We begin with the global stories, first with a warning from CNBC:
1930s-style debt defaults likely, says IMF research
Many advanced economies are likely to require financial repression, outright debt restructuring, higher inflation and a variety of capital controls, a new research paper commissioned by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned.
The magnitude of today’s debt in Western economies will mean fiscal austerity will not be sufficient, Harvard economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff said in the report, as policymakers continue to underestimate the depth and duration of the downturn.
“It is clear that governments should be careful in their assumption that growth alone will be able to end the crisis. Instead, today’s advanced country governments may have to look increasingly to the approaches that have long been associated with emerging markets, and that advanced countries themselves once practiced not so long ago,” they said.
More from the London Telegraph:
IMF paper warns of ‘savings tax’ and mass write-offs as West’s debt hits 200-year high
Debt burdens in developed nations have become extreme by any historical measure and will require a wave of haircuts, warns IMF paper
New Europe has the winners:
Top 300 billionaires worth $3.7 trillion
Billionaires got richer in 2013
The top 300 billionaires on the planet got richer in 2013 by $524 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaire index.
According to the index, the aggregate net worth of the world’s top 300 billionaire stood at $3.7 trillion at the market close on December 31. Overall, only 70 billionaires recorded a fortune loss in 2013 compared with last year. John Catsimatidis, the billionaire founder of real estate and energy conglomerate Red Apple Group Inc., told Bloomberg in a telephone interview. “The rich will keep getting richer in 2014…Interest rates will remain low, equity markets will keep rising, and the economy will grow at less than 2 percent.”
The year’s biggest gainer was Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft who saw his fortune increasing by $15.8 billion to $78.5 billion. The 58 year old tycoon, is officially the richest individual on the planet. In Europe, Amancio Ortega held once again on to his title as Europe’s richest person. His company, Inditex, the world’s largest clothing retailer, rose 14 per cent during 2013. Bloomberg reported that the richest man in Europe bought an office building in London’s West End for 410 million pounds, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.
“Billionaires are asking what they should do with their money in 2014,” Mark Haefele, Global Head of Investment for UBS AG’s wealth-management unit, said by phone to the US financial news agency. “Central banks will continue to be supportive, so equities will likely continue to rise during the year,” Mr. Haefele stressed.
Off to the U.S., first with SINA English:
U.S. sees slowest population growth rate since the Great Depression
America’s population is growing at its slowest rate in decades, and the sluggish economy is mostly to blame, according to one expert.
The U.S. population grew by just 0.72 percent in the year ended July 1, 2013, the Census Bureau reported Monday. That’s the slowest growth rate since 1937. Population growth has hovered at super-low levels for the past few years, according to William Frey, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a nonpartisan research organization. The trend is “troubling,” Frey said, and is due largely to the weak economy.
“This real sharp decline has to do with recession-related issues,” Frey said. “Fewer people come into the country because there aren’t as many jobs, and people are postponing child-bearing.”
The Guardian covers the losers and what their losses mean:
US economy losing ‘up to a $1bn a week’ after jobless benefits cut
- Harvard economist warns of ‘fiscally irresponsible’ decision
- Benefits for long-term unemployed allowed to expire last week
The US economy is losing up to a billion dollars a week because of the “fiscally irresponsible” decision to end long-term unemployment benefits, a Harvard economist said on Friday.
Professor Lawrence Katz based his assessment on official forecasts of the impact to the economy of 1.3 million jobless Americans losing benefits
The Times of India covers less-than-minimum wages from Uncle Sam:
US missions abroad paid some local staff less than $1 a day
For all the complaints about India and its diplomats underpaying domestic help on their postings abroad, a 2009 state department evaluation of practices in US embassies and missions abroad revealed that some local employees they hired earn less than $1 a day. In fact, some of them were so poorly paid they had to cut back to one meal a day or send their children to peddle on the streets, the report said.
The report from the state department’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG), which has been dusted off for scrutiny by some Indian officials amid a flaming row between Washington and New Delhi over the l’affaire Devyani, looked at how the US pays more than 51,000 local, non-American employees in about 170 missions abroad. In addition to the hardship caused to the workers because of inadequate pay, the report found that the US pays in what in some cases amounts to universal below-poverty level wages.
