Italy, Oil – My Monday column

Judging by the Italian president Sergio Mattarella’s (justified) refusal to approve a government that would have been dominated by the League with its aversion to Europe and its institutions, the forthcoming parliamentary elections in Italy will focus on the euro and Italy’s membership of the euro area.

The worrying point here is that the Italian population is no longer in favor of the euro, as shown by the latest European Commission Eurobarometer survey (October 2017), when 40% of Italians said that the euro is a bad thing for the country as compared to 25% of the population in the euro area as a whole, and also in France. Meanwhile, only 45% of Italians think that the euro is a good thing for the country vs. 64% on average in the euro area and France. The European question played a major role in the French electoral campaign in spring 2017, but we can see that the European aspect of the Italian elections was driven by different considerations. Close to half of Italians are skeptical on the usefulness of the single European currency, and herein lies the real difference. Continue reading

Oil above $75/bbl for long

Oil price trends have shifted since the start of April, with figures set on a range of $70–75, compared with a previous figure of around $67 on average, i.e. higher than figures seen since late 2014. This reflected the impact of demand driven by world growth.

The chart below shows that trend altered after April 6, when the White House implemented sanctions against Russia, with subsequent threats on Iran merely serving to amplify this trend. This morning after Donald Trump’s decision on Iran it is above 75 as shown on the graph. Continue reading

Oil, dollar, wages and unemployment in the US – my Monday column*

Oil prices are soaring out of control to slightly above $75/bbl, while the greenback is gaining ground again, and now stands at under 1.2 to the euro with its effective exchange rate rising swiftly and triggering uncertainty on the markets, particularly emergings.

Meanwhile, wages are still not rising in the US, despite unemployment falling below the 4% mark for the first time since December 2000: at the time, the reference wage was up 3.8% vs. an increase of merely 2.6% in April 2018.

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The manufacturing sector is running out of steam in the euro area – My Monday column

World growth stepped up a pace in 2017 as a result of a policy mix that was heavily on the side of demand, while effective monetary accommodation worldwide combined with loose fiscal policy to further drive this recovery.
This extra demand had a positive impact on manufacturing activity in particular, leading to a recovery in world trade.
This upswing turned the trend around in the sector in the euro area as well as in France, where job trends displayed a shift, stabilizing and even improving in 2017 after several years on a downtrend, if we include temporary employment in the sector. There was also a knock-on effect on services, pushing up overall activity overall.

France-manufJobs

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Shutdown and oil prices – My Monday column

The US administration’s partial shutdown marks a first in the country’s history: this is the first time that we have witnessed this type of situation when the same party occupies both the White House and Congress. It was somewhat different during Barack Obama’s presidency in 2013, as Congress was not in Democrat hands, and looking further back, President Jimmy Carter came up against difficulties in financing his budget with his Democrat majority at the end of the 1970s, but there was no shutdown.

 This failure for President Trump and Congress to get along has been the hallmark of the current Republican administration’s first year. The power dynamics between the two institutions ends up creating a puzzling sort of inefficiency. The disagreement of the moment is on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which involves young foreign-born individuals who arrived in the US as children. It turns out that Trump is in favor of a law to welcome them in the end, but the Republicans are unhappy with a bill partly drafted with Democrat agreement. This is a power struggle and not a cooperative political relationship between the President and Congress.

We had already witnessed this dysfunctional situation during attempts to repeal Obamacare, when Congress rejected Trump’s proposals. Continue reading