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18.12.2014 16:12 Russia economy: What is the risk of meltdown?

Russia`s Central Bank has raised interest rates to 17%, but the rouble has continued to plummet, prompting fears of economic crisis. Russians are reminded of the dark days of 1998, when President Boris Yeltsin`s government defaulted on its debt. But how severe are the problems and is there a way out? What has gone wrong? Russia relies on oil and gas for half its tax revenue and needs the price of a barrel to be at $100 to balance its books. Instead, the price is closer to $60. The value of the rouble has plummeted pretty much in tandem, leading to a sense of panic in the markets. Even before Russia`s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, Russia`s economy was in trouble. But then came Western sanctions - and Russia`s counter sanctions - which have made things worse.

18.12.2014 16:07 Economists forecast fast growth for U.S. economy in 2015

The U.S. economy, helped by a stronger job market and falling oil prices, should enjoy the fastest economic growth in a decade next year, according to a panel of top business economists. The National Association for Business Economics said it expects the overall economy, as measured by the gross domestic product, to expand by 3.1 percent next year. That would be the strongest GDP growth since 2005 when the economy grew 3.3 percent. The 2007-2009 recession was the worst downturn since the 1930s, and the economy has struggled to regain its footing. The U.S. has been stuck with sub-par growth averaging 2.2 percent per year. The NABE forecasters believe growth this year will average an anemic 2.2 percent, matching last year`s performance. But the NABE forecasting panel, composed of 48 economists, believes growth will finally move into higher gear next year, reflecting continued job gains and a boost in consumer spending linked to the recent big drop in energy prices. The 3.1 percent forecast for 2015 is up slightly from a 3 percent projection the NABE panel made in September.

17.12.2014 16:21 Eurozone GDP growth set to pick up in 2015

Economic growth in the eurozone should speed up, significantly next year, but authorities are effectively running on empty regarding defences to any future downturns, a new report has warned. In its latest outlook on the eurozone region, professional services giant EY (formerly Ernst & Young) has said it expects the single-currency economy to see GDP growth of 1.2% in 2015, picking up from a more modest 0.8% increase this year. It anticipates the region`s economy will rise by 1.6% per annum from 2016 to 2018, inclusive. “The lagged effect of a weakening euro, easing fiscal austerity, lower oil prices and more certainty in the banking sector will combine to support the gradually strengthening eurozone recovery,” the report states. The eurozone will also, EY claims, see export growth in the region of 3.7% in 2015 (up from around 3.4% for this year) and slightly higher, at 4%, for the following three years. This is because the US and UK economies will continue to recover and the weaker euro offers more relief to less competitive member states. Even though EY sees stronger growth ahead for the eurozone, it sees only modest unemployment declines and a slower recovery than in previous rebounds. The company is concerned about the ability to tackle any further downturns. “Policymakers have much-diminished weaponry to tackle any further shocks. With eight eurozone member states` public debt above 90% of GDP, and six of these above 100%, governments have minimal room for fiscal stimulus. And, in the event that inflation fails to pick up as fast as anticipated in the coming years, it is unclear whether a large-scale sovereign bond purchase programme would be as powerful as it might have been a year or two ago,” the report states. According to EY, the pace of eurozone economic growth from 2016 to the end of 2018 will be more than half a percentage point slower than in the decade up to 2007, when GDP growth averaged 2.3% a year in the bloc.

16.12.2014 14:59 Russia hikes key rate to 17% after record ruble tumble

The Russian central bank early Tuesday announced a dramatic hike of its key interest rate from 10.5 to 17 percent after the ruble plunged to a fresh record low. "This decision is aimed at limiting substantially increased ruble depreciation risks and inflation risks," the central bank said in a statement posted on its website around 1:00 am local time (2200 GMT Monday). The ruble on Monday suffered a mini-crash, falling by 9.5 percent in a single day despite repeated interventions by the central bank, with the latest apparently taking effect on Monday afternoon. The slide came as the bank warned the low oil price could trigger a contraction of nearly five percent next year and as tensions surged with the United States over the Ukraine crisis. A dramatically higher interest rate -- which was set at 5.5 percent at the beginning of the year -- now threatens to further strangle the economy. The ruble broke through the level of 64 to the dollar and 78 to the euro for the first time even though the Bank of Russia has already spent about $6 billion (4.8 billion euros) so far this month to slow the currency`s slide. Russian news agencies said the ruble briefly jumped from 61 back to 60 on the dollar at around 1300 GMT, possibly due to the latest central bank intervention, but it did not stop a further slump. Having lost over 50 percent of its value against the dollar this year, the ruble`s slide is now worse than the 48 percent of the hryvnia in Ukraine, which is fighting a war and is on the brink of bankruptcy.