China Daily covers a coming loss:
China set to overtake US as world’s biggest goods trader
The value of trade in China’s goods in 2013 is set to exceed that of the United States, making the world’s second-largest economy the world’s top trader for the first time, certainly in modern times.
“Judging from the current statistics, there is a very high possibility that the value of China’s goods trade will have exceeded the US in 2013,” said Wang Haifeng, a researcher with the Institute for International Economic Research at the National Development and Reform Commission.
Jia Huaiqin, deputy president of the Statistical Society for Foreign Economic Relations and Trade of China, echoed the view that China’s overall goods trade value did overtake the US in 2013 unless there was a late and big fluctuation, China Business News reported.
The McClatchy Washington Bureau gives a “F”:
Most Americans say this Congress is worst in their lifetime, CNN poll says
The current Congress is not only unproductive, but most Americans see it as the worst they’ve ever known, according to a new CNN/ORC International poll released Thursday.
Two-thirds said the 113th Congress, which left for the year last week, is the worst in their lifetime. Twenty-eight percent disagreed.
Nearly three in four said this Congress has done nothing to deal with the nation’s problems.
The Independent.ie covers more winners:
Big bonuses for Wall Street staff as stocks reach 16-year high
SHARES of US financial firms just staged their biggest annual rally since 1997, creating a bonanza for Wall Street employees who receive bonuses in deferred stock — though the new year doesn’t hold the same promise.
The KBW Bank Index of 24 lenders increased 35pc in 2013, the most in 16 years. All of its companies rose, the first time that’s happened in a decade. Meanwhile, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Capital Markets Index of 13 securities firms and asset managers surged 49pc, the most on record.
The rise in share prices began in October 2011 and has proved to be a real earner for traders and dealmakers at firms like Morgan Stanley which retooled bonuses after the financial crisis to include more deferred stock.
The Economic Times covers winners-in-the-making:
2014 still promises an abundance of opportunity for Wall Street bankers
The next 12 months may not prove as rich for initial public offerings as the last year. But to Wall Street bankers, 2014 still promises an abundance of opportunity.
And that could include what may be one of the biggest market debuts in years: that of Alibaba, the Chinese Internet behemoth.
Even as global merger activity turned in another lackluster performance, the business of taking companies public soared. The amount raised by IPOs in the United States in 2013 jumped 40 per cent over 2012, to $59.3 billion, according to data from Thomson Reuters.
Quartz has more winners:
Investment banks just had their best year since 2007
Over the past year investment banks have faced a welter of lawsuits and intrusive new rules, suffered costly missteps in the bond market and slashed pay and staff numbers. It may seem surprising, then, that 2013 was actually the best year for the global investment banking industry since 2007, in terms of fees. Total fee revenue rose by 3.1%, to $79.8 billion, according to recently released data from Thomson Reuters.
While Al Jazeera America covers the hopeful:
Amendment would let local Colorado governments regulate big industry
Gas and oil drilling, fracking, mining and other industries would need local approval to operate if amendment is passed
A proposed amendment to the Colorado state constitution would give local governments around the state the authority to restrict or ban oil and gas drilling and other industrial activities – even those permitted by state law – if they pose a threat to the health and safety of residents.
The “right to local self-government” act is being proposed by the Colorado Community Rights Network (CCRN), a new organization that is gaining considerable traction, and will be submitted to the state in its final form within the next week. The act will need 86,105 signatures to qualify for the November ballot.
And 9NEWS has green winners:
Pot sales exceed $1 million on first day
Pot shops did record sales compared to the “medical marijuana days” on Wednesday when recreational marijuana opened. Pot shop owners across Colorado believe they collectively made more than $1 million statewide.
Supporters, critics and other states are waiting to see what will happen in Colorado on day two and beyond. In Perth, Australia, headlines say “Move Over Amsterdam.”
