Euro zone surveys to offer hope as Japan eases

Sun Jan 20, 2013 2:21pm EST
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By Alan Wheatley, Global Economics Correspondent

LONDON (Reuters) - The prospect of stronger European manufacturing surveys and decisive monetary easing in Japan this week ought to bolster confidence that the global economy can look forward to better days.

It is definitely not yet time to break open the champagne.

The index derived from polls of purchasing managers across the euro zone, though recovering, is likely to remain well below the 50 threshold that signals expansion.

If the Bank of Japan bows to political pressure and relaxes policy more boldly, it is because the country's noxious cocktail of a huge debt burden, deflation and dwindling external surpluses threatens an eventual fiscal crunch.

And an expected contraction in Britain's economy when fourth-quarter figures are released on Friday will be a reminder, as was Germany's grim end to 2013, that Europe has to dig itself out of a deep hole.

"The real hard economic data are still very negative," said Bert Colijn, an economist in Brussels with the Conference Board, a business research group. "There are improvements, but it still doesn't look that bright."

However, he said the economic news from the euro zone rim was not quite as troubling, and the mood was brightening among the core countries of the single currency area.

Lena Komileva, managing director of G+ Economics, a London consultancy, said it was hard to argue against investors' new-found appetite for riskier assets given that the volatility of equity prices was approaching historical lows and yields on corporate bonds had fallen sharply.   Continued...

A statue depicting European unity is seen near EU flags outside the European Parliament in Brussels October 12, 2012. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir