London (CNN) – As the countdown to Christmas continues, shoppers across the world are pounding the pavements in search of the perfect present.
The festive season is a veritable godsend for retailers, many of which make much of their profits in the final month of the year.
London (CNN) – Ten hours around the negotiating table were not enough to convince British Prime Minister David Cameron to back down on his demands for safeguards to his country’s interests.
As such, the leaders of France and Germany showed him to the door and decided to settle for closer budget discipline among eurozone countries. According to German Chancellor Angela Merkel: "David Cameron sat with us at the table, we made a decision for this text, we do not have time for weak compromises regarding the euro."
The result of round one of this week's "battle of Brussels" was widely expected but it does raise the worrying prospect of a two-tier Europe emerging, with the 17 euro-using members on one side and most of the remaining 10 non-eurozone states on the other.
London (CNN) – The future of Europe’s single currency hangs in the balance, interest rates are moving and the debt crisis threatens to trigger a recession next year. Faced with such uncertainty, there’s only one option left for traders across London’s financial district: Look on the lighter side.
One broker sent me an email this morning suggesting Sir Alex Ferguson was now advising German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy on their European exit strategy. His message - sent in jest - poked fun both at Manchester United’s shock departure from the Champions League and the bailout fatigue setting in among Europe’s biggest economies. Jokes aside, the point is even the strongest teams can face relegation.
That’s a concept the leaders of France and Germany have become more familiar with in the past few days after ratings agency Standard & Poor’s cautioned it may cut their coveted AAA credit scores.
Make no mistake, as Europe’s 27 heads of government gather for this year’s final pow-wow in Brussels, they are playing a dangerous game and the stakes couldn’t be higher.
London (CNN) – We are now well into Olli Rehn’s 10 days to save the euro and the tempo is heating up.
Mario Draghi, the new European Central Bank president, has tantalizingly hinted he will do more to help out provided euro-member countries start the process of economic unification. As he put it, the sequence of events matters. In our language: Don’t put the horse before the cart.
For Europe’s leaders the promise that the ECB will ride to the rescue is sweet music, perhaps even for Germany’s Merkel and the Bundesbank who are demanding a move to fiscal union as the only preferred long-term solution.
London (CNN) – Just like the credit crunch three years ago, the current eurozone crisis will no doubt spawn endless books and provide many an interesting case study for the world’s future economists. Whether the lessons will be learned and future crises avoided depends largely on whether you believe history repeats itself. And that’s another topic that divides opinion as much as the eurozone itself.
Already academics at Oxford University’s Centre for International Studies have identified 10 key failures of Europe’s leaders in how they have handled the issue, even though the saga is far from over.
Associate Fellow Kirsty Hughes says that the errors are largely political, democratic and economic in nature.
Here’s a list of where Hughes says EU leaders got things so wrong:
Talks between David Cameron and Angela Merkel reached a stalemate after the UK prime minister said his country would not wish to adopt a so-called 'Tobin tax' on financial transactions unless such measures were introduced on a global scale.
So, what’s Cameron's beef with the potential levy? And what would his country lose if it were introduced across the European Union?
The measures being mulled include a 0.1 percent charge on stock and bond trades and a 0.01 percent fee for derivatives.
The money raised would have a dual benefit for leaders facing their biggest threat to peace and prosperity in the region since World War II.
London (CNN) - In many ways Italy is a tale of two countries.
Living standards in the north are pretty high while chronic unemployment dogs parts of the south. Successive governments have failed to bridge the economic gap despite numerous rounds of devolution. To this day, the north-south divide remains raw in the minds in the minds of many there.
Now Mario Monti has been nominated to succeed Silvio Berlusconi as prime minister, the gulf between Italy’s current and future leaders is likely to be almost as large.
London (CNN) - He's been dubbed 'super Mario' but the man at the helm of the European Central Bank might as well be 'superman' such is the monumental responsibility that rests on his shoulders - a responsibility that doesn’t really fall into his job remit either.
As Italy successfully braved the bond markets this week with a €5 billion sale, traders say the country had much to thank Mario Draghi, its former central bank chief, for.
At 6.08%, the Italian Treasury had to offer a whopping 2.51% more than when it last sold bonds on October 11. Having said that, Italian 10-year bond yields traded lower than their recent euro-era highs. That means Italy is out of the panic zone for now at least.
Editor's note: CNN anchor Nina dos Santos spent four years in Italy as a correspondent and covered Silvio Berlusconi’s re-election in 2008.
(CNN) – As world leaders battled to stave off another recession, Silvio Berlusconi spent much of the summit season eyeing the contours of his female counterparts.
Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner was the latest to suffer the ignominy of being ogled by the Italian Premier at the G20 in Cannes, while cameras caught Berlusconi leering at Denmark’s Helle Thorning-Schmidt in Brussels.
Berlusconi clearly has a head for figures. Unfortunately he has been focussing on the wrong kind for too long – much to the detriment of his long-suffering electorate.
The party’s over and the guests have finally gone. Now, it’s time to tackle the washing up.
After weeks of hosting summits in Brussels, then Cannes, designed to sort out everyone else’s problems, French President Nicolas Sarkozy returned to Paris at the weekend to tackle the economic battle on his home front.
The French Cabinet will hold a belated weekly meeting on Monday and the agenda is likely to be dominated by the nation’s home-grown austerity plans. The timing couldn’t be more apt, given the precarious nature of Greece (and France’s $56 billion exposure to it.)
If there’s one thing France has in common with its smaller, weaker eurozone neighbours - like Greece - it is that with growth stalling it is becoming increasingly difficult for such countries to keep to their deficit targets.
Just last month, France cut its growth outlook to 1 percent for next year from 1.75 percent. That figure had already been revised downwards from 2 percent during the summer. As growth slows, so the revenues otherwise needed to pay down the deficit also flow less freely.
This is why France has said it will need to push through an additional $8 billion to $11 billion worth of extra austerity, to make sure the public shortfall does not exceed its targeted 4.5 percent of GDP.
You see, France must show it is serious about tackling its finances - or else it could find itself losing its coveted AAA rating.
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