The Contributor Network covers other winners:
TX’s Self-Regulated Pay Day Lenders Now Collecting Tolls on El Paso Roads
Just when you thought you had heard it all with the recent report that a payday lender is in charge of running the regulatory agency for the industry in Texas, score one more for the pay day lending industry.
In El Paso, according to a recent agreement made with the local metropolitan authority, the Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority, Ace Cash Express will begin selling toll tags and collecting tolls on behalf of the transportation authority beginning January 8th.
Across the Atlantic with New Europe:
Eurozone manufacturing records strongest growth in over 2.5 years
Markit economics reported that Eurozone manufacturing recorded the strongest growth in December over the last two and half years.
According to the Markit report, the recovery in the eurozone manufacturing sector accelerated further at the end of 2013. The seasonally adjusted manufacturing index rose for the third month running to post 52.7 in December, up from 51.6 in November. According to Markit, since the index is above 50 it means that the Eurozone manufacturing sector is expanding. For the final quarter as a whole, the sector is recording its best performance in two-and-a-half years, consistent with a quarterly pace of output growth of around 0.6 per cent.
The strong growth of the Eurozone manufacturing was underpinned by solid growth in the Netherlands, Germany, Ireland and Italy, while Austria continued to expand at a robust pace. Meanwhile the Spanish PMI also moved back into expansion territory. More importantly Greece managed to improve its manufacturing output, as her national index rose to a 52-month high and close to the 50 stabilisation point (49.6). However, France moved in the opposite direction with its index falling to a seven-month low and signalling contraction for the twenty-second successive month (47).
Quartz issues a warning:
The euro zone’s credit crunch will get worse before it gets better
Another month, another grim data point on bank lending in the euro zone. The latest numbers, covering November (pdf), show that loans to companies in the euro zone are falling at a 3.9% annual pace, the fastest rate of decline in more than a decade. Loans to households are holding up better, but growth is still only barely positive.
As far as business lending goes, only Finland, Estonia and Belgium managed to eke out growth in November. In Spain, meanwhile, bank loans for businesses are falling by nearly 20% per year.
Spiegel draws lines:
Isolated in Brussels: Merkel Clashes with EU Commission
Angela Merkel at the recent EU summit on Dec. 19 in Brussels: The chancellor has become bogged down in her attempt to lead the Europe.
Even as the euro crisis grows less acute, Europe is stuck. The European Commission is resisting any loss of its power, and many member states are tired of German dominance. Opponents of Europe, including those in Merkel’s camp, sense an opportunity.
On page 157 of the coalition agreement between Germany’s center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), at the beginning of the section on Europe, there is an oldie that many German governments have crooned in the past. It has to do with the German language — that is, its use in the European institutions. “German must be put on equal terms, in practice, with the other two procedural languages, English and French,” the document reads.
And New Europe has no surprise:
Bribery of foreign officials goes under-punished in the EU
Recent revelations concerning the bribery of the former Secretary-General for Armaments of the Greek Ministry of National Defense, Antonis Kantas, by German and other EU based companies have underlined the need for the EU’s executive body to take action, Greek MEP says.
Thodoros Skylakakis (ALDE, GR) addressed the European Commission with a question about the non –or under implementation- of international and European agreements on bribery and corruption on international level.
While El País notes a consequence of financial polarization:
The specter of racism in Europe
Gypsies and Jews are facing growing institutional discrimination in the former Soviet bloc countries
In the west, far-right parties are pushing an anti-immigration agenda
Within the European Union, where the depression continues unabated, having already left 25 million people without work and 80 million in poverty, racism is apparently on the rise.
Gypsy children living in the former industrial city of Ostrava, in the Czech Republic, are sent to special schools. They and their families live in what are effectively ghettos, and they are denied the same rights as other Czechs. The situation is similar in Hungary, where 90 percent of Gypsies are unemployed. In Poland, many restaurants refuse them service. It’s the same story in Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Bulgaria.
On to Britain, first with The Guardian:
Bulgarian and Romanian immigration hysteria ‘fanned by far-right’
- Former Bulgarian foreign minister says talk of surge of eastern Europeans into UK is politically motivated and highly unlikely
Bulgaria’s former foreign affairs minister has criticised the “mass hysteria” surrounding the immigration debate driven by the “far-right”.
