Finance Ministers Meet in Brussels to Discuss Economic Pitfalls

As the European crisis continues, financial leaders are seeking ways to gain crisis-management momentum in an effort to avoid future political pitfalls.

Ministers from across the region are now meeting in Brussels  to debate the options of aiding Cyprus and Greece during this chaotic time.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s council chairman Wolfgang Franz said: “We don’t know yet how we’re going to get out of the crisis. If the crisis is a marathon, we’ve got two-thirds of the course behind us. But the last third is always the hardest.”

Italian 10-year bonds increased to a year-to-date high of more than 4.5%, while the euro fell 2% against the U.S. dollar. The currency change came after European Central Bank President Mario Draghi expressed his concerns regarding the euro’s strength and its effect on recovery.

“The exchange rate is not a policy target, but it is important for growth and price stability,” Draghi said. “We want to see if the appreciation is sustained, and if it alters our assessment of the risks to price stability.”

China’s Economy Shows Signs of Recovery

China’s economy has finally reached a turnaround after a prolonged rough patch. Exports and domestic demand are both showing signs of recovery, and the country is buzzing as a result.

This weekend, data including figures for industrial production, fixed-asset investment, retail sales and overall economic output will be released, revealing the expansion of what is already the second-largest economy in the world.

Retail sales have also increased significantly. Liu Licai, a merchant in southern China, explained that her shelves have been emptying so quickly that she is forced to place additional orders with suppliers.

“Business has gone up by more than 10 percent in the last several month,” she said.

Situations like that of Ms. Liu have been keeping factories busy. As a result, employment rates are increasing, while construction sites show new signs of life and markets grow across the country.

U.S. Tax Increase in 2013- Pros and Cons

President Obama is toying with the idea of increasing taxes in 2013, despite his previous disapproval of the idea back in 2010.

David Gregory of Meet the Press discussed the move and its potential effects on the U.S. economy with Senator Dick Durbin and Senator Jon Kyl in a program last night.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXXQfHbsWIQ]

Watch the full debate here on MSNBC.com

Singapore Proceeds with Caution as European Crisis Lingers

Despite last year’s growth, Singapore remains concerned about a potential “disorderly” European debt default and its impact on the economy.

GDP increased 10% in the past three months, while the estimate was set at 9.9% according to the Trade Ministry.

Unlike other Asian policy makers, Singapore narrowed its strategy this spring in an effort to blunt strengthening price pressures. Europe’s debt conflict appeared to have been on the mend, but certain government struggles in countries such as Greece have proved a setback in the process.

“The developments in Europe pose a significant downside risk to Singapore’s economy,” says Nomura Holdings’ Euben Paracuelles. “It’s hard for Asia to escape the repercussions if there’s a European recession and it’s accompanied by financial market instability and a banking crisis.” He added that the growth outlook for Singapore during the third quarter is “very poor.”

 

Slow Going for U.S. Economy

Though consumer spending has decreased over the last month or two, American incomes have increased since December, strengthening savings accounts throughout the nation, according to the U.S. government.

On Monday, the government revealed that consumer spending has barely changed since December, despite intense (and sometimes fatal) holiday shopping sprees. In November, consumer spending rose only one tenth of a percentage point. Consumer spending covers 70% of the U.S. economy, and recent trends may be cause for concern.

However, personal incomes have grown by half a percentage point as of December, reaching a year-long high. Many Americans have been forced to pay their bills with their savings over the past few years, and the rise in income has pushed savings rates up by 4%.  In addition, figures for the end of 2011 in the hedge fund industry were disappointing, having been described by Kevin Rose and Azam Ahmed as “dismal.”

Considered the world’s greatest economy, the U.S. has been growing slowly. In 2011 it grew a mere 1.7%, while Federal Reserve officials predict 2.7% growth in 2012.

Small Businesses Create Thousands of Jobs But Labor Market Remains Shaky

According to a recent survey, U.S. small businesses have created 55,000 jobs this month, though employees worked less hours and earned smaller amounts of money. Based on responses from around 71,000 small businesses, the survey covered the period between October 24th and November 23rd.

Payrolls processing company Intuit said the small business employment rise in November compared to October’s revised 60,000 count, which was reported previously as a 30,000 gain.

The average work week for such employees dropped 0.3% to 24.9 hours, and the average monthly salary fell 0.18%, to $2,637.

“Total comparison is down, part time workers aren’t getting as many hours, and there are fewer hourly employees who are working full time,” explained Susan Woodward, an economist involved in the survey’s development.

“Overall, this data is the best we could hope for given the uncertainty of the situation in Europe.”

 

Market Losses and an Economic Overview

The worsening European crisis, negative reports on the U.S. economy and Congress’ budget cuts have resulted in dramatic market downturns over the past few weeks. Last Monday saw gold fall past $1,700, but as investors chose the metal as their safest bet it rebounded slightly. Silver also shifted in value, falling on Monday, November 21st and rising again on Tuesday. Reviews later showed that stocks have continued their losing streak, and the S&P posted a loss for the sixth day in a row.

David Kostin of Goldman Sachs explained that Congress’ failure to agree on budget cuts has left equity markets and the U.S. credit rating with deep concerns. “Failure to reach an agreement on at least the minimum required savings will reflect poorly on Congress and the S&P 500 could fall by 10% to 1,100%. The wide range of possible outcomes on both the super committee process and the unstable political economy in Europe drives our view that investors should assume the worst while hoping for the best.”

The U.S. Commerce Department reported that GDP grew less than expected- only 2% from July to September. Daniel Clifton, policy strategist with Strategas Research said “We would expect further downgrades, a first downgrade for Moody’s and Fitch and possibly a second downgrade from S&P.”

Obama Accuses China of Intentionally Lowering its Currency Value

This weekend, President Barack Obama spoke at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Honolulu, stating that China is now a “grown up” economy, and must learn to act more responsibly on its currency.

“We welcome China’s peaceful rise,” he said, but Beijing should cease “gaming” the international economic system and help level the field for foreign businesses from the U.S. and around the world.  He added that China is deliberately keeping its national currency at a low point in order to support Chinese exporters.

“Most economists estimate that the renminbi (yuan0 is devalued by 20 to 25 percent,” he said. “That means our exports to China are that much more expensive and their imports into the United States are that much cheaper.”