EU Daily | Eurozone PMI at two-year low as new orders fall in all countries

Weakness and continued austerity. My guess is it will take serious blood in the streets before policy changes

IMF and eurozone clash over estimates

(FT) International Monetary Fund work, contained in a draft version of its Global Financial Stability Report, uses credit default swap prices to estimate the market value of government bonds of the three eurozone countries receiving IMF bail-outs – Ireland, Greece and Portugal – together with those of Italy, Spain and Belgium. Although the IMF analysis may be revised, two officials said one estimate showed that marking sovereign bonds to market would reduce European banks’ tangible common equity by about €200bn ($287bn), a drop of 10-12 per cent. The impact could be increased substantially, perhaps doubled, by the knock-on effects of European banks holding assets in other banks. The ECB and eurozone governments have rejected such estimates.

ECB Lends Euro-Area Banks 49.4 Billion Euros for Three Months

(Bloomberg) The European Central Bank said it will lend euro-area banks 49.4 billion euros ($71.3 billion) in three-month cash. The ECB said 128 banks bid for the funds, which will be lent at the average of the benchmark rate over the period of the loan. The key rate is currently at 1.5 percent. Banks must repay 48.1 billion euros in previous three-month loans tomorrow. The ECB re-introduced an unlimited six-month loan this month and extended full allotment in its shorter-term operations through the end of the year as tensions on European money markets grew. ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet on Aug. 27 rejected the suggestion that there could be a liquidity crisis in Europe, citing the central bank’s non-standard measures.

Eurozone PMI at two-year low as new orders fall in all countries

(Markit) Manufacturing PMI fell from 50.4 in July to 49.0 in August, its lowest level since August 2009 and below the earlier flash estimate of 49.7. National PMIs held just above the 50.0 no-change mark in Germany, the Netherlands and Austria, but signalled contractions in Ireland, France, Italy, Spain and Greece. Only the Irish PMI rose compared to July, but still remained in contraction territory. The weakness highlighted by the headline PMI reflected falling volumes of both output and new business in August. The Eurozone new orders-to-finished goods inventory ratio, which tends to lead the trend in production, fell to its lowest for almost two-and-a-half years.

European Central Bank Said To Purchase Italian Government Bonds

Sept. 1 (Bloomberg) — The European Central Bank is buying Italian securities, according to two people with knowledge of the transactions. They declined to be identified because the transactions are confidential.

A spokesman for the ECB declined to comment.

Germans, Dutch, Finns to Meet on Crisis Amid Collateral Spat

Sept. 1 (Bloomberg) — The German, Dutch and Finnish finance ministers will meet on Sept. 6 in Berlin to discuss the euro-area debt crisis as a Finnish demand for collateral threatens to delay a second Greek bailout.

“We will discuss how to go forward with this crisis and the future,” Dutch Finance Minister Jan Kees de Jager told reporters in The Hague today. “It’s about fighting this fire, but more importantly, how do we prevent such a fire.”

Finland’s demand for collateral from Greece as a condition for contributing to a second rescue package has triggered calls for similar treatment from countries including Austria and the Netherlands. De Jager said an agreement on collateral shouldn’t take long to reach.

“I see room for a solution; there are proposals on the table to discuss,” De Jager said. “I think it will be possible to provide equal treatment for creditors without the disadvantage of the proposed deal between Finland and Greece, which is unthinkable because it uses extra money from the EFSF to provide collateral to Finland.”

The 440 billion-euro ($628 billion) European Financial Stability Facility is the euro region’s rescue fund.

Weidmann Says ECB Must Scale Back Crisis Measures to Reduce Risk

Sept. 1 (Bloomberg) — European Central Bank council member Jens Weidmann said the bank must scale back the additional risks it has shouldered to help counter the region’s debt crisis.

Measures taken by the ECB have “strained the existing framework of the currency union and blurred the boundaries between the responsibilities of monetary policy on one side and fiscal policy on the other,” Weidmann, who heads Germany’s Bundesbank, said at an event in Hanover today. Over time this can damage confidence in the central bank, he said. “It is therefore valid to scale back the extra risks monetary policy has taken on.”