Nikolay Mladenov, who was Bulgaria’s foreign affairs minister until last spring, said claims of a sudden influx of Bulgarian and Romanian immigrants to Britain in 2014 were “politically motivated”.
Italians get ‘lessons on UK life’ as arrivals surge
The Italian Embassy in London is set to roll out a series of seminars on British life as the number of Italians fleeing their homeland for the UK continues to grow. The move was prompted by the murder of an Italian teenager in the county of Kent in October.
There a 220,000 Italian inhabitants in the UK, with 85,000 living in London, according to figures from the Registry of Italians Resident Abroad (AIRE).
However, the Embassy estimates there could be as many as 550,000, with 250,000 being in the capital, when taking into account those who are not officially registered, Il Fatto Quotidiano reported.
One of the first lessons they’ll learn, via BBC News:
Migrants to face NHS emergency care charges in England
Migrants and overseas visitors are to face new charges for some NHS services in England, ministers say.
They include extended prescription fees, the introduction of charges for some emergency care and higher rates for optical and dental services.
However, GP and nurse consultations will remain free, and nobody will be turned away in an emergency.
The London Telegraph notes a lack:
UK has fewer doctors per person than Bulgaria and Estonia
The UK has fewer working doctors per head of population than almost all other EU countries, according to EC statistics
The UK ranked 24th out of the 27 European nations, only beating Slovenia, Romania and Poland according to the data, published by the EU Commission as part of its ‘Eurostat regional yearbook 2013′.
RT thinks wishfully:
Bankers need to shift to principles of ‘justice and hope’ – Archbishop
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the principal leader of the Church of England, has urged bank bosses to make a “massive cultural change” in their management style. He says many refuse to accept how they dragged the world economy into crisis in 2008.
Speaking on BBC radio on Tuesday Archbishop Justin Welby said the banking leadership should be serving society as a whole, and not just pursue the interests of shareholders.
“Leadership must have a vision based in justice and hope so that everyone at every level is committed to change,” he said.
The Independent despairs:
Unemployed young people feel they have ‘nothing to live for’
One in three long-term unemployed young people have contemplated suicide
Three quarters of a million young people in Britain believe they “have nothing to live for”, the Prince’s Trust has warned.
The findings showed that 40 per cent of young people have faced symptoms of mental illness, including self-loathing and panic attacks, as a result of being out of work.
The survey also found that long-term unemployed young people across the UK are more than twice as likely as their peers to have been prescribed antidepressants.
The London Telegraph inflates:
Bubble fears as house prices jump most in four years
House prices stage biggest monthly jump in four years, adding to worries of a bubble
House prices have staged their biggest monthly jump in four years, adding to concerns that a new bubble could develop this year.
The average cost of a home rose by 1.4pc in December, the biggest monthly jump since August 2009. This brought the year-on-year increase to 8.4pc.
The Telegraph again, this time with helpful household hints:
Shower together and go to bed early to cut energy bills, supplier First Utility says
Energy supplier that raised prices by 18 per cent last year also advises consumers to give up tea and coffee and play Monopoly
First Utility, Britain’s biggest independent energy supplier, which has about 300,000 customers, issued its advice in a “5:2 energy diet” plan that it said would cut £150 from a typical bill.
It suggested consumers reduce their energy usage on two days of each week by following the tips, such as to “opt for an early night”.
“Up to you what you do,” it said, “but putting out the lights and turning off the box can save you £18 a year – and it could be lots of fun…”
Sky News readies the ax:
Floods: Row Over Environment Agency Job Cuts
Unions said axing around 550 staff from the flood team would “impact directly” on the UK’s ability to deal with future storms.
The Government has been forced to deny claims that austerity cuts will hit flood defences – despite reports that hundreds of frontline jobs are being cut.
On to Norway, with a protest form the right with TheLocal.no:
Economist’s Jensen – le Pen comparison ‘crude’
The Economist has ruffled feathers in Norway after describing the country’s finance minister as a “a sort of Norwegian Marine Le Pen”, in reference to the leader of France’s far-right National Front.
