These are stories Report on Business is following Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013.
Five years after Lehman Bros. collapsed and plunged the world into crisis, global economies are still on the ropes.
There are pockets of hope, to be sure, but economic growth and jobs are coming in fits and starts, while monthly economic measures are volatile, at times sparking optimism, at others despair.
Unemployment, in particular, is a blight amid slow growth and a mighty effort by central banks and other policy makers to ease the plight of the millions affected.
In the European Union, where the jobless level is 11 per cent, almost 27 million people can’t find work. In the United States, where gains have unquestionably been made, unemployment is still at 7.3 per cent, and more than 11 million job seekers are still struggling.
Even in Canada, which has fared better than most and recovered all of the jobs lost to the recession, the jobless rate is 6.9 per cent, with 1.3 million people out of work.
In short, anything resembling a return to how things looked before the crisis appears not just elusive, but still far off.
Some snapshots from across the globe today:
As our European correspondent Eric Reguly reports from Rome, today’s numbers show a stalled recovery in the region.
The economy of the 17-member euro zone grew by just 0.1 per cent in the third quarter, with that of the wider 28-nation European Union only slightly better, at 0.2 per cent.
Among the major countries, the French economy contracted by 0.1 per cent, as did Italy’s. Even Germany, continental Europe’s powerhouse, eked out an expansion of just 0.3 per cent.
“Slow growth, high unemployment rates and the threat of deflation will remain unwanted features of the euro zone economy for the next little while, regardless of how many ‘the worst is behind us’ speeches are delivered by European politicians,” said senior economist Krishen Rangasamy of National Bank of Canada.
“We expect some growth in Q4, albeit not enough to prevent the zone’s GDP to contract roughly 0.4 per cent this year,” he added in a research note.
“Note that despite the end of the recession in the technical sense, the euro zone economy’s output remains 3 per cent below its 2008 [first-quarter] peak. Excluding Germany, the zone’s GDP is 5 per cent below its 2008 peak … highlighting the devastation caused by austere policies which, by the way, are slated to extend into next year.”
‘Abenomics’ was to have been Japan’s saviour. But it’s a tough slog.
Today’s report from Japan’s Cabinet Office showed the economy expanded at an annual pace of 1.9 per cent in the third quarter, far slower than the 3.8-per-cent rate in the second three months of the year.
The latest measure marks a setback for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose team made the economy a priority.
This doesn’t mean Abenomics isn’t working, only that it’s a long road ahead.
“Considering that Japan’s potential growth is around 0.75 per cent, the Q3 result is still well above it,” Takuji Aida and Kiyoko Katahira of Société Générale said in a research note.
“It also shows that the Japanese economy is on the right track, boosted by ‘Abenomics’ policies.”
The incoming chief of the Federal Reserve is highlighting the economic troubles of the world’s biggest economy as she appears today at a confirmation hearing in Washington.
As our Washington correspondent Kevin Carmichael writes, Janet Yellen is spelling it out for the Senate banking committee: The U.S. economy has come far, but has far further to go.
“Unemployment is down from a peak of 10 per cent, but at 7.3 per cent in October, it is still too high, reflecting a labour market and economy performing far short of their potential,” Ms. Yellen says in prepared remarks to the panel.
Last week, U.S. government departments showed more than 200,000 jobs were created in October, while the economy expanded at a decent pace of 2.8 per cent in the third quarter.
But, of course, budget issues and squabbling between the Democrats and Republicans still loom large after the government shutdown and temporary agreement.
Canada is still running a trade deficit with the rest of the world, though far smaller in September compared to August.
Canadian exports climbed 1.8 per cent in September while imports rose just 0.2 per cent, Statistics Canada said today, slimming the deficit to $435-million from August’s $1.1-billion.
Energy exports led the way.
Exports from Canada to its biggest trading partner, the United States, rose 4.2 per cent, largely on exports, while those to other countries gained by a far greater 4.2 per cent.
“On the surface, today’s trade number provides somewhat better news for the Canadian economy,” said chief economist Douglas Porter of BMO Nesbitt Burns.
“The downside is that trade gains continue to have an outsized reliance on energy (and domestic oil prices have slipped worryingly again in recent weeks), and net trade was still a heavy drag on growth for all of Q3 due to weakness in the first two months of the quarter.”
Exports, of course, are key to Canada’s economy, and that they’re lagging is an issue for the Bank of Canada, among others.
“Canada’s economy has yet to rotate away from domestic-led growth and toward exports,” BMO Nesbitt Burns says in a new forecast.
“But resilient consumers and homebuyers, along with an upturn in energy production, should fuel growth of 2 per cent in the second half of the year, close to potential.”
- Eric Reguly: European recovery falters as German economy slows, French GDP falls
- Kevin Carmichael: U.S. economic headwinds ease, but Washington still a trouble spot
- Eric Reguly: Germany's export success failing to ripple over to its EU partners
- Linda Nazareth in Economy Lab: Canada's jobs recovery tilts toward the low earners
- Higher exports help slash Canada's September trade deficit
- U.S. trade gap widens as imports approach one-year high
- Paul Waldie: Carney stands by forward guidance policy
- ECB takes 'peashooter to a war'
- Eric Reguly: ECB rate cut leaves Draghi in bind in bid to stave off deflation
- Euro zone jobless rate holds at record high
Global markets, on the other hand, continue to scale fresh heights. Because what all of this suggests is that central bankers will keep the stimulus taps open.
The comments from Ms. Yellen, in particular, indicate she won’t be pushing for an early pullback from the Fed’s bond-buying stimulus program known as quantitative easing, or QE, under which the central bank buys $85-billion (U.S.) a month in assets.
“The market love affair with Fed stimulus continued today as European markets shrugged off this weeks’ growing pessimism to post gains as incoming chair Janet Yellen gave her strongest indication yet that an accommodative stance will be held into 2014,” said senior sales trader Toby Morris of CMC Markets in London.
“Yellen noted that the trigger for a reduction in stimulus would be an improvement in an economy and labour market still performing ‘well short of their potential,’ which investors have taken as a thumbs up to a few more hits of stimulus before the dosage starts to drop, satisfying market cravings enough for another move higher for now.
RBC sees charge
Royal Bank of Canada says it anticipates booking a charge of about $160-million in its insurance unit, The Globe and Mail's Bertrand Marotte reports.
The bank said today that the charge - $118-million after-tax - is the result of proposed federal legislation that would have an impact on policyholders’ tax treatment of certain types of individual life-insurance policies.
The bill was tabled in the House of Commons for first reading on Oct. 22 and the charge is based on current estimates and could change, RBC said. Any changes will be reflected in the results of the fourth quarter ending Oct. 31.
Under Canadian International Financial Reporting Standards, the existing value of the expected profit for a life policy is booked at the time of sale, but after that changes in assumptions resulting from updated experience or new regulations having an impact on life-insurance policies are recognized in net income as they occur, the bank said.
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