.

The world economy will to expand 2.83 percent this year, according to forecasts compiled by Bloomberg, slower than the average 3.43 percent during the five-year span between the end of the dot-com bust in 2002 and the start of the credit crisis.

Consumer Prices

Slowing inflation also preserves the purchasing power of fixed-rate interest payments, which may support demand for bonds. Consumer prices in the U.S. will rise less than 2 percent in 2014 for a second straight year, which has only happened one other time in the last half century, data compiled by Bloomberg and the Bureau of Labor Statistics show.

In the 18 nations that share the euro, the inflation rate will be 1.2 percent, the lowest in five years.

“Growth may have picked up but it’s still pretty weak compared to previous cycles,” Major said in a telephone interview on Dec. 31. “Inflation is falling in many developed countries. Central banks should be worried about disinflation rather than inflation. It’s hard for me to imagine that bond yields will rise much against this backdrop.”

Some nations are starting to rein in spending, which may help contain borrowing costs. Government bond sales in the euro area, excluding issuance used to refinance maturing debt, will decline to 215 billion euros ($293 billion), the least since 2009, Morgan Stanley predicted.

Bond Sales

Germany said in December that it plans to curb bond and bill sales this year by 17 percent to 205 billion euros as tax revenue rises and Chancellor Angela Merkel seeks to end net new borrowing by 2015. In the U.S., the budget deficit will drop to to 3.4 percent of the economy this year, versus 10 percent five years ago, economist forecasts compiled by Bloomberg show.

Demand at U.S. government debt auctions remained stronger than before the financial crisis as investors bid for 2.87 times the amount sold last year, the fourth-highest ratio on record and surpassed only in the the prior three years.

Buying of Japanese debt was underpinned by the Bank of Japan’s commitment to buy 7 trillion yen ($71 billion) a month of bonds, a pace that would equal more than 50 percent of the 155 trillion yen in notes that Japan plans to sell this year.

Yield Forecasts

“Investors should not and will not be concerned about the supply picture,” said Major, who predicts that yields on the benchmark U.S. 10-year note will decrease to 2.1 percent by year-end from 2.99 percent last week.

His estimate conflicts with the majority of forecasters in a Bloomberg survey who say U.S. borrowing costs will increase. They anticipate yields on the 10-year notes, which rose 1.27 percentage points last year to 3.03 percent, the highest since 2011, will climb to 3.38 percent on average. No one in the survey projected yields falling below 2.5 percent. The yield was at 2.98 percent as of 9:56 a.m. London time.

Borrowing costs in all the G-7 nations are all poised to increase in 2014, based on the estimates. Yields on German bunds will increase to 2.28 percent by year-end, while those for similar-maturity U.K. gilts will end the year at 3.36 percent. That would be the highest for both nations since 2011.

Among the BRIC nations, only bond yields in India and China are poised to drop, the data show.

With global growth picking up, investors such as Standard Life Investments predict government bonds will underperform this year and are holding a greater proportion of equities than their benchmarks used to measure performance.

“We are not enthusiastic about government bonds,” Frances Hudson, a strategist at Standard Life in Edinburgh, which oversees $294 billion, said in an telephone interview on Jan. 2. “It’s reasonable to expect bond yields to rise from record lows as recovery gains momentum.”

Following is a table of projected bond and bill redemptions and interest payments in dollars for 2014 for the Group of Seven countries, Brazil, China, India and Russia using data compiled by Bloomberg as of Dec. 30:

To contact the reporter on this story: Anchalee Worrachate in London ataworrachate@bloomberg.net

What Blows Up First? Part 1: Europe

What Blows Up First? Part 1: Europe.

2013 was a year in which lots of imbalances built up but none blew up. The US and Japan continued to monetize their debt, in the process cheapening the dollar and sending the yen to five-year lows versus the euro. China allowed its debt to soar with only the hint of a (quickly-addressed) credit crunch at year-end. The big banks got even bigger, while reporting record profits and paying record fines for the crimes that produced those profits. And asset markets ranging from equities to high-end real estate to rare art took off into the stratosphere.

