Thursday, December 8, 2016

ECB adds half a trillion euros in stimulus; Japan growth revised down; We are to blame for giraffe decline and only we can save them

1 ECB adds half a trillion euros in stimulus (San Francisco Chronicle)  The European Central Bank will pour another half-trillion euros ($579 billion) in newly printed money into the eurozone economy to support its recovery as the currency union heads into what could be a tumultuous election year.

The bank's 25-member governing council extended the duration of its bond-buying stimulus program by at least nine months, from March until December next year. But the council startled markets by reducing the monthly amount of bonds it will buy after March, to 60 billion euros ($64 billion) from 80 billion euros currently.

ECB President Mario Draghi said the reduction did not mean the bank was tapering, or phasing out, the stimulus. He said the central bank could increase the monthly purchases if needed and that there is still no firm end date for the stimulus program. He noted, however, that the economy could get by with less monthly stimulus now because the danger of deflation — falling prices that kill off growth and investment — had passed.

The bond purchases pump freshly created money into the banking system in hopes of increasing weak inflation and encouraging growth. The flood of cash also helps keep financial markets calmer as Europe faces elections in the Netherlands and France next year where anti-EU, populist candidates are expected to do well.

2 Japan growth revised down (BBC) Japan's economy grew much slower than initially estimated in the third quarter of the year, figures have revealed, as business investment fell. The Cabinet Office said the economy grew 1.3% in the three months to the end of September, compared to the same period a year ago. However, that was sharply lower than the previous estimate of 2.2%.

The new data indicated that investment by companies in the quarter had been weaker than initially estimated. Just over a quarter of the growth came from net exports. Economists are hopeful that exports will pick up following the rise in the value of the dollar since Donald Trump's election as US president.

Japan's economy has been struggling for several years, raising questions about Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's strategy to revive the Japanese economy. Mr Abe took office in late 2012, launching a growth plan that included three main elements - pumping more money into the economy, boosting government spending and cutting red tape.

3 We are to blame for giraffe decline and only we can save them (Jules Howard in The Guardian) Imagine entering a museum of the future. You are in the shadow of an enormous towering skeleton of an extinct creature which stands almost 20ft high, with a long neck upon which a horny skull sits, within which would have been a tongue almost as long as a human arm.

“On whose watch did such a creature face extinction?” those future museum visitors might ask. Our watch. For today is the day giraffes first became listed as a threatened species, the day we learned from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature that giraffes are to be listed as “vulnerable” in their international Red List update. And the day we have to start doing something more to help.

According to the IUCN, giraffe populations have fallen from about 157,000 in 1985 to 97,500 today – a population drop of almost 40%. But the causes of these declines are nothing new: they include the conversion of grasslands to farmland, deforestation and the impact of civil wars, not forgetting the occasional crazed American tourist with a big gun fetish.

Giraffes are now split across Africa into discreet populations that no longer mix – they are nine isolated islands of life being increasingly squeezed from all sides. This year’s IUCN Red List does not only include giraffes; there are a host of creatures threatened by similar fragmentation. They include the African grey parrot and the spectacular sunset lorikeet and the eastern gorilla, as well as (my personal favourite) the geometric tortoise.

But this is a day for us to consider giraffes. Theirs is a story, quite frankly, that few conservationists (including me) saw coming. I am the first to admit that yesterday, before the IUCN update, I had giraffes pegged as beautiful food for lions. Now they, like so many others, have become more; they have become food for thought.

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