A long report today, in part because we’ve been so busy catching up with our reporting on more local news.
The latest economic numbers from Europe are grim, and people have been taking to the streets — this time in Germany.
There’s lots more bad news from the PIIGS as well, and word that half of all Ireland’s population has refused to pay a new austerity.
But the grimmest news is from Greece, and it even includes sex.
Grab onto your seatbelts. It’s a bumpy ride.
Europe’s jobless rate hits a new high
The latest proof that austerity isn’t working as the banksters promised it would comes from the latest unemployment numbers for the 17 member states of the European Monetary Union — with seven countries reporting rates above 10 percent.
They’re up, with 1.5 million more jobless in February than the month before, with the EU-wide 10.8 percent official rate higher than it’s ever been since the euro was introduced 13 years ago.
And they’re up enough that the R-word is back. R, as in recession.
From the Associated Press:
The eighth straight month of rising unemployment will likely reinforce concerns that the eurozone is in recession just as many countries pursue austerity measures to get a handle on their crippling debt loads.
Spain, whose government announced another raft of austerity measures last Friday, had the highest unemployment rate in the eurozone of 23.6 percent, with youth unemployment — those under 25 years of age — standing at 50.5 percent. The lowest rate among the euro countries was Austria’s 4.2 percent. Greece, Portugal and Ireland — the three countries that have already received a debt bailout — had unemployment rates of 21 percent, 15 percent and 14.7 percent respectively.
With unemployment rising at a time of austerity, consumers have been reluctant to spend and that’s been holding back the eurozone economy despite signs of life elsewhere, notably in the U.S. and in emerging markets.
“Soaring unemployment is clearly adding to the pressure on household incomes from aggressive fiscal tightening in the region’s periphery,” said Jennifer McKeown, senior European economist at Capital Economics.
She warned that the situation is likely to get worse and that even in Germany, where unemployment held at 5.7 percent, “survey measures of hiring point to a downturn to come.”
Read the rest.
European manufacturing takes a dive
The not surprising correlate to the unemployment rise is a drop in manufacturing numbers.
Eurozone manufacturing activity dropped to a three-month low in March, with the “malaise” spreading to top economies Germany and France, a key survey showed on Monday.
The Purchasing Managers Index (PMI), a survey of 3,000 eurozone manufacturers compiled by Markit research firm, fell to 47.7 points in March, down from 49 points in February. A score below the neutral 50 mark indicates contraction.
“Eurozone manufacturers suffered a miserable March, with a renewed downturn in production wiping out marginal gains seen in the first two months of the year,” said Markit chief economist Chris Williamson.
“Manufacturing is therefore likely to have acted as a drag on economic growth in the eurozone in the first quarter, falling to a lesser extent than in the final quarter of last year but nevertheless failing to prevent the economy sliding back into recession,” he said.
The research firm said there were “further signs that the manufacturing malaise already exhibited at the periphery of the currency bloc was spreading to the core.”
Read the rest.
The picture’s somewhat different in Britain, report The Guardian’s Josephine Moulds and Phillip Inman:
That contrasted sharply with the UK, where factory output grew much faster than expected in March, boosting hopes that a double-dip recession could still be averted.
The British manufacturing sector expanded at its fastest pace in 10 months, as factories worked through a backlog of existing orders, and stockpiled goods in warehouses. The headline index jumped to 52.1 in March, beating forecasts of a reading of 50.7. The Markit/Cips poll also revised February’s reading from 51.2 up to 51.5.
The data raised some concerns about inflation, as the price manufacturers are paying for materials shot up. The balance of input prices rose from 55.3 to 60.4, its fastest rate in seven months.
Samuel Tombs at Capital Economics said cost pressures cast some doubt over the recovery. “Given that a pickup in price pressures appeared to contribute to the manufacturing slowdown in the second half of last year, it seems as if the industrial recovery is still built on shaky foundations.”
Employment in UK factories was largely unchanged.
Read the rest.
Anti-austerity marchers protest in Frankfurt
Angry protests against austerity, accompanied by a smaller contingent armed with fire bombs is no longer the exclusive property of the European South, as folks in a leading German industrial learned this weekend.
First, a video from vlogger EricHolst86:
Details from EurActiv:
At least 15 German police officers were injured, one seriously, during rioting that lasted into Sunday morning, following an anti-capitalist protest in Frankfurt, police said. The rioters broke off from a demonstration against the German and European politics of crisis regulation.
Demonstrators threw paint bombs at the European Central Bank and attacked emergency vehicles on Saturday (31 March) in violence which escalated after police tried to arrest several protesters in the heart of Germany’s financial capital.
Battles stretched through the night and one officer was taken to intensive care after being singled out by a handful of demonstrators. Officers who went to his aid were met with massive violence, police said.
Saturday’s clashes mark one of the first significant outbreaks of violence in Germany connected to recent anti-capitalist demonstrations inspired by the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement.
Police said they arrested 465 people during the “anti-capitalist day” march.
A spokesman for the organisers, anti-capitalist alliance M31, said a group of around 200 protesters broke off the 6,000 strong demonstration and headed to the city centre.
Read the rest.
Lest you think it was all tension and anger, clownarmy M31 also made appearances, which you can watch here and here. We especially like the second one.
European prepares to go hat in hand to the IMF
Another story that should come as no surprise.
From Valentina Pop of EUobserver:
EU ministers are hopeful their decision to raise the combined ceiling of two eurozone bail-out funds to €700 billion will be enough to secure an increase in contributions from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
A two-day meeting of EU finance ministers in Copenhagen ended on Saturday (31 March) with renewed appeals to foreign countries to step up their contributions to the IMF war chest.
“It’s important to ensure the IMF has sufficient resources to play its systemic role in the global economy,” Danish economy minister Margrethe Vestager told a press conference after the meeting.
She said the decision by eurozone ministers “is very important in this respect. What we are hoping for is an agreement in Washington” later this month when the IMF board is to decide on an increase in its own lending capacity.
Read the rest:
German’s demand a financial hit squad
Meanwhile, Germany wants to impose a new elite financial force across the continent with power to intervene unilaterally in the affairs of European Union member states, reports Spiegel:
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, were able to get their pet project of a European fiscal pact accepted by most of the European Union’s member states. Now Schäuble has come up with a new idea for improving the monitoring and coordination of fiscal policy within the EU in order to promote long-term budgetary discipline.
According to an internal Finance Ministry document obtained by SPIEGEL, Schäuble plans to propose creating independent panels of experts at both the national and EU level, who would monitor fiscal policies in the member states, the euro zone and the EU as a whole. They would be responsible for sounding a warning if they see governments’ budgetary policies straying off course.
The panels, which would be composed mainly of academics, would also be charged with checking “the compatibility of national fiscal policies with European and national requirements” as well as the “implementation of national and European regulations,” according to the Finance Ministry document. Those regulations would include the tougher EU stability pact, which was adopted at a summit in March 2011, as well as the new fiscal pact, which 25 EU countries have agreed to introduce.
In addition, Schäuble’s ministry is also proposing that the role of the EU’s economic and finance affairs commissioner, a position currently held by Finland’s Olli Rehn, be strengthened in the future. According to the ministry document, the commissioner should be able to implement EU regulations “without the other commissioners or Continue reading