UK Jobless Upward Trend Continues

U.K. jobless claims rose for an eighth consecutive month in September, extending the longest period of increases in almost 13 years, “as growth in Europe’s second- biggest economy slows”. This adds just a little more evidence to the fact that all is not necessarily currently all for the best in the land of John Stuart Mill. However as NTC research point out, not all is totally bad either:

Meanwhile, annual average earnings growth held steady at 4.2 percent in the three months to August, signalling that higher inflation is still not feeding through to wages.

So earnings continue upwards at a healthy clip, but not above trend. No evidence of ‘secondary effects’ here then. Which makes you wonder why the normally reasonable Mervyn King is currently being so evidently unreasonable. You can find my explanation for this here (and in the comments).

Mervyn King on Tuesday night signalled he was not convinced of the case for lower interest rates and could see many reasons why the rise in oil prices might increase inflationary pressure.
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ECB Interest Rate Policy

Brad Setser has a post today on Kate Moss, not provoked by her evidently economically intriguing modelling properties, but due to the Kate-Moss-thin credit-spreads which Bloomberg’s William Pesek refers to in this article. What really turns Pesek on it turns out isn’t Kate Moss at all but the possible existence of links between China’s economic boom and the recent surge in popularity for credit derivatives.

And it is in the context of this evolutionary chain that Brad Setser’s work on China and Systematic Risk offers itself as some kind of missing link.
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Oooops It Isn’t Baaack….

Morgan Stanley team members Steven Jen and Eric Chaney (joined by Takehiro Sato and David Miles) debate today the interesting question of whether the eurozone economies have entered a liquidity trap (LT). Those who have no idea what one of these would look like could do worse than read Paul Krugman’s classic article on the topic: It’s baaack! Japan’s Slump and the Return of the Liquidity Trap (pdf).

So what is all the fuss about?
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Christian Noyer: Much Ado About Nothing?

The euro fell briefly below $1.19 yesterday. There is nothing surprising or exceptional about that, the common currency has been drifting steadily downwards against the dollar for a number of, by-now, pretty well known reasons – better economic performance in the US, a growing interest rate differential between the ECB and the Fed, political issues following the referendum noes, and an incapacity to decide what to do with the SGP. Yesterday however, an apparently new element was introduced: Christian Noyer, and his appearance before the Foreign Affairs Committee of the French National Assembly.

That this should have caused a stir surprises me. Christian Noyer is Governor of the French national bank (and not simply, as much of the press report, an ECB governing council member). It is therefore perfectly logical that when asked whether any country could leave the eurozone, he should reply in the affirmative. EU member states are, as Noyer says, still sovereign nations. He would therefore have been lying to answer ‘no, it is impossible’. Curiously, the other part of M. Noyer’s recorded testimony, that any exit would put in question continued membership of the EU is far more debateable, yet seems to have attracted far less attention.

Membership of a currency union is (or should be) an economic, not a political decision. Decisions on entry or exit should therefore be taken on economic grounds, and discussions of the issues involved should be possible without an atmosphere of emotional hysteria. Of course, if your currency falls simply because someone states the obvious (I mean the information content *is* zero), then this may indicate that there is a rather deeper problem knocking around somewhere or other.

Update: Jean-Claude Trichet yesterday defended the current ECB TWIRP stance (two per cent interest rate policy) before the European parliament?s monetary affairs committee and understandably rejected a call for an annual evaluation of the benefits of the common currency for zone-member citizens.
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Maroni Update

Here’s the FT’s reading of the situation.

Note this extract: “As financial markets digested the remarks of Roberto Maroni, Italy’s welfare minister, the interest rate differential between Italian and German bonds rose to 23 basis points, the widest spread since November 2002.”

These are the numbers we will be following at Afoe moving forward. Maroni is a member of a Northern xenophobic party that wants an independent country for the north of Italy. But *note*: he is in the government, and responsible for an important part of the Lisbon agenda, labour reform. So this is not some complete outside crank. Bottom line: Berlusconi’s government is an unstable coalation, and this very instability *is* cause for concern, especially since we have just seen mainstream politicians lose important votes in two of Europe’s more stable democracies.

One more irrelevant detail:
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He Would Say That Wouldn’t he

For those who are not old enough to remember, these are the immortal words of Mandy Rice Davies.
Now throwing a link quickly back across the Atlantic, Dave Altig at Macro blog picked up my ECB post and added a response from Hans Eichel.

But, the plot does thicken a bit.
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The Calm Before The Storm

Following the turbulent river of news which has flowed unrelentingly through the principal European media outlets since Sunday night, today we seem to be swimming in a relative ocean of calm. This is very deceptive. Today the Netherlands is voting and tomorrow the ECB will have a closely watched meeting which may potentially have significant consequences for the EU economy.

If at this stage there seems little doubt about the outcome of the Dutch vote (more worthy of interest will be the level of participation and the size of the ‘no’ majority), we are also unlikely to see anything earth shattering happening over at the ECB. It is unlikely that there will be any change in the Central Bank’s two per cent interest rate policy (or twirp, as some wit at Morgan Stanley has christened it, after the rather better known zero rate (or zirp) policy at the Bank of Japan). All the watching eyes inevitably be focussed on the press conference, and on Trichet’s handling of the inevitable questions (worth a look at the 2:30pm webcast).

So if today we are enjoying a ‘day of reflection’, tomorrow we will undoubtedly see battle rejoined. In particular, it will be ‘D’ – or decision – day for Barroso and the EU Commission.
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Crisis Looming At The ECB?

A right royal row is brewing at the ECB. Basically the old guard theorists of the ‘one size fits all’ monetary policy are being challenged by more pragmatic observers of day to day realities. For the moments it is the politicians who are making the running (but there are plenty of competent economists in Germany and Italy who are ready to back them up), and yesterday the OECD joined the fray.
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