Economic Outlook: Looking for QE3

By ANTHONY HALL, United Press International  |  May 2, 2012 at 9:16 AM
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The Automatic Data Processing Inc. jobs report is already pulling on stocks, with figures that are bound to jolt markets Wednesday.

Economists expected 175,000 additional jobs in April. ADP put the figure of new private sector jobs at 119,000 for the month.

That will drive the nail into the coffin in which lies the U.S. economic recovery. For the third year in a row a promising few months of additional jobs has run out of steam.

In this case, part of the slower growth in jobs is due to a weather hiccup. With an unseasonably warm winter, spring hiring, which takes place at recreation departments, vacation spots, and landscaping companies, took place far earlier than usual.

Not only investors, but voters will likely feel the chill with the weak numbers. And this was bound to happen. Almost a third of the recent drops in the unemployment rate has been due to a large number of workers giving up on finding a job.

The International Labor Organization this week said 40 percent of those out of work around the globe have been out of work for more than a year.

This is likely the reason the lower unemployment rate has not provoked enormous crowing from the White House. With the gross domestic product inching forward -- at the rate of 2.2 percent on an annual basis in the first quarter -- it is far too early for a parade.

No parades in Europe, either. Eurostat on Wednesday said the unemployment rate in the 17-member eurozone reached 10.9 percent in March, while in the 27-member European Union it reached 10.2 percent.

For the eurozone, that's the highest unemployment rate since the currency region was formed. It is one tick up from February's 10.8 percent and a sobering climb from March 2011, when the unemployment rate in the eurozone was 9.9 percent and appeared to be heading lower.

There is no avoiding a recession in Europe at this point. Half the eurozone and Britain have posted negative GDP figures for two consecutive quarters.

The ILO called it loud and clear this week: The austerity budget cuts and higher taxes in the face of rising unemployment is not working, the organization said in an annual report on jobs.

Look around for panic spending -- or attempts at panic spending -- and conservatives with clenched jaws. The United States is a prime example, but Europe has its examples, as well. Republicans in Washington who cannot scrape together a plan to tackle unemployment, except lowering taxes for the wealthy, will find deficit-cutting wins quieter cheers at campaign rallies. Similarly, Obama on the stump will be hard pressed to crow about a stimulus package, because Congress is not going to give him one.

That leaves it up the Federal Reserve, where a third round of quantitative easing is sure to look more tempting with each passing week.

Printing money was once considered an unorthodox or at least unusual form of economic stimulus. Now plotting for round three, the measure looks more normal every day.

Analysts will also expect the Fed to act decisively soon. The central bank runs on the illusion -- for most part a well earned illusion -- that it is above the fray of political divisions. The Fed, analysts will say, will put QE3 together pronto to keep its actions as far away from November as possible.

In international markets Wednesday, the Nikkei 225 index in Japan rose 0.31 percent, while the Shanghai composite index in China gained 1.76 percent. The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong added 1.02 percent, while the Sensex in India lost 0.1 percent.

The S&P/ASX 200 in Australia gained 0.14 percent.

In midday trading in Europe, the FTSE 100 index in Britain shed 0.85 percent, while the DAX 30 in Germany lost 0.51 percent. The CAC 40 in France added 0.22 percent, while the Stoxx Europe 600 slipped 0.41 percent.

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