Virtually all of this felt great for the participants and led many to conclude that the world’s problems were being solved. Instead, 2014 is likely to be a year in which at least some – and maybe all – of the above trends hit a wall. It’s hard to know which will hit first, but a pretty good bet is that the strong euro (the flip side of a weakening dollar and yen) sends mismanaged countries like France and Italy back into crisis. So let’s start there.

The basic premise of the currency war theme is that when a country takes on too much debt it eventually realizes that the only way out of its dilemma is to cheapen its currency to gain a trade advantage and make its debts less burdensome. This works for a while but since the cheap-currency benefits come at the expense of trading partners, the latter eventually retaliate with inflation of their own, putting the first country back in its original box.

In 2013 the US and especially Japan cheapened their currencies versus the euro, which was supported by the European Central Bank’s relative reluctance to monetize the eurozone’s debt. The following chart shows the euro over the past six months:

Euro dec 2013

For more details:

Euro rises to more than 2-year high vs. dollar; yen falls 
The euro jumped to its strongest level against the dollar in more than two years on Friday as banks adjusted positions for the year end, while the yen hit five-year lows for a second straight session.

The dollar was broadly weaker against European currencies, including sterling and the Swiss franc. Thin liquidity likely helped exaggerate market moves.

The European Central Bank will take a snapshot of the capital positions of the region’s banks at the end of 2013 for an asset-quality review (AQR) next year to work out which of them will need fresh funds. The upcoming review has created some demand for euros to help shore up banks’ balance sheets, traders said.

“There’s a lot of attention on the AQR, and there’s some positioning ahead of the end of the calendar year,” said John Hardy, FX strategist at Danske Bank in Copenhagen.

Comments from Jens Weidmann, the Bundesbank chief and a member of the European Central Bank Governing Council, also helped the euro. He warned that although the euro zone’s current low interest rate is justified, weak inflation does not give a license for “arbitrary monetary easing.

The euro rose as high as $1.3892, according to Reuters data, the highest since October 2011. It was last up 0.3 percent at $1.3738.

The currency has risen more than 10 cents from a low hit in July below $1.28, as the euro zone economy came out of a recession triggered by its debt crisis.

Unlike the U.S. and Japanese central banks, the European Central Bank has not been actively expanding its balance sheet, giving an additional boost to the euro.

Here’s what a stronger euro means for France, the second-largest and arguably worst-managed eurozone country:

French Economy Contracts 0.1% In Third Quarter
The final estimate of France’s gross domestic product, or GDP, in the third quarter remained unchanged at the previous estimation of a contraction of 0.1 percent, indicating that the euro zone’s second-largest economy is struggling to sustain the rebound it witnessed in the second quarter with a growth of 0.6 percent.

The third-quarter GDP growth was in line with analysts’ estimates. According to data released on Tuesday by the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies, the deficit in foreign-trade balance contributed (-0.6 points) to the contraction in the third quarter, compared to the positive (0.1 percent) contribution made in the preceding quarter.

Some thoughts
At the beginning of 2013, most of the eurozone was either still in recession or just barely climbing out. Then the euro started rising, making European products more expensive and therefore harder to sell, which depressed those countries’ export sectors and made debts more burdensome. So now, under the forced austerity of an appreciating currency, countries like France that were barely growing are back in contraction. And countries likeGreece that were flat on their back are now flirting with dissolution.

Recessions – especially never-ending recessions – are fatal for incumbent politicians, so pressure is building for a European version of Japan’s “Abenomics,” in which the European Central Bank is bullied into setting explicit inflation targets and monetizing as much debt as necessary to get there. The question is, will it happen before the downward momentum spawns political chaos that spreads to the rest of the world. See Italian President Warns of Violent Unrest in 2014.

Bank of Finland Warns Debt Level Poised to Double: Nordic Credit – Bloomberg

Bank of Finland Warns Debt Level Poised to Double: Nordic Credit – Bloomberg.

