Man Up France FFS


Enquiring minds might find this table from SocGen of passing interest,


The standout lines are that the French and Belgiums earn more per hour than do German workers, which is a straight turnaround from 2000 when the Germans made more per hour. 

That of course suggests that the Germans suffered relatively poor wage gains but stayed competitive with low unemployment and strong exports.

Everyone else saw wages go up, and competitiveness reduce and now they're looking for German handouts.

 Except the UK where earnings per hour have fallen dramatically since 2008 which is demonstrative of the British taking their medicine.

Onlookers should remember, many things have gone very wrong in the UK but to our credit we started to face up to problems immediately after the crisis. There is a ton of unfinished work in the UK but at the time, the French swept most of their bad news under the carpet and hoisted a sign that said, "no problems here (especially in their banks), nothing to see, move along now." 

Guess what.... your problem, grow up, stop whinging and deal with it.


Clegg The Ungrateful


Nick Clegg's Political Career Takes An Unexpected Turn

After a weekend of bluster Nick Clegg has failed to appear in the House of Commons this afternoon for the Prime Ministers statement on on the EU treaty. Aides say he didn't want to be a distraction. Poor lamb.

Like it or not Clegg is part of the government and should be there; the deputy prime minister can't cherry pick only the fluffy warm user-friendly announcements that he wants to be associated with. In fact, Clegg has done himself enormous damage this weekend. Flip flopping between different views doesn't sit well with voters who, like and agree with them or not, prefer men of conviction and loyalty. Clegg meanwhile is displaying all the characteristics of a political and moral coward and in effect is ensuring his own political end.

What he may have failed to appreciate is that if Cameron had gone along with the treaty, the subsequent referendum would have kicked the EU firmly into touch in the UK and the subsequent and inevitable general election would have signed off himself and the rest of his lie-down-and-cry party into deep oblivion for a generation. Cameron's act of defiance therefore was in fact in the Liberal's best political interests.

It is anyway a common talking point amongst Liberals that Clegg will get the heave at the next general election from the good people of Sheffield. He may find that the EU commissioner job he was pencilled in for is off the scorecard now and so should it be. 

The best thing that Clegg can do is to man up and stand firm for the government and for Britain. If it alienates his party members then so be it. His only alternative is immediate resignation. Any compromise between the two will leave his reputation and future in tatters and regardless of what some of his more naive colleagues and flapping BBC journo's may think, the same will be true of his party's electoral prospects.


UK Position on Europe Explained


I'm afraid we must roll back the pages of history to explain where we are and how we got here but don't worry; it won't take very long. We're travelling back all the way to the 24th March 1980 and deep into the golden age of British televison comedy to Episode 5 of "Yes Minister," entitled "The Writing on the Wall." (hat tip to Mish for the reminder).

Sir Humphrey: Minister, Britain has had the same foreign policy objective for at least the last five hundred years: to create a disunited Europe. In that cause we have fought with the Dutch against the Spanish, with the Germans against the French, with the French and Italians against the Germans, and with the French against the Germans and Italians. Divide and rule, you see. Why should we change now, when it's worked so well?

Hacker: That's all ancient history, surely?

Sir Humphrey: Yes, and current policy. We had to break the whole thing [the EEC] up, so we had to get inside. We tried to break it up from the outside, but that wouldn't work. Now that we're inside we can make a complete pig's breakfast of the whole thing: set the Germans against the French, the French against the Italians, the Italians against the Dutch. The Foreign Office is terribly pleased; it's just like old times.

Hacker: But surely we're all committed to the European ideal? 
Sir Humphrey: [chuckles] Really, Minister. 

Hacker: If not, why are we pushing for an increase in the membership?
Sir Humphrey: Well, for the same reason. It's just like the United Nations, in fact; the more members it has, the more arguments it can stir up, the more futile and impotent it becomes.

Hacker: What appalling cynicism.
Sir Humphrey: Yes... We call it diplomacy, Minister.


Euro Exit; An Elegant Solution



Markets have been preoccupied all week with how the trauma in European debt markets will be resolved. Will Germany capitulate from their hard line stance and allow the ECB to print, or will France capitulate and be drawn in to stronger German led political union? Meanwhile, the Southern European members are being squeezed hard as global investors derisk their exposure throughout the Euro zone with a commensurate deterioration in trust and confidence. There is at this point, little clarity about the outcome. 

One enquiring mind has popped up with an elegant solution. Mark Tinker at Framlington Asset Management, and occasional contributor, takes the lead, 



“My tone is somewhat light hearted, but the intent is very serious. 

An obvious analogy is China and the US. We know that China, as a manufacturing nation, has pegged its currency to the US, an economic zone running a large current account deficit and has benefited to the extent that there are regular calls to have it named as a "currency manipulator". The resulting capital account surplus of China was then recycled through the debt markets of the US as Germany's has been through the convergence trade in the Euro zone. Is not Germany then guilty of exactly the same thing as China? If we agree that it is so, then should we not expect Germany to float the DM in the same way as China will float the RMB? 

Germany should with immediate effect re-denominate all assets into a new DM, which would almost certainly appreciate rapidly against the "Old" euro, probably by around 25%. It could then do as the Swiss have done and make it quite clear that it will target a new informal peg of around 120 (hence my flip comment about pegging itself to the Swiss Franc). This would then enable a lot of the capital currently hiding in bunds to flow back into the eurozone and relieve the liquidity crisis there, for

that is the real issue in Italy and Spain, a fear of a Euro break up meaning a 25% haircut in all assets. 

The German population would love to have the DM and the Bundesbank back and while the Eurozone would have slightly higher yields than now, so long as the ECB makes it clear that ultimately it will print to guarantee repayment of principal - as every other sovereign nation can - there is no reason why their bonds should trade worse than, say the UK. 

The euro survives, just with Germany now in the same position as the UK and Sweden, in Europe but not the Euro. The only losers are German Banks with assets now denominated in a depreciated currency, but as we know, the solvency issues of Greece, Portugal and Ireland are more than accounted for in Banks balance sheets already. This was never a solvency crisis, it has been a liquidity crisis triggered by fears of a currency crisis. Remove Germany and all your problems are solved. If they won't leave, then the other 26 should vote them out.” 

One can only hope that this cracking originality in approach also catapults Mr Tinker to the front of the pack for consideration in the Wolfson Economic Prize which will be awarded “to the person who is able to articulate how best to manage the orderly exit of one of more member states from the European Monetary Union.” With a prize of £250,000 we can simply be certain that his will not be the only entry!