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Germany’s jobs miracle

BERLIN — While unemployment soars elsewhere in Europe, labor innovations and flat wages keep German workers employed.

Euro zone credit ratings downgrade ... reactions

Friday's Standard & Poor's downgrade of several euro zone countries' credit ratings have only made the faintest ripple across the continent
French Prime Minister Francois Fillon shrugs off the Standard & Poor's downgrade of France's credit rating late Friday and visits the site of a big infrastructure project: the Cite du Cinema in suburban Paris (BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty Images)

Given the hysteria that greeted the announcement that Standard & Poor's was taking away France's AAA rating (along with that of Austria leaving Germany the only euro zone country with the top rating) - at least in the press - you might have thought the euro zone crisis was going to explode again. Not so.

That isn't to say some political leaders weren't angry. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy was, following Spain's downgrade to A from AA-, according to this headline in El Pais.

Rajoy to Standard & Poor's: we don't need economic lessons:

"My government knows perfectly well what it needs to do to improve Spain's reputation, stimulate growth and create jobs," PM fires back after rating downgrade.


Euro zone debt crisis: focus returns to Greece

Negotiators head to Athens to try and nail down agreement on bail-out
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The rioting has calmed down in Athens but negotiations on the Greek bail-out aren't going so well. This week is crunch time and depnding on what's decided the streets may catch fire again. (LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)

You may have thought the Greek crisis was pretty much over. After all the headlines from last November were: Greek bondholders agree to take a haircut and the country's Prime Minister George Papandreou resigns to be replaced by a technocrat named Lucas Papademos, who is more congenial to the needs of the EU's leadership in Brussels, and more important, to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

But as focus shifted to Italy and now to France, the Greek situation has remained bogged down in details. This week Greece's creditors in banks and hedge funds (not necessarily interested in the same outcome) plus representatives of the "Troika" (EU, IMF and European Central Bank) descend on Athens for an intensive round of negotiations with the Greek government.

Larry Elliott at The Guardian has the best line of the day on the event. "It is international finance's version of Sartre's Huis Clos, a vision of hell where three people who loathe each other are stuck in a room for eternity."


Euro zone crisis: has a corner been turned?

The atmosphere is calmer these days - politically and in the bond markets. Why?
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Was Silvio Berlusconi's departure the turning point for the euro zone debt crisis? (ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/Getty Images)

There is probably no riskier form of behavior for a blogging journalist than to claim that a corner has been turned in solving the euro zone's debt crisis but two weeks into the New Year it feels like something has changed - and changed for the better.

It may be a moment akin to something in an episode of ER where the patient is in the emergency room and the crash carts have been deployed and vital signs have stabilized and the family - you and me and everybody in the world who understands that a euro crash will mean Great Depression MkII - are taking a deep breath, sipping tepid coffee, and feeling tentatively hopeful that the patient will make it.


Merkel warns Greece on second bailout

Speaking at a joint news conference in Berlin with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Merkel told reporters “the second Greek aid package... must be in place quickly. Otherwise it won’t be possible to pay out the next tranche for Greece."

Germany's shadow currency?

In some places the deutschmark is still coin of the realm
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There are still plenty of deutschmarks out there in case Germany decides to pull the plug on the euro. (JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK/AFP/Getty Images)

On the tenth anniversary of the euro, there are still places in Germany where the deutschmark is accepted as legal tender. Apparently this is not an exercise in nationalism or nostalgia.

Germany is a country where people save - as opposed to the U.S. - and there are still billions of deutschmarks in banks, under mattresses, wherever.


Scandal threatens German president

Christian Wulff, a key ally of Angela Merkel, in trouble over questionable home loan and threats against papers reporting about it.
Kai Diekmann, editor of Bild newspaper and recipient of threatening phone message from German president Christian Wulff (AFP/Getty Images)

Any politician worth his salt knows: you don't pick fights with the press when they are reporting on your personal finances. Fight them over big policy issues, not the interest free loan you got from a rich supporter to buy a house.

German president Christian Wulff clearly forgot that when he called the editor of Germany's largest selling paper, Bild, Kai Diekmann, to complain about coverage of a loan from the wife of a rich friend.


Europe unemployment: lows and highs

Spanish unemployment continues inexorably upward, German joblessness continues to fall
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German Labor minister Ursula von der Leyen makes a point at a press conference where she announced a post-reunification record low level of unemployment. (ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)
A tale of two Europe's: German unemployment down, Spanish unemployment up

A tale of two nations: German optimism, British pessimism

German manufacturers say 2012 looks good, a new report predicts British unemployment rate will rise
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The euro may mean pain for some countries but it hasn't stopped Germany's star from continuing on the ascendant (BORIS ROESSLER/AFP/Getty Images)
German manufacturers say 2012 looks good, a new report predicts British unemployment rate will rise

Europe: Markets easing up

Christmas? or a sense that perhaps the patient has stabilized?
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Santa is smiling in Germany. A respected study of business leaders published today shows optimism for the economy in 2012 despite the euro zone's woes. (Sean Gallup/AFP/Getty Images)
Christmas? or a sense that perhaps the patient has stabilized?
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