The Bank of Finland is warning that the euro area’s best-rated economy risks sliding down a path that could see its debt burden rival Italy’s.

Finland has little room to deviate from a proposal to fill a 9 billion-euro ($12.3 billion) gap in Europe’s fastest-aging economy if it’s to avoid debt levels doubling in the next decade and a half, according to the central bank.

The northernmost euro member risks joining the bloc’s most indebted nations if the government fails to reform spending, according to calculations by the Helsinki-based Bank of Finland. Without the measures, debt could exceed 110 percent of gross domestic product by 2030, according to the bank. The ratio was 53.6 percent in 2012. Success with the plan would help restrain debt levels to about 70 percent by 2030, the bank said.

The central bank’s assessment shows that the government’s plan would have a “real impact,” Finance Minister Jutta Urpilainen said in an e-mailed response to questions via her aide. Structural reforms are needed if “the Finnish welfare state has a chance to survive,” she said.

Stable AAA

The only euro member with a stable AAA grade at the three main rating companies, Finland’s economy is struggling to emerge from the decline of its paper makers and its flagging Nokia Oyj-led technology industry. Export demand has failed to offset weak consumer demand, as companies fire workers and the government responds to deficits with cuts. Lost revenue is hampering government efforts to set aside funds needed to care for the fastest-aging population in the European Union.

In the period August to November, Finland’s six-party coalition put together a package to streamline and reduce public spending to eliminate a gap of more than 9 billion euros in public finances by 2017. The package consists of several different measures, each to be sent to parliament independently. Some of the measures, including changes to pensions and health-care providers, are still being drafted.

Finland’s “costs related to aging will grow faster than elsewhere within the next two decades,” Petri Maeki-Fraenti, an economist at the Bank of Finland, said in an interview. Aging costs will be “decisive” in accelerating debt growth after 2020, he said.

Forecasts Cut

The government reduced its economic forecasts on Dec. 19 for the 10th time since coming to power in June 2011. Even as exports look set to recover and rise 3.6 percent in 2014, GDP will grow only 0.8 percent after declining 1.2 percent in 2013, the Finance Ministry said.

The Bank of Finland’s calculations assume an average economic expansion of about 1.5 percent in the long term, compared with an average of 3.7 percent during 2003 to 2007, according to a February 2013 report by economists Helvi Kinnunen, Maeki-Fraenti and Hannu Viertola.

“We must get used to slower economic growth for an extended period of time,” Maeki-Fraenti said.

The average debt level in the euro area shot up more than 25 percentage points in five years after hovering around 70 percent for the majority of the last decade. Finland has followed suit, with the Finance Ministry estimating its debt-to-GDP ratio rising to 60 percent this year from 33.9 percent in 2008.

Debt Load

Euro-area debt reached 93.4 percent of GDP at the end of the second quarter, according to theEuropean Central Bank. Italy reduced its government debt to 103 percent of GDP in 2007. Since the debt crisis, its debt has begun mounting again, rising to 134 percent of GDP this year, the European Commission forecast Nov. 5.

Debt levels exceeding 90 percent hurt economic growth, Harvard University economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff argued in a 2010 paper. Three years later, their claims were refuted by University of Massachusetts researchers, citing “serious errors” that overstate the significance of the boundary.

The World Bank set a similar “tipping point” at 77 percent in a 2010 paper, while a 2011 studyby the Bank for International Settlements identified a sovereign debt threshold of 85 percent. An IMF report from 2012 found “no particular threshold” that would consistently precede low growth.

Finding an absolute threshold for debt after which economic growth starts slowing is “quite impossible,” Bank of Finland’s Maeki-Fraenti said. Addressing sluggish growth and public debt is necessary for Finland due to the pressure from aging and the decline of its cornerstone industries, he said.

“As the debt level is still relatively tolerable and our unemployment hasn’t shot up in the same way, it has perhaps led some to believe that the problems shall be fixed on their own as export demand revives,” he said. “Our view is slightly more pessimistic.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Kasper Viita in Helsinki at kviita1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christian Wienberg atcwienberg@bloomberg.net

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