February 14, 2009
Europe Slump Deeper Than Expected
By ERIC PFANNER
PARIS — Europe sank even deeper into recession than the United States in the closing months of last year, according to figures published Friday, as finance ministers of leading industrialized nations gathered in one of the worst-affected countries, Italy, for discussions on the crisis.
The economy of the 16 countries sharing the euro currency declined by 1.5 percent in the fourth quarter, according to the European Union’s statistics office. That is even worse than the 1 percent decline in the United States economy during that period, compared with the previous quarter.
“Today’s data wipes out any illusion that the euro zone is getting off lightly in this global downturn,” said Jörg Radeke, an economist at the Center for Economics and Business Research in London.
Until recently, some economists had thought that Europe might suffer less from the recession, which started in the United States before spreading to most of the rest of the world. While some European economies, including Britain, Ireland and Spain, have seen American-style plunges in home prices, housing markets have held up better elsewhere in Europe. Consumers have also cut back less on their spending in Europe than in the United States.
But instead, European industry has been walloped as businesses around the world, and particularly in the United States, cut back on new orders to bring down their inventories.
He’s not alone.
Various stock markets surge on a daily basis over the most unbelievably desperate news–half a million lose their jobs in a single month and the Dow-Jones takes off like a deer headed for deep woods.
No economic minister can find his/her arse with either hand and yet . . . and yet these eight-balls are gathered in Italy, stroking their collective chins on expense account and expressing surprise.
Alan Greenspan was amazed, Ben Bernanke thunderstruck, Henry Paulson almost too bewildered to bail out his old buddies at Goldman Sachs. Now we are told Wall Street absolutely must pay multi-million dollar paychecks or their best people may leave. Best people is easily, handily and wrongheadedly defined as easing one dismounted econo-jock after another back into the saddle after he has run his race in the wrong direction and been thrown.
In this upside down world of upsides turned down, Jörg and Ben, Henry and Alan are looked to for solutions–unbelievers murmuring ‘Amen.’