In an editorial in its latest edition, the British magazine drew comparisons between Jensen’s Progress Party and other populist parties in Europe, including the Freedom Party of Austria, Vlaams Belang of Belgium and Britain’s UKIP. It did, however, point out the huge difference between Progress and the Hungarian far-right party Jobbik.
“To the consternation of liberal Scandinavians, Norway’s nationalist-right Progress Party, which secured 16 percent of the vote at recent elections, has been welcomed into a minority government,” it wrote. It also quoted Jensen’s reference to the “rampant Islamification” of Norway.
Sweden next, with intolerance from TheLocal.se:
Mosque swastika attack ‘no isolated incident’
The Nazi graffiti daubed on the central Stockholm mosque on Wednesday night was no isolated incident, with all religious groups in Sweden reporting an increase in hate crimes.
“We receive hate mail, threatening letters or suffer vandalism around twice a month,” said Omar Mustafa , president of the Islamic Association of Sweden. “This type of racist messages are quite common against Muslim communities.”
Statistics from the National Crime Prevention Council (Brottsförebygganderådet – Brå) showed that police reports of hate crimes have increased in recent years, including those against Jewish and Christian groups.
DutchNews.nl covers an unusual trend:
Most workers will be better off in 2014 but high earners take home less
Most workers will have higher take-home pay in 2014 and low earners will benefit most, according to salary processor ADP.
The organisation looked at the impact of government policy on wages and concluded people on salaries of up to €1,750 a month will benefit most from tax cuts and other benefits in 2014.
For example, someone earning the minimum wage – €1,485.60 for an adult – will be €55 a month better off because of lower taxes and a higher tax-free allowance.
Germany next, hungering with Spiegel:
Storming the Food Banks: Charities Struggle with Growing Demand
Food banks and soup kitchens in many German cities are having trouble keeping up with growing demand. Some are now abandoning their free food models in their effirts to continue helping the needy.
Across the country, food pantry workers, most of them volunteers, are sounding the alarm that charitable donations are no longer enough to pay for storage space, delivery trucks and rents. Some are also having trouble stocking enough food to satisfy demand. In Hamburg, for example, food banks have been forced to turn some people away in recent weeks.
Deutsche Welle has discipline:
Chancellor Merkel seeks to nip coalition partners’ row in the bud
Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced the creation of an inquiry to look into whether German laws are sufficient to ward off ‘benefits tourists.’ This seems designed to end a spat between two of her coalition partners.
Deutsche Welle again, with anxiety:
Germany’s fear of job seekers from new EU members
Germany has tried to keep Romanian and Bulgarian job seekers out as long as possible. Other countries seem to be a lot more comfortable with integrating new EU citizens into their labor market.
It’s one of the fundamental rights of EU citizens that they can look for work in any of the member states. By joining the bloc, the people of any new member are granted this right – though not necessarily with immediate effect. Other countries in the 28-member bloc have to the option to somewhat restrict that freedom of movement for a maximum of seven years. In the case of members Romania and Bulgaria, nine of the older members have done so – among them Germany and the United Kingdom.
Since the beginning of the year, this restriction has been lifted, which has reignited a debate in Germany over the country’s immigration laws. It’s a discussion triggered by the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union. Prominent party members have been warning of what they described as “poverty immigration.” UK Prime Minister David Cameron has raised similar concerns, warning of social welfare “tourism.”
That old revolving door, the German version, with Spiegel:
Conflict of Interest? Ex-Merkel Deputy’s Career Move Under Fire
Ronald Pofalla, until recently Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff, is reportedly mulling a €1 million a year board position at national railway Deutsche Bahn.
News organizations are reporting that Angela Merkel’s recently departed chief of staff may be heading to German national railway Deutsche Bahn. The move has sparked calls for a ban on government officials from moving to the private sector so quickly.