16.12.2014 14:57 Japan`s GDP Worse Than Initially Reported

Japan`s economy shrank more than previously estimated in the third quarter, contracting 1.9% as capital spending declined and private consumption remained weak, the government said. Last month, the government estimated that gross domestic product contracted 1.6% during the July-September period. Soon after, Mr. Abe cited the weak economy in saying he would delay a second increase in the nation`s sales tax. In recent days, though, many economists had predicted that the third-quarter contraction would actually turn out to be smaller than initially estimated - or perhaps be revised to flat or a slight expansion - after the Ministry of Finance reported late last month that capital spending by businesses rose 3.1% during the quarter, compared with a previous estimate of a 0.2% decline. Business investment accounts for around 14% of GDP. But capital spending turned out to be weaker than the ministry`s estimate when taking into account smaller businesses, declining 0.4%, indicating that even as Japan Inc. reports record profits and the stock market hits multiyear highs, the benefits of “Abenomics” haven`t reached everyone. The economy will likely expand in the fourth quarter, helped by a sharp decline in oil prices, said Kenji Yumoto, an economist with the Japan Research Institute. Still, consumers` wages aren`t keeping pace with inflation, he noted. “Declining real income amid a weaker yen suggests the recovery will likely lack strength,” he said.

15.12.2014 14:00 Here`s What Will Happen If Russia`s Economy Keeps Tanking

Oil arguably brought an end to the old Soviet Union and once again the price of crude is proving to be a curse for the Kremlin. The precipitous drop in oil prices recently has left Vladimir Putin`s Russia on the edge of economic ruin. The Kremlin has warned of a severe slowdown next year, with the economy entering a technical recession in the first quarter. The year started badly for Russia after the Ukraine crisis boiled over and triggered capital flight and tough economic sanctions. Now a collapse in oil prices – down 45% since June – has become primary cause of Russian pain. The country was recently thought to be losing around $40bn [£25bn] per year due to sanctions and up to $100bn per year due to oil prices, according to the finance minister. Russia`s rouble has also slumped, hitting many Russian consumers by pushing up inflation at a time when any hopes for growth are distant. The sanctions crippling Russia are expected to persist, and possibly intensify, unless the political situation in Ukraine is resolved. When the first rounds of sanctions were discussed, oil prices stood at around $110 per barrel. The high cost of energy gave European countries little room to manoeuvre, as strong measures against Russia could have provoked the Kremlin into turning off supplies. In recent days, however, oil has traded closer to $60, and a fall to as low as $50 would lead the rouble lower still. Under such a scenario, Morgan Stanley estimates that inflation would increase by six to eight percentage points. Russia`s GDP would contract at an annual rate of 6% – a harsh slowdown following on from years of near stagnation. The Russian deficit may rise by five percentage points of GDP, but the prospect of a default remains remote.

13.12.2014 18:43 China`s GDP is Now Largest in the World: But What Does that Mean?

China`s rise on the economic stage is remarkable. The country is in a vast and sometimes traumatic transformation, with political and philosophical tugs of war underway culturally, socially, and economically. The topics of trade and fairness and freedom are always in the news, but some analysts would rather focus on what the GDP number tells us: less than it seems. Columnist Brett Arends of Marketwatch describes it as follows: To put the numbers slightly differently, China now accounts for 16.5% of the global economy when measured in real purchasing-power terms, compared with 16.3% for the U.S. This latest economic earthquake follows the development last year when China surpassed the U.S. for the first time in terms of global trade. So, does China`s GDP matter? Things that can be measured in multiple ways need some context. China has 4.2x the number of people as the US. The US GDP per person is about $52,000, so the per person GDP of China is about 1/4 of that. This means that China still has a way to go for its economic improvement to be felt around the country. In the long run, it is likely that India will pass China in about 20 years, as China`s policy of one child per family will cause its population to flatten and eventually decline. India`s population, and economic improvement, are on track in a positive trend.

