The spotlight remained on Portugal the end of last week as EU finance ministers agreed to give the country seven more years to repay its stock of existing loans. Still, despite the words of praise showered on the country the deficit containment record has been a pretty checkered one. The deficit target for 2013 is 5.5% of GDP will not come under the EU 3% level until 2015 at the earliest.
France looks increasingly like it is slipping into recession. It is the poorest performing core country – an increasingly inapt label. Highlighting this are the latest PMI numbers. The services PMI, already woefully depressed, slipped lower last month, to 41.9, lower even than Spain’s. The manufacturing PMI was barely much better, falling to 43.9.
The UK Treasury’s decision to transfer coupon income from the Bank of England’s Asset Purchase Facility is a step towards ‘fiscal dominance’, where the fiscal authority ultimately gains the upper hand from the central bank and we see monetisation of public sector debts and deficits.
The Japanese economy continues to weaken and a recession is now the main consensus. The country’s trade balance, which was long in surplus, is now moving deeper and deeper into deficit and the third quarter numbers almost certainly will show contraction, and these are more than likely to be followed by another set of negative readings for Q4
Core European government bond yields continue to fall and are now outright negative in many countries. Traditionally, this would suggest a stern message from the fixed income market that deflation is around the corner.
But there could be other explanations.
Fiscal austerity in the developed world represents a paradox. On one hand, it is necessary as governments had already borrowed too much going into the crisis and can thus no longer continue to lever up to compensate for private deleveraging. On the other hand, the objective of fiscal austerity is to stabilise exploding government debt to GDP ratios, but this is proving difficult as depressing government spending leads to a higher decline in GDP relative to the reduction in the gross debt level.