The Arkansas state legislature has passed an Indiana-style religious freedom bill Democrats say ‘authorises discrimination’, defying international outrage that hours earlier forced the governor of Indiana to walk back a similar law decried by the world’s leading companies and LGBT activists as anti-gay. Despite heated debate among Arkansas’ legislators, who acknowledged increasing public anger brewing over such religious freedom laws sweeping statehouses, the Republican-dominated House passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act on Tuesday Continue reading…
Corrupt politicians? Identikit parties? Nigerians have the same reasons as us to not bother voting – plus 38C heat and day-long queues. But there was no sign of apathy
At 3am this morning, the official announcement came. Muhammadu Buhari, presidential candidate for the opposition All Progressive Congress (APC), had gained 15.4 million votes; the incumbent, Goodluck Jonathan of the People’s Democratic party (PDP), had won 12.9m. Jonathan had already made a telephone call to Buhari the night before, conceding defeat.
This is a landmark moment for Nigeria. It is the first time a sitting president has conceded defeat, and will lead to the democratic handover of power for the first time in the country’s history.
Joy at being part of the democratic process was something I encountered everywhere I went
Rolling economic and financial news, as eurozone officials discuss the slow-moving Greek negotiations
- UK productivity remains weak
- Eurozone manufacturing boosted by weak euro
- Greek factories hit by political uncertainty
- Spanish recovery is alive and well
A brief recap:
Eurozone deputy finance ministers will hold a conference call shortly to discuss the state of play around Greece’s reform plan.
“The agreement will close on (Greek Orthodox) Easter week.
We’ve not seen so much of Yanis Varoufakis, recently — hopefully he’s been hard at work writing that economic reform plan.
But Greece’s finance minister has just appeared on Twitter, to plug a ‘witty’ joke about Greece moving to Bitcoin.
Happy April Fool’s Day everyone… http://t.co/HELEDGDpOk
In grand scheme of things of course, this might be one of the more accurate FAZ stories about the ECB. (Spoiler: there is no restaurant.)
Germany’s finance ministry has confirmed that eurozone deputy finance ministers will hold a conference call this afternoon, to discuss the state of play around Greece.
But it has also dampened hopes that this call would take the eurozone closer to an agreement over Greece’s reform plans.
“In the best case scenario we expect there could be some kind of preliminary interim review but it’s hard to predict how things will develop next week.”
“The agreement will close on (Greek Orthodox) Easter week.”
Last week, I rather expected that we’d soon see another late-night crunch session in Brussels to debate Greece’s finances.
But this (obviously) hasn’t happened yet. And as long as we don’t have an agreement between Greece and her creditors over a reform package, it’s not going to happen.
Journalist Loukia Gyftopoulou has more details about those protests, and arrests, in the Greek parliament courtroom this afternoon:
Protesters demand abolition of anti-terror laws, prisoners’ release and closure of maximum security prisons #Greece
Greek police have now swept into the parliament courtyard to break up the protests:
It’s all looking rather lively in Greece today.
A group of protesters are now demonstrating on the courtyard of the Greek parliament, as part of a solidarity campaign with prisoners conducting a hunger strike.
Speaker GR Parl Konstantopoulou’s first comment on the anarchists’ break-in was “you got jumpy bc some people protested?” via @g_evgenidis
German economist Holder Schmieding blames the new Greek government for the downturn in its economic fortunes this year:
Berenberg Bank’s Holder Schmieding on #Greece: “Rarely has a new government caused so much economic damage in such a short time.”
Over in Athens, pensioners have held an anti-austerity rally to demand pensions and healthcare benefits to be increased.
The elderly, who have faced several pension reductions since 2010, also demanded immediate subsidy of their pension funds and measures to restore damage caused by the 2012 haircut (PSI).
Russia faces a lengthy recession, as the sanctions imposed over Ukraine weaken an economy already suffering from lower oil prices.
That’s according to the World Bank, which has just slashed its forecasts for the Russian economy. It now predicts that GDP will shrink by 3.8% in 2015, and another 0.3% in 2016.
World Bank – says GDP in Russia to fall around -3.8% in 2015 assuming $53 oil
Ireland’s economy continues to bounce back from the lows plumbed during the financial crisis, when its banking collapse triggered a eurozone bailout and years of austerity.
