To QE3 Or Not To QE3, That Is The Question

Back in July 2010, in introducing a blog post with the title “Is There Global Economic Slowdown In The Works?” I couldn’t help posing the following question:

“According to Ralph Atkins writing in the Financial Times last week, “the pace of Germany’s recovery is helping dispel fears of a “double dip” recession across the continent as a result of the crisis over public finances in southern European countries”. Coincidentally, however, on the very same day, Alan Beattie writing from Washington informed us that the IMF feel “the risk of a slowdown in the global economic recovery has risen sharply”. This left me asking myself which is it: is the global recovery a question of up up and away, or are we at the start of a renewed slowdown (whether or not you wish to term this a “double-dip”)? So I thought I would take a look through some of the most recent data (both hard and soft) to see if I could make any sense of the situation”.

Strangely, just this week, and nearly 12 months later, I now find myself asking almost the very same question. Naturally I am not alone in this. Here’s a link to ECRI’s Lakshman Achuthan talking with MSNBC’s Tom Roberts about the US May jobs report and the reality of a global industrial slowdown. As Achuthan emphasises, in the US context this is still all about growth, about less growth rather than more growth, since we are not talking about recession, merely slower growth, but at the same time it isn’t simply a “soft-patch” either, since the many “exceptional factors” which are lined up (like supply chain problems following the Japan tsunami, or bad weather in the US) aren’t sufficient on their own to explain the scale of the phenomenon. Continue reading

BELLS in Hell that Don’t Go Ting-a-Ling-a-Ling

After the BRICS, came the PIGS. Now a new acronym is being born, that of the BELLS. These particular “ding-dongs”, however, are not a set of hollow cast-metal instruments suspended from the vertex and rung by the strokes of a clapper, they are countries, countries which may, like those unfortunate WWI British soldiers whose love of their country and sense of duty lured them into one of the most senseless conflicts of modern European history, be headed towards their own pretty unique form of modern purgatory. Continue reading

The War on Christmas comes early

Former European Union Commissioner Frits Bolkestein takes to the opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal Europe to decry “Europe’s Cultural Masochism.”  As an aside, and noting that this is indeed the Bolkestein of Frankenstein Directive fame, it now seems quaint to recall the time when the biggest threat to the European Union was seen as foreign plumbers offering cut price services, as opposed to the serial bailout crisis in which the Eurozone now finds itself.  But anyway, excerpting from his main theme of Europe’s cultural self-hatred, we are informed that:

If they have any doubt about the importance of Christianity in contemporary Western life, these non-European Christians need only look to locales such as England’s Oxford. There, in a land with an established Christian church, the municipality has decided to replace Christmas with a “Winter Light Festival.” According to a spokesman, this ensures that equal attention is paid to all religions.

Now if you’re worried that on your next trip to Oxford, the name of Christchurch College will have been blacked out in a wave of hypersensitivity, fear not.  A quick run through the Google reveals that this “Oxford bans Christmas” meme is one that played out 2 years ago, and it wasn’t Oxford council but a council-sponsored charity, and the move was roundly ridiculed by the town’s non-Christian faiths, and anyway everyone was still able to call the Christmas tree a Christmas tree etc etc.

Of course, the broader issues of immigration and European identity are up for grabs, and one suspects a link, though hard to prove, between Europe making the migration valve a little tighter over the last couple of years and a bottling up of tensions in North Africa culminating in the Arab Spring.   But it doesn’t contribute much to such debates to deploy some hoary old chestnuts of the conservative outrage! circuit in lieu of tackling those broader issues.