Paul Wallace

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel leaves after her testimony at a parliamentary inquiry in Berlin investigating the NSA's activities in Germany, February 16, 2017. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt - RTSYZAJ

British Prime Minister Theresa May was the first foreign leader to meet Donald Trump at the White House, but the one who counts in Europe is German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Her response to Trump’s apparent readiness to overturn seven decades of American support for NATO and the European Union will be crucial in determining the future of Germany and the EU.

The provocations of what may come to be called the “Trump doctrine” are causing angst in Berlin. At their joint press conference on Jan. 27, May claimed to have secured the president’s “100 percent” backing for NATO, the western alliance underpinned by American military might since 1949.…  Seguir leyendo »

Rogue One, the latest in the Star Wars franchise, has had mixed reviews but features one undisputed star: K-2SO, a gangly robot with the best lines. Movies of  the distant future always tap into current anxieties – and the latest alarm is that the robots are coming. Droids may not conquer the world, but they will take over its work – white-collar as well as blue-collar. Could these filmmakers know something we don’t?

Previous scares, such as when Time magazine reported on “the automation jobless” in the early 1960s, were just that. But many technology gurus insist that this time is different as artificial intelligence (AI) comes of age.…  Seguir leyendo »

After ingesting the Trump agenda and spitting out its market implications, investors and traders can get back to their usual pastime: trying to work out what central bankers are plotting. Two vital meetings loom in the next 10 days.

The political upheaval in Italy means that the European Central Bank is all but certain to extend its big bond-buying program, due to end in March 2017, by a further six months when it meets on Thursday, December 8. Less than a week later, the U.S. Federal Reserve is expected to raise its main interest rate at its conclave on December 13 and 14 - a year after its first increase in almost a decade.…  Seguir leyendo »

It is the economic ring of rings, the number that rules all. Gross domestic product is the measure that preoccupies policymakers and obsesses markets. Traders fine-tune their predictions of Federal Reserve policy based on expectations about GDP’s performance. Nowcasters seek to provide real-time estimates. And yet, more than ever, it is apparent that this economic lodestar is a treacherous guide.

Consider the controversy over how the Japanese economy performed in 2014. According to official figures, GDP declined by 0.9 percent. But a recent Bank of Japan study, which drew on alternative sources of data, found that it had expanded by 2.4 percent.…  Seguir leyendo »

Activists march in London to protest against Britain's vote to leave the EU. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

The European Union lexicon, already stuffed with ugly words and phrases, needs to coin a new one: “plebiphobia.” Unlike some anxieties, the fear of referendums is well-grounded. Following Britain’s vote in June to leave the union, plebiscites this fall in Hungary on migration and in Italy on constitutional reform may further destabilize the EU. More fundamentally, plebiphobia rules out the very reforms needed to prevent more Brexit-like uprisings.

The EU’s checkered relationship with referendums goes back a long time, restraining its otherwise seemingly relentless expansion. In 1972, Norwegians voted against membership and stayed out of the second wave of members – Britain, Denmark and Ireland – that joined a year later.…  Seguir leyendo »