In recent months, moves by former German ministers and senior politicians into lobbying positions have been a lightning rod for criticism, drawing allegations that these high-profile former decisionmakers are being bought by the private sector. The latest politician to draw unwelcome headlines is Chancellor Angela Merkel’s outgoing chief of staff, Ronald Pofalla, following reports this week that he may join the board at Deutsche Bahn, Germany’s partly government-held national railway.
Europe Online declines:
German car sales slumped in 2013, full-year data shows
German car sales dropped by 4.2 per cent in 2013, full-year data released on Friday revealed, adding to concerns about the troubled European auto industry.
The KBA federal motor licensing authority said it had registered 2.95 million new car sales last year, down from 3.08 million in 2012. That year’s sales already marked a decline of 2.9 per cent from 2011.
On to France with angst from the London Telegraph:
French borrowing costs rising at ‘worrying’ rate
France’s borrowing costs continued to rise as latest figures revealed the manufacturing sector underperformed even Greece
France’s borrowing costs have continued to rise as latest figures revealed the manufacturing sector underperformed even Greece.
France’s manufacturing PMI slipped to 47, lower than the flash estimate of 47.1, and below the 50 mark which separates expansion from contraction. That marks the 22nd consecutive month of contraction for factory activity in the eurozone’s second largest economy.
France, along with Greece, were the only nations to report lower levels of new export business, despite the overall level for the eurozone rising for the sixth consecutive month and at a pace close to November’s two-and-a-half year peak.
TheLocal.fr makes a case:
Firms urge Hollande to act on New Year pledge
Business leaders in France have called on French President François Hollande to act quickly on his New Year pledge to lower burdensome labour costs in return for firms stepping up their recruitment drive. “He must move quickly,” says the head of the leading business union.
“We need to mobilise everyone to win the battle [against unemployment],” Hollande said, in a now familiar rallying call. “That is why I am proposing a responsibility pact for corporations. It is founded on a simple principle: fewer labour taxes on business, fewer restrictions on corporate activities [in exchange for] more recruitment and greater dialogue with trade unions.”
Spain next, with optimism from El País:
Labor market showing signs of strength, government says
On the basis of the latest official jobless claim and Social Security affiliation figures for December released Friday, the government believes that not only has the hemorrhaging in employment been staunched but also that the labor market is starting to show signs of strength.
According to the Labor Ministry, the number of people signed on with the Social Security system declined by 85,041, or 0.52 percent last year, the smallest decline since the current crisis began in 2007. In December alone, the number of workers affiliated rose by 64,097 to 16.357 million. The ministry said the increase was the highest for December since the current comparable historical series was initiated in 2001.
But CNN notes the reality:
Temporary jobs lift Spanish gloom
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has predicted a recovery in 2014. And in a radio interview earlier this week, Economy Minister Luis de Guindos said job creation could beat government forecasts.
But labor unions say most of the jobs being created in Spain each month are part time and temporary, with a third providing less than four hours work a day.
Some 92% of new employment contracts last year were temporary, and the number of permanent jobs being created has been in decline for 12 months.
thinkSPAIN has the bill:
Outpatient drugs to be funded by users from this month onwards
ALL regional health authorities across Spain will be required to charge for medication dispensed to outpatients in hospitals from this month onwards after being given a three-month stay of grace.
Whilst the requisite for payment towards hospital drugs was confirmed on October 1, Spain’s 17 autonomously-governed regions were given until January 2014 to put a system in place to allow this to happen.
It will affect anyone who has regular hospital consultation appointments for cancer, eczema, hepatitis, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, HIV and AIDS, degenerative conditions, or who has had a transplant.
El País calls for dismissal:
Socialists call for PP’s draft abortion law to be thrown out
PSOE also wants secret vote on the bill to allow dissident deputies to express their opposition
The congressional spokeswoman for the main opposition Socialist Party (PSOE), Soraya Rodríguez, on Thursday described the ruling conservative Popular Party’s proposed amendments to the abortion law as “pitiful” and “shameful.”
Rodríguez also announced a parliamentary initiative aimed at making congressional voting on the draft law secret, to allow dissident members of the PP to express their opposition to the bill.
