Our Two Cents – Week of 1/3/12
The crystal ball atop New York City’s Times Square has dropped, champagne glasses have clinked and confetti has strewn—all signs welcoming 2012. As we said goodbye to a year that saw economic commotion, we greeted the new year with a refined sense of optimism for the U.S. and equal thoughts of hope for abroad.
Americans are more confident about 2012 after what they say was a less-than stellar 2011, according to an Associated Press poll. Nearly 70 percent of Americans said 2011 was a poor year because of continuing economic crisis, and 62 percent said they were hopeful for a more positive 2012. About 37 respondents said they saw economic improvements coming within the next 12 months, and almost 40 percent believed their personal financial situations will improve. Signs that the U.S. economy is starting to accelerate are already coming to fruition. Experts say an improving job market and increasing retail sales—especially in the past holiday season—are reasons for why growth in the U.S. economy may hasten even if conditions abroad aren’t replicated. Holiday sales during the week ending Dec. 24 ascended nearly 15 percent from the same period in 2010 to $44 billion, thanks to Christmas Eve falling on a Saturday.
While the U.S. conditions are rebounding, Europe’s markets are starting 2012 on the right foot. Italy’s FTSE MIB index is up nearly 1 percent, and Germany DAX is also up more than 1 percent. Yields in Italy are down to below 6.9 percent.
In the last few days of 2011, Italy’s Treasury paid significantly less to borrow money for six months than it did a month ago, restoring some senses of economic confidence. Even though Spain has slipped into recession, the country’s inflation has eased much more than expected in December to its lowest level in 13 months. Inflation rates also relaxed in Germany for the third straight month.
Speaking of Germany, it received the highest mark on the Bank of Montreal’s economic report card of the world’s most important economies in 2011. The nation earned a score of 89.2 because of its 2.5-percent inflation rate, 7.1-percent jobless rate and 1.2-percent budget deficit. Greece closed the list at No. 12 because of its 3.2-percent inflation rate, 16.6-percent jobless rate and 5.9-percent budget deficit. The U.S. earned the No. 6 spot for its 3.2-percent inflation, 9-percent jobless rate and 10-percent budget deficit. The bank based ratings on low inflation, low unemployment and low budget deficits.
The year 2012 also observes the 10th anniversary of the euro. While some individuals blamed the euro for causing Europe’s economic meltdown, the monetary unit could become the world’s leading single-currency alliance if leaders can succeed in tightening fiscal integration, according to one official from the European Central Bank. ECB policymaker Christian Noyer said if European officials can implement the actions from the Dec. 9, 2011, emergency summit, the union will emerge stronger.
- 2012 Is Starting Out Hot: Markets In Rally Mode For Second Straight Day, Business Insider, Jan. 3, 2012
- Euro could become world’s leading currency: Noyer, Reuters, Dec. 31, 2011
- Growth in U.S. May Accelerate Even as Europe Shrinks, Bloomberg, Dec. 30, 2011
- AP poll: Americans more optimistic about 2012 after downbeat 2011, Los Angeles Times, Dec. 29, 2011
- Retail sales resilient in final holiday stretch, Reuters, Dec. 29, 2011
- Italian Funding Costs Slide , Wall Street Journal, Dec. 29, 2011
- This Is How The World’s Most Important Economies Stacked Up In 2011, Business Insider, Dec. 28, 2011
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