The ECB is lending euro-area banks as much money as they need at its benchmark rate and has also re-started its bond purchase program — a step Weidmann opposed — in an attempt to stem the spreading debt crisis. While European leaders on July 21 re-tooled their 440-billion-euro ($629 billion) rescue fund, allowing it to buy government debt on the secondary market, national parliaments still need to ratify the changes.

“Decisions on taking further risks should be made by governments and parliaments, as only they are democratically legitimized,” Weidmann said.

He said one option for a long-term solution to Europe’s debt crisis could be “a real fiscal union.”

“Should one be unwilling or unable to take this path, then the existing no-bailout clause in the treaties, and the accompanying disciplining of fiscal policy, should be strengthened instead of being completely gutted,” he said.

Weidmann said his comments don’t relate to current economic developments or ECB policy, citing the one-week blackout prior to a rate decision. ECB officials will convene on Sept. 8 in Frankfurt.

German manufacturing PMI lowest since September 2009

(Markit) At 50.9, down from 52.0 in July, the final seasonally adjusted Markit/BME Germany PMI was around one index point lower than the ‘flash’ figure of 52.0. Growth of German manufacturing output eased fractionally since the previous month and was the slowest since July 2009. Latest data pointed to a fall in intakes of new work for the second month running and the rate of contraction was the fastest since June 2009. The downturn in sales to export markets was highlighted by a further reduction in new business from abroad in August, with the rate of contraction also the sharpest for over two years. Meanwhile, stocks of finished goods at manufacturing firms accumulated at the steepest pace since the survey began in April 1996.

German Trade, Consumption Damped Second-Quarter GDP Growth

(Bloomberg) Private consumption contracted 0.7 percent in the second quarter. GDP increased 0.1 percent from the first quarter, when it gained 1.3 percent, the office said, confirming its initial Aug. 16 estimate. Exports rose 2.3 percent from the first quarter, when they gained 2.1 percent. Imports surged 3.2 percent in the second quarter after rising 1.7 percent in the first. That resulted in net trade reducing GDP growth by 0.3 percentage point. Companies stocked up inventories, which contributed 0.7 percentage point to GDP growth. Gross investment also added 0.7 percentage point to growth. Private consumption subtracted 0.4 percentage point and a 0.9 percent decline in construction spending cut 0.1 percentage point off GDP.

Carrefour posts net loss in 1st half

(AP) Europe’s largest retailer Carrefour SA posted an unexpected net loss in the first half and abandoned its growth target for the year amid the economic slowdown. The French retailer reported a net loss of euro249 million ($359 million) in the first six months of the year, compared with a profit of euro97 million a year earlier. Carrefour said it expects its operating profit to decline this year, reversing a target the retailer set in March when it said an ongoing and expensive “transformation plan” would raise profits this year. As it did last year, Carrefour booked what it calls “significant one-off charges” again in the first half. They amounted to euro884 million in the first half, over half of which went to writing down the value of Carrefour’s Italian assets.

Greece set to miss deficit target

(AP) Greece is likely to miss its budget targets in 2011 even if it fully implements painful reforms a parliamentary panel of financial experts said. “The increase in the primary deficit in combination with a further drop in economic activity strengthens significantly the dynamics of debt, offsetting the benefits from the decisions of the summit of July 21, and distancing the possibility of stabilization of the debt to GDP in 2012,” the panel, known as the State Budget Office, wrote in a report. Citing government figures, it said the 2011 January-July deficit stands at euro15.59 billion ($22.53 billion) with a primary deficit of 2.4 percent of gross domestic product, as opposed to a euro12.45 billion ($17.99 billion) shortfall and 1.5 percent primary deficit in that period last year.