TheLocal.es has more:
Spain’s opposition calls for secret abortion vote
Spain’s largest opposition party, the socialist PSOE, is hoping to block the progress of the country’s controversial draft abortion law by making the ballot secret.
The party on Thursday called for an extraordinary session in Spain’s parliament to discuss what PSOE parliamentary spokesperson Soraya Rodríguez called a “shameful” draft abortion law.
The PSOE petition was backed by the left-wing IU with both parties calling for Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón to face questioning in parliament.
El País delivers the juice:
The shocking price of Spanish electricity
A decade of poor regulation has sent bills soaring and left growing numbers of families unable to pay
Last year, some 1.4 million homes had their electricity cut off for non-payment. Two weeks ago, the government blocked an initiative to prevent utility companies from leaving families without electricity in winter.
Spain’s electricity bills are among the highest in Europe, having risen 60 percent between 2006 and 2012, with only the Irish and Cypriots paying more. Following two price rises in August and October, electricity companies announced just before Christmas that prices would go up a further 11 percent in January; in the face of the outcry that followed, the government intervened, preventing the increase.
On to Lisbon with a declaration from the Portugal News:
President declares recession’s end
President Cavaco Silva has declared the end of the recession and decided not to send the budget for 2014 to the Constitutional Court.
President declares recession’s end
In a televised New Year’s Day address to the nation, the President once again called on political parties to put aside their differences in order to safely negotiate Portugal’s release from the bailout programme scheduled for this summer.
But opposition parties showed no signs of adhering to the presidential call, saying immediately afterwards that Cavaco Silva was merely following reinforcing government rhetoric, saying they were preparing to submit the 2014 budget to a series of independent audits.
And some inflationary alarm from the Portugal News:
New Year, more price hikes for cash-strapped Portugal
2014 will stretch most family funds to their limits as the cost of electricity and water, public transport, rent, watching TV, making phone-calls, health care, smoking and drinking, among others, is to rise.
As of this month (January 2014) the price of electricity will go up by 2.8 percent and will be reviewed every three months. This hike means the average €46.50 household bill will increase by more than €1.21, and will apply to some four million consumers on the regulated market, paying so-called transitory fees.
Electricity hikes will, however, cease for good in 2016 when the free market will be open to all consumers. Quarterly revisions mean the prices could fluctuate throughout the year.
Water bills will also rise following a thorough restructuring of the sector. New governing statuses and the reorganisation of national water group Águas de Portugal are being highlighted as the main reasons for the changes.
Changes to water bills depend on the benchmark tariffs being charged by water supply and sanitation companies but should that price be of between two of three euros per cubic metre then up to eight million people could be affected.
Off to Italy with permissiveness from Reuters:
Italy can breach EU deficit limits if it reforms, Renzi says
Italy can negotiate a relaxation of European Union deficit limits if it shows it is serious about effective reforms to its economy and political system, Matteo Renzi, the new head of the center-left Democratic Party said in an interview on Thursday.
Renzi is not in the government but as head of the biggest party in Prime Minister Enrico Letta’s left-right coalition, he will have a decisive role to play in shaping the political agenda and has already called for quicker action on reforms.
Silvio Berlusconi appeals Ruby sex trial verdict
Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi on Thursday lodged an appeal against a conviction for paying for sex with a then-underage prostitute nicknamed “Ruby the Heart Stealer”, his lawyers said.
The media magnate’s defence team had previously announced their intention to appeal the July verdict, which saw the former premier sentenced to seven years in jail and banned from holding public office.
The punishment was suspended pending the appeal process, which is likely to take years.
Fiat flies on Chrysler takeover
Deal expected to be finalized January 20. Italy hopes for investments on home turf
Fiat stocks soared as much as 16% before the close of trading Thursday, a day after the Italian automaker announced it had gained full control of American carmaker Chrysler in a $4.35-billion deal, raising questions at home about the future of production for Italy’s biggest private corporation. T
After the jump, Greek woes continue, Turkish wages, Russian barriers, Latiin trade worries, Tahi troubles, Cambodian violence, Chinese anxieties, Japenese woes, and Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading