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ECONOMY

Merkel welcomes EU’s new banking watchdog

German Chancellor Angela Merkel Thursday praised a new EU accord to create a supervisor to oversee banks across the eurozone and urged the release of urgently needed funds for Greece.

Merkel welcomes EU's new banking watchdog
Photo: DPA

Addressing lawmakers in the Bundestag lower house of parliament, she said the deal clinched earlier in Brussels just hours before an EU summit was of inestimable value and had met German concerns.

“It cannot be valued highly enough that eurozone finance ministers agreed overnight on a legal framework and the outlines of a common supervisory mechanism for banks,” she said.

And she thanked German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, saying that Berlin’s “core demands” had been met in the agreement.

The complex bank supervision deal is a key step towards a banking union which EU leaders hope will ring-fence banks in trouble to prevent future crises.

It will allow eurozone banks to be recapitalised directly, rather than through governments, so as to avoid adding to their growing debt burden.

The European Central Bank (ECB) will manage the eurozone system in tandem with the London-based European Banking Authority, which covers all 27 EU states, and national supervisors.

From March 2014, banks with assets worth more than €30 billion or equal to 20 percent of a state’s economic output will come under the ECB remit.

The ECB will also have to right to intervene in cases involving smaller banks but it is expected that national supervisors will have the main responsibility in this category.

Turning to Greece, Merkel said she hoped the Eurogroup would approve the payment of the next tranche of aid for Greece later on Thursday, adding “anyone dealing with Greece’s circumstances knows that it is urgently necessary.”

“The implemented buy-back programme of state bonds has provided an important contribution to the improvement of its capacity to bear debt,” she added.

On Wednesday, Athens announced it had attracted offers worth €31.9 billion under the debt buy-back scheme.

The buy-back aims to cut Greece’s debt by about €20 billion and is vital to unblock pending loans from the European Union and International Monetary Fund, which were frozen earlier this year owing to reform delays.

AFP/bk

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ECONOMY

German consumer prices set to rise steeply amid war in Ukraine

Russia's war in Ukraine is slowing down the economy and accelerating inflation in Germany, the Ifo Institute has claimed.

German consumer prices set to rise steeply amid war in Ukraine

According to the Munich-based economics institute, inflation is expected to rise from 5.1 to 6.1 percent in March. This would be the steepest rise in consumer prices since 1982.

Over the past few months, consumers in Germany have already had to battle with huge hikes in energy costs, fuel prices and increases in the price of other everyday commodities.

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With Russia and Ukraine representing major suppliers of wheat and grain, further price rises in the food market are also expected, putting an additional strain on tight incomes. 

At the same time, the ongoing conflict is set to put a dampener on the country’s annual growth forecasts. 

“We only expect growth of between 2.2 and 3.1 percent this year,” Ifo’s head of economic research Timo Wollmershäuser said on Wednesday. 

Due to the increase in the cost of living, consumers in Germany could lose around €6 billion in purchasing power by the end of March alone.

With public life in Germany returning to normal and manufacturers’ order books filling up, a significant rebound in the economy was expected this year. 

But the war “is dampening the economy through significantly higher commodity prices, sanctions, increasing supply bottlenecks for raw materials and intermediate products as well as increased economic uncertainty”, Wollmershäuser said.

Because of the current uncertainly, the Ifo Institute calculated two separate forecasts for the upcoming year.

In the optimistic scenario, the price of oil falls gradually from the current €101 per barrel to €82 by the end of the year, and the price of natural gas falls in parallel.

In the pessimistic scenario, the oil price rises to €140 per barrel by May and only then falls to €122 by the end of the year.

Energy costs have a particularly strong impact on private consumer spending.

They could rise between 3.7 and 5 percent, depending on the developments in Ukraine, sanctions on Russia and the German government’s ability to source its energy. 

On Wednesday, German media reported that the government was in the process of thrashing out an additional set of measures designed to support consumers with their rising energy costs.

The hotly debated measures are expected to be finalised on Wednesday evening and could include increased subsidies, a mobility allowance, a fuel rebate and a child bonus for families. 

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s proposals for future energy price relief

In one piece of positive news, the number of unemployed people in Germany should fall to below 2.3 million, according to the Ifo Institute.

However, short-time work, known as Kurzarbeit in German, is likely to increase significantly in the pessimistic scenario.

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