11.12.2014 17:20 Russia`s Rate Increase Fails to Halt Ruble`s Slide to Record

Russia`s fifth interest-rate increase this year failed to stem the ruble`s worst rout in 16 years, risking further damage to an economy battered by sanctions and oil prices near the lowest since 2009. The Bank of Russia increased its key rate to 10.5 percent from 9.5 percent, according to a website statement. That matched the median estimate of 34 economists surveyed by Bloomberg. The ruble traded 0.7 percent weaker at 55.24 per dollar at 3:27 p.m. The bank is holding a news conference on the rate move. “This is a spineless decision,” Vadim Bit-Avragim, who helps oversee about $4 billion at Kapital Asset Management LLC in Moscow, said by phone. “If the central bank`s goal was to defend the ruble, it would`ve raised rates by 2-3 percentage points.” The rate increase shows the narrowing options left to policy makers after they spent about $80 billion on defending the currency and shifted to a free-floating exchange rate ahead of schedule last month. The central bank has said it`s ready step in at any time to prop up the ruble amid a depreciation that`s wiped out 40 percent of the currency`s value this year. Its reserves fell $4.3 billion last week to $416.2 billion. A weaker ruble, coupled with an increase in inflation expectations, “pose substantial” risks to price growth, the central bank said.

10.12.2014 16:22 World Bank lowers Russia`s economic forecast as ruble falls

The World Bank announced a gloomier economic forecast for Russia on Tuesday Dec. 9th as the ruble fell despite the central bank saying it had spent billions last week to prop it up. Falling oil prices and sanctions over the crisis in Ukraine have taken a heavy toll on Russia`s economy, and the World Bank on Tuesday predicted it would shrink by 0.7 percent in 2015. It however warned that the contraction would be worse if oil prices were to keep sliding. The bank had previously predicted zero growth for Russia for 2015. Its new forecast was in line with one from Russia`s economic development ministry last week, which predicted a 0.8 percent contraction in 2015. The World Bank said its latest forecast was based on the "most likely" scenario of crude prices averaging at $78 in 2015. But if oil prices fell to $70, Russia`s output would shrink by 1.5 percent and households would remain in "a crisis mode" for 2015 and 2016, it said. "In the baseline scenario, investment is projected to contract for a third year in a row in 2015 because of continued uncertainty, restricted access to international financial markets by Russian companies and banks, and lower consumer demand," Birgit Hansl, the World Bank`s lead economist for Russia, was quoted as saying. The World Bank said that Russia would avoid recession in 2015 in a best case scenario if oil prices averaged $85.

09.12.2014 14:41 Ukraine`s economy: Worse to come

Nina Kulikova hid in her bathtub and cried when the war neared her home this summer in Sloviansk, a city in eastern Ukraine. A shell hit a neighbouring stairwell, shattering her windows and punching a crater in the middle of her apartment block. No one has come to rebuild 4 Bulvarnaya Street. Ms Kulikova has nowhere to go. Meanwhile, the prices of food, medicine and utilities have all spiked. Her husband collects bottles and cartons for recycling to make ends meet. A year of revolution and war has taken a grim toll on Ukraine`s economy. GDP could fall by 10% this year. The currency, the hryvnia, has plunged nearly 50% against the dollar in 2014. Inflation has hit 19%; at the beginning of the year, prices were stable. The central bank raised rates this week, for the third time this year, to 14%. Consumer spending rose by 5% in the second quarter compared to the year before, but that probably reflects panic buying; it is likely to slump soon too. In April the IMF co-ordinated a bail-out to which it pledged to contribute $17 billion over two years. A coalition of Western countries provided smaller amounts. So far about $7 billion has been dispersed. But Ukraine needs more than temporary financing, and the conditions attached may be exacerbating its woes.


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