Data just released show that Ireland’s unemployment rate has fallen to 10%, from 10.1%. The number of people claiming unemployment benefit fell by 4,700 to 350,600, down from 450,000 five years ago.
Most European stock markets have defied expectations and rallied this morning, reversing yesterday’s slide.
The news that eurozone factory growth strengthened last month helped to send shares up in Paris, Frankfurt, Milan and Rome.
Related: FTSE rebounds as banks lead the way
Howard Archer, economist at IHS Global Insight, is also disappointed that Britain’s labour productivity fell back in the fourth quarter of 2014.
Productivity currently remains limited compared to pre-crisis levels and the latest relapse will fuel concern that much of this has to do with structural factors. How productivity develops going forward will be a critical factor in how soon and how far the Bank of England raises interest rates.
If productivity has taken a significant lasting hit, it means that the economy has less potential to grow without generating inflationary pressures and that interest rates will need to rise at an earlier stage.
Back to Greece……and eurocrisis expert Yannis Koutsomitis is tweeting some interesting developments around its funding needs:
Vicky Redwood, UK economist at Capital Economics, is concerned that Britain’s productivity fell by another 0.2% in the last quarter:
“This still isn’t great – productivity has still not even returned to its long-run average rate of about 2%, let alone recouped any of the shortfall relative to its pre-crisis trend.”
Britain’s persistently weak productivity gives another insight into the true state of the UK economy, as politicians trade blows ahead of May’s election.
Today’s ONS report shows that David Cameron has presided over an economy with the weakest productivity record of any government since the second world war, says economics editor Larry Elliott.
We’re no more productive (q4 2014) than we were in 2007 (ONS): “the absence of productivity growth…is unprecedented in the post-war period
If reducing corporation tax increases wages and investment, then why have real wages and productivity been taking a hammering?
Despite the recovery, Britain’s economy still suffers from weak productivity.
Data just released by the Office for National Statistics shows that labour force productivity fell by 0.2% in the last three months of 2014.
The absence of productivity growth in the seven years since 2007 is unprecedented in the post-war period.
7 lean years of no productivity growth… Time for a biblical analogy?
Eight-month high for UK manufacturing purchasing managers’ index counters some of those slowdown fears: http://t.co/16fY2GkFMk
March was a good month for UK factories too — the sector grew at its fastest rate in eight months.
The UK manufacturing PMI rose to 54.4 in March, up from 54.0 in February, thanks to strong domestic demand. Export orders picked up too, as the “bright start to the year” continues.
Greece is not sharing in this revival in the eurozone economy — its factory sector contracted again last month.
Greece’s manufacturers reported a third straight monthly drop in output in March, confirming that economic conditions have deteriorated since the country’s political upheaval began.
Weighing on overall inflows of new business was a sharp and accelerated decrease in new export orders, which panel members linked in part to foreign clients being deterred by political uncertainty in Greece.
The eurozone’s economic recovery has strengthened, as manufacturing activity across the region grew at the fastest pace since last May.
Growth accelerated in Germany, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands, as the European Central Bank’s quantitative easing programme stimulates demand and drives down the euro.
“Producers are benefitting from the weaker euro, which has had the dual effect of boosting competitiveness in export markets as well as making competing imports more expensive in the home markets.
“New orders are consequently showing the best growth for nearly a year, and the fact that manufacturers are boosting their payroll numbers at the fastest rate for three-and-a half years indicates optimism that the upturn will be sustained in coming months.
Those French and German PMIs are both higher than the ‘flash’ readings two weeks ago, suggesting that conditions improved during March.
Here comes Germany’s manufacturing PMI…
…and it’s another month of solid growth for factories in Europe’s largest economy.
France’s factory sector has shrunk again, but at least the pace of decline has slowed.
The French manufacturing PMI came in at 48.8 for March, up from 47.6 in February — but still below the 50-point mark that splits expansion and contraction.
Good news from Italy too — factory output has hit an 11-month high last month.
Data firm Markit reports that the Italian manufacturing PMI jumped to 53.3, from 51.9, showing that the sector expanded. Growth is “gathering momentum”, it says, with firms hiring staff at the fastest rate since February 2011.
Spain’s economic recovery continues to pick up pace, as the weaker euro gives Spanish firms a boost.
