More down and up economic indicators in Europe and other stuff


Spain's Finance Minister Elena Salgado Mendez - is she praying for the ratings' agencies to understand her country's difficult debt situation?



Pulling string around the continent:


Degradation:  Spanish debt was was downgraded two notches to A1 by Moody's yesterday. This makes it a hat trick of downgrades, as Fitch and Standard & Poor's had already done the dirty to Spain. (more here for those who read Spanish)

Today's French papers are full of speculation that France's debt will be next. Moody's has put France "under surveillance." 

The rating agencies must watch out ... these downgrades have become the new normal and for those who buy bonds they must become meaningless sooner or later.

Optimism:  Reports in The Guardian that France and Germany have finally reached agreement brought a flurry of positive market movements ... unfortunately, the piece had no named sources and a Reuters report finds unnamed sources that challenge the Guardian story's unnamed sources.

Thus it is at this moment in history. Currency and bond speculators simply have no reliable and consistent sources of information to go short or long on!


A few days ago I blogged about the resignation of Liam Fox as Britain's Defense Secretary, over his relationship with his friend Adam Werritty. In that piece I outlined some of the links the pair had with neo-con groups in America.

Yesterday the official report into Fox's relationship with Werritty was published, it raised as many questions as it answered. The key ones for me are: why are so many of the rich folks who seem to have bankrolled Werritty connected to israeli lobbying groups? Was there any quid pro quo for these donors' largesse? In Britain, the Foreign Office oversees foreign policy, not the Defence Department.

Anyway, the Guardian has its own questions here. Even if you don't know the details of the Fox resignation the questions offer interesting insights into how rich men pursue their hobby of trying to run the world, without running for office.


There are book prizes and then there is the Man Booker Prize. The annual award to the best work of fiction published around the British Commonwealth is the big kahuna here, a combination of the National Book Award and Pulitzer.

Big artistic prizes automatically come with controversies. This year's had to do with readability vs. literary qualities ... or the old genre vs high brow conflict. Of the six finalists, five qualified as "popular" writing. Their style and emphasis on story-telling were clearly aimed at a wide readership. I've read three of them and each was entertaining in the extreme. My favorite was "The Sisters Brothers" by Canadian Patrick De Witt. A kind of Coen brothers film of a novel.

Anyway, after the controversy, the conventional, Julian Barnes won the award for his novel The Sense of an Ending. It was the only highbrow piece of writing in the competition.

I often wonder what would happen if they let American novels into the competition. My guess is Jennifer Egan would have had a hat trick - following her Pulitzer and NBA - for A Visit From the Goon Squad. A novel that is entertaining and clever with just enough highbrow meat for lit crits.