Thursday, 4 December 2008

Europeans make big rate cuts to fight recession

LONDON (Reuters) - The European Central Bank, Britain and Sweden all made big cuts in interest rates on Thursday to shore up economies across Europe in the face of ever-bleaker financial news.

The cuts were applauded by many analysts but market reaction indicated that even more sweeping moves may be needed to halt the decline.

Sweden lopped off a record 175 basis points to 2.0 percent and the ECB slashed 75 points to 2.50 percent, the eurozone's biggest ever cut.

The Bank of England chopped 100 basis points for an interest rate of 2.0 percent, the lowest level since 1951, as recession loomed over Britain.

France meanwhile unveiled a 26 billion euro ($32.9 billion) stimulus plan for its faltering economy as unemployment rose, the latest European country to open state coffers to fight the downturn.

With the United States, Europe and Japan now in recession and other countries sliding that way, data showed a mounting pattern of job losses and corporate woes across the globe.

The rate cuts are aimed at making credit cheaper and so boost spending, but banks will need to overcome their reluctance to lend for the measure to take hold and savers will suffer.

Sweden's central bank, the Riksbank said it expected rates to remain at the new 2.0 percent level over the coming year. There was an "unexpectedly rapid and clear deterioration in economic activity since October," it said.

The Bank of England, also taking rates to 2.0 percent, made clear the downturn had gathered pace and conditions in credit markets remained difficult.

"Across the UK, deteriorating house prices and rising unemployment are both taking their toll on business and consumer confidence," said Trevor Williams, chief economist, Lloyds TSB Corporate Markets.

Analysts had widely expected the move following business indicators suggesting Britain's economy could be heading for an even deeper recession than most people had predicted.

But it disappointed some investors who had begun to speculate on a bigger easing following Sweden's action and European shares and bund futures pared Thursday's earlier gains.

Most analysts had predicted a 50 basis point cut by the ECB, but with inflation plummeting and the economy of the 15-nation eurozone sinking deeper into recession, it opted for a bigger slice.

"They are now taking bolder decisions and this reflects a shift in perception in the ECB," said Bank of America economist Gilles Moec."

Nevertheless, European shares gave up gains to turn deeply negative, tracking U.S. index futures after a bearish update from chemicals group DuPont.

U.S. interest rates will fall below 1 percent if the Fed cuts again as expected later this month.

Earlier on Thursday, New Zealand sliced interest rates by a record 150 basis points to a five-year low of 5.0 percent and said it would probably have to trim again.

Indonesia also made a surprise cut in its key interest rate, by 25 basis points to 9.25 percent, the first since December 2007 as the government sought to protect the economy.

In trading that closed before the European rate cuts, Asian shares fell as investors braced for a sharp turn lower in the global economy and sought safety in U.S. government debt.


French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced a stimulus package to help France withstand the crisis just as the government announced that the unemployment rate rose in the third quarter to 7.7 percent.

The 26 billion euro ($32.9 billion) plan will target investment projects rather than directly aiding consumers, earmarking money for infrastructure and support for local authorities as well as moves to help the ailing auto industry.

It is expected to boost French growth by around 0.6 percent next year, but will also push the deficit to 3.9 percent of GDP against a previous target of 3.1 percent.

In Zurich, Swiss bank Credit Suisse said it was cutting another 5,300 jobs as it revealed a net loss of about 3 billion Swiss francs ($2.5 billion) in October and November.

That will add to the more than 100,000 jobs that have been lost in the financial industry as banks across the world cut costs to cope with the worst crisis since The Great Depression.


The crisis has devastated industries, including the U.S. auto industry, which is lobbying Washington for a bailout.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin of Russia -- which along with China, Indian and Brazil was a dynamic emerging market in the heady days before the downturn -- blamed the United States for "infecting" leading world economies with the crisis.

He predicted Russia would survive with "minimal losses" and pledged to maintain rises in social spending and avoid a sudden devaluation.

In China, Zhou Xiaochuan, head of the People's Bank of China, expressed confidence his country could sustain economic growth and financial stability but said "timely, effective and pre-emptive measures" were needed.

China cut interest rates last week to spur the economy and Australia and Thailand followed this week to avoid recession.

Japanese companies slashed spending, showing the economy was in a deeper recession than the government estimated.


  1. I'd like to Post a Comment The recession really isn't that bad if you know where to look. The bailout money is spilling over to us believe it or not. I've done research and found that there is more money than what you think...

    Bailout Spillover

  2. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



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