The Spanish PMI jumped to 54.3 from 54.2, which is another month of solid growth.
The highlight from the latest survey was the strongest rise in employment since mid-2007, as the labour market continues to recover.
Meanwhile, the sharp reductions in input prices seen in the first two months of the year were not repeated at the end of Q1 as the weakness of the euro led to rises in the cost of imported items.”
Turkey’s factory sector has contracted at the fastest rate in almost six years.
Russia’s factory sector continued to contract last month.
“March’s survey data indicated that operating conditions remained challenging overall, with output, new orders and employment all posting modest falls. Access to working capital also remains a hurdle to overcome for a number of manufacturers.”
Overnight, an official survey of the Chinese factory sector was a little stronger than expected in March, driving the Shanghai stock market to a new seven-year high.
Overnight data from China – especially HSBC manufacturing survey – point to a further slowdown in growth.
With a deal before Western Easter looking very unlikely, Greece’s government has now declared that it will reach agreement with its lenders before Orthodox Easter (which falls on 12 April).
“The agreement will close on (Greek Orthodox) Easter week.”
“The idea that prevailed is that we will not proceed with a privatisation of the 67 percent stake, which would mean a full privatisation of Piraeus port. We are not discussing this.”
“We are trying to find some kind of joint venture.”
Good morning, and welcome to our rolling coverage of the world economy, the financial markets, the eurozone and business.
With Greece’s negotiations with its creditors over economic reforms seemingly becalmed, eurozone finance officials will hold a teleconference call today to assess the state of play.
“If it turns out the Greeks leave, that may not be a bad thing for the euro.
“If everybody learns that the rules mean something and if they come to general agreement about fiscal policy among members, or something of the sort, that they mean business, that could be a good thing.”
Eu #daybook: manufacturing PMI data; ECB policy makers are said to be holding weekly review of Emergency Liquidity Assistance to Greece Wed.
Ricky Shawatza Hall was killed on Monday after the NSA said he failed to obey orders to drive away from a heavily guarded gate leading to agency headquarters
Court documents show that a man killed during a violent encounter at the National Security Agency had a history of theft and assault, and was mistaken at least once for being a woman.
The FBI has identified Ricky Shawatza Hall as the person who was killed on Monday after the NSA said he failed to obey orders to drive away from a heavily guarded gate leading into the highly secure NSA campus. An NSA police officer was treated for minor injuries and released.
Detlev G sentenced to more than eight years in prison for murdering 59-year-old businessman
A German police officer has been found guilty of murdering a man he met in an internet forum devoted to cannibalism.
The German news agency DPA reported that the regional court in the eastern city of Dresden sentenced the man to eight years and six months in prison. Judges concluded that Detlev G, whose last name hasn’t been released, killed a 59-year-old businessman from Hannover in November 2013.
An air strike on Yemen’s Red Sea port of Hodaida destroyed a dairy factory on Tuesday night, killing at least 23 workers. The civilian death toll is believed to be one of the biggest in the Saudi-led campaign against Houthi militia. Footage from the scene shows large flames engulfing the factory Continue reading…
Are you planning on attending the Easter Parade in New York or creating your own Easter bonnets? Share your pictures with us
On Easter Sunday in New York, people will attend the annual Easter Parade and Easter Bonnet Festival. If you’re taking part, we’d love to see your photos and videos. Are you making your own bonnets and costumes? Wherever you are in the world we’d like to see your Easter bonnet creations.
You can share your Easter parade and bonnet photos and videos with us by clicking on the blue ‘Contribute’ buttons. Or if you’re contributing while the parade is taking place you can download the GuardianWitness app. We will feature a selection of the best contributions on the site.
Terry O’Gorman asks chief justice not to ‘join and leave’ debate about his position on his own terms and to respond to claims he called his fellow judges ‘snakes’ and ‘scum’
A veteran Queensland lawyer has called on chief justice Tim Carmody not to “join and leave” the public debate about his position on his own terms, and to answer serious criticisms from his peers.
Terry O’Gorman, the Queensland Council for Civil Liberties vice president, has asked Carmody to respond directly to claims he called his fellow judges “snakes” and “scum” and encountered their universal opposition when he sacked the respected senior judge who organises court work schedules.