Italy Drops Pension Changes, Will Announce Budget Amendments

(Bloomberg) The Italian government has dropped proposed changes to pension rules agreed to this week from a 45.5 billion-euro ($65.5 billion) austerity plan being discussed in parliament that aims to balance the budget by 2013. Giorgia Meloni, minister for youth and sport policy, told reporters that the government decided to withdraw the proposal agreed to by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti two days ago. On Aug. 29, Berlusconi’s office announced that the government had dropped a planned bonus tax on Italians earning more than 90,000 euros a year and reduced cuts in transfers to regional and local authorities. It did not provide details of how the lost deficit reduction of 4.5 billion euros from those changes would be compensated.

Crisis exposes weakness of Italian coalition

(FT) Giulio Tremonti, finance minister, was said to be in “damage limitation” mode on Wednesday, seeking to assure Italy’s partners that a budget could still get through parliament’s twin chambers by the end of next week, despite prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s decision to jettison some key proposals, including a wealth tax. Three weeks after the centre-right cabinet agreed an austerity package – with €45.5bn ($65.4bn) of savings intended to balance the budget by 2013 – the government on Wednesday missed its self-imposed deadline to present legislation to the senate, the first step towards parliamentary approval. Insiders admit, however, that the budget could amount to a stopgap measure, the second since July, and might need to be reinforced at a later date.

Spanish PM: deficit cap amendment essential

(AP) “It is true that it is a reform done in a very short time span, because we need it,” Prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said. The amendment of the 1978 constitution enshrines the principle of budgetary discipline into Spain’s constitution, but does not specify numbers. These will come in a separate law that is to be passed by June 2012. The Socialists and conservatives have agreed the law will stipulate that Spain’s deficit cannot exceed 0.4 percent of GDP, but that threshold will not take effect until 2020. Their support is enough for the bill to pass when it is voted on Friday in the lower house of Parliament and presumably next week in the Senate. Time is pressing because the legislature dissolves Sept. 27 in order to get ready for general elections Nov. 20.

Spain Expects ‘Chain’ of Market Turbulence, Valenciano Says

(Bloomberg) “We’re probably going to get back into a chain of financial turbulence in September and October,” Elena Valenciano, Socialist party campaign chief, said in an interview. Valenciano said the constitutional amendment is necessary as Spain must avoid following Greece, Ireland and Portugal into seeking a European bailout. “We have to say this because sometimes talking of a rescue seems almost something positive: any kind of intervention in Spain would be a great misfortune for the country,” she said. Valenciano said authorities “didn’t expect August to be as bad as it was” and that the gap may widen again in the next two months, “not so much because of our own debt, but because of Italy’s debt.”

Portugal Raises Taxes to Meet Deficit Targets in Rescue Plan

(Bloomberg) Portugal will raise capital gains tax and increase levies on corporate profit and high earners to reach the deficit-reduction goals in its 78 billion-euro ($112 billion) bailout. The government will impose a tax surcharge of 3 percent on companies with income above 1.5 million euros, add a bonus tax of 2.5 percent on the highest earners and raise the levy on capital gains by 1 percentage point to 21 percent, Finance Minister Vitor Gaspar said. The moves will help trim the budget deficit from 5.9 percent of gross domestic product this year to the European Union ceiling of 3 percent in 2013, he said. The shortfall will narrow to 0.5 percent in 2015. The government will reduce its deficit even as the economy contracts 2.2 percent this year and 1.8 percent next year, before expanding 1.2 percent in 2013, he said.

Ireland’s unemployment rate rises to 14.4 percent

(AP) Ireland’s unemployment rate has risen to 14.4 percent. Ireland has been trying to escape its 3-year recession through export growth led by its multinational companies. But the domestic economy remains dormant because of weak consumer demand, high household debts and a collapsed real-estate market. The Central Statistics Agency said Wednesday that unemployment rose from July’s rate of 14.3 percent, the fourth straight monthly increase. A record-high 470,000 people in Ireland, a country of 4.5 million, are claiming welfare payments for joblessness. About 17 percent are foreigners, chiefly Eastern Europeans who immigrated during the final years of Ireland’s 1994-2007 Celtic Tiger boom.