Thursday, 18 April 2013

Greece 2013-16


Readers might recall that Greece wasn’t on my original list of countries to follow, but was added in 2010 following its unique contribution to the Euro story.
It still does not represent a large country in that context ( though it is obviously bigger than Cyprus and even Cyprus seems to be able to command headlines) but events in Greece have repeatedly activated concerns about the other southern European countries, and for that reason it is an important piece in the Euro jigsaw. 
Greece has obviously gone through a few years of extremely difficult economic conditions., but there appears to be a shift happening in 2013.
Unsurprisingly the theme of 2013 is leadership as the debt crisis is managed.  The prognosis for such leadership is good, whether the economic situation is so cheerful is another question. Certainly there are still more protests to come.   
At least the first indications are that the mood changed around February.  Perhaps it was the fact that the focus turned to Cyprus, but there was definitely sense that circumstances were changing around this time. Reports around this time were of slightly improved confidence.
However, there is no miracle and despite signs of recovery April is seeing reports of the first deflation in 50 years.
 May is a month of adjustment with no real trend emerging but with relative stability compared to recent times.
  But the period June to august is difficult for Greece and for its partners. The sense of austerity and restriction is stronger and the deflation that was identified in April seems further entrenched. Although there are also inflationary conditions in some markets and there are likely to be more protests because of incomes falling when cost are rising. However the good news is that the country is travelling down the long and difficult path in the right direction.
  In the last four months of the year on the one hand there is a sense of a small turning point and some easing of recent conditions, but there is also continued restraint for many and continued disaffection amongst the population as a whole. This is likely to lead to a lot of talk , but it is mostly hot air.
2014 starts with the economy in  a slightly better condition, but it is still fragile and the people inclined to overreact.
 April and May are therefore full of heated debate again: the picture is one of polarisation. It is possible that there might be an uptick in the level of trade too. Overall there is more stability although there is still adjustment needed.
June sees the consolidation of the turning point that took place in late 2013.
July is therefore a relatively good month with a sense of improvement in the debt situation and some sense being spoken. But there are still unexpected issues coming out of the woodwork and there will be for some while.

 The position in August and September is also reasonably good. Although the country will not have overcome its debt problems and there may still be inflationary/deflationary matters to contend with, there is an increasing sense of optimism.
The last quarter of 2014 is therefore rather mixed. But again with  a sense that the country has made a step forward.
January and February 2015 are really rather good with, for the most part a sense of stability. If there is a risk it is that the stability will become inertia.
April sees a tricky phase again when global forces conspire to trigger polarised opinion . The configuration could also possibly be earthquake related although this is less likely. There may be issues around the finances of both art and the shipbuilding


A long period of almost 6 months follows when things are changing in some quite surprising ways. The stability that characterised the start of the year continues again but there are a number of indicators of radical change, most likely this will affect the government.
The period around July and September are relatively good times, however, so any dramatic events are more likely to be in October and are likely then to involve a shift in the country’s relations with its partners and the wider world.
The year ends on another mixed note, with some of the disruption of April repeated but perhaps not so severely.  
2016 starts with much the same conditions as December 2015 and is not especially noteworthy.
But February and March are more interesting. There is a unique confluence of events around this time which seem to focus on one area of the Greek nation’s activity. Economically this could mean a renegotiation of contracts ( e.g debt matters) and partnerships and could result in the country trying to make a stand about arrangements but on an insecure footing. A better idea of how this might play out could become clear around April 2015

April and May are consequently quite exciting and may be rather difficult for the government as it tries to address some of financial complications.
June through to August sees a continuation of the issues at a much less intense level.
And August itself is a particularly tough month in terms of restrictions on the ability to progress.
September is much more eventful with great strides being made and a sense of cooperation between leadership and people despite the continued effects of the debt overhang and economic weaknesses.
October and November are months similar to April May this year in nature
December is another month where there is evidence that things can suddenly move forward in big steps. Some of the issues that we’ve seen before in April 2015 and early 2016 recur. And although there are some indications of both stability and opportunity, it is quite likely that the government/leadership could change at this time as the mood of the country is one of fighting against submitting to anyone else. The result is rather more dissipation of opportunities and economically of inflation imbalances than would otherwise be the case.
The artist is Yannis Stavrou. With, appropriately, some ships



Ireland 2013-16


Ireland started 2013 in a serious condition. The fallout from the 2008 financial crisis and property bubble continues to have a severe effect on the Irish Economy and most particularly the level of unemployment. Given the bubble nature of the decade that preceded 2008, it is highly unlikely that the situation will improve in the short to medium term.
There is a shift in focus by 2013 though. On the one hand the long slow process of unwinding the debt overhang will continue, on the other there are still shocks associated with property to unravel. Nevertheless the peak, or rather trough, was effectively reached in early 2013.
At the same time the country is negotiating its place within the wider world and particularly the EU.
The current period, between March and May is moderate. There are some surprising statements and a continued sense of not knowing what will happen next but nothing too significant seems to be occurring.
In the 2 months June and July, there is more happening. On the one hand there is a challenge to get new initiatives off the ground in such an unstable climate. On the other there is a renewed sense of energy and optimism which provides the opportunity to start to repair some of the damage. It is a time for creative solutions, but it is also a time when emotions are high which is a risk. And there is still a sense of failure to contend with which holds things back as well as the very real economic hardships.
A new mood ( medium term – over a couple of years) starts to grow in the country around August and September. There is more acceptance of the economic situation, an appreciation of the core assets of the land – rather than concern for short term property gains
However the impact of global and Eurozone events continues to be a disruption preventing a clear direction although not constraining things completely.
This background issue continues throughout the rest of the year and the last few months see a return to preoccupation with debt and    a sense of resentment.
2014 is a pivotal year from a leadership perspective.
There is opportunity to increase trade in the early months but t is hampered by the weakness caused by debt matters. There may be pressure on the Euro at this time.
In March through to May we see economic, and especially currency and inflation matters causing problems for the country’s economic statistics. Again we see the debt/currency/valuation as an on-going challenge.
The period June – July is likely to see more concrete action. But the picture is mixed. The background conditions continue but there is momentum.
 In August through to November this momentum becomes stronger. Despite the undermining influences from inflation/currency matters, there is an opportunity to change and develop positively and to negotiate a better deal with other nations.
Surprises relating to leadership are likely to peak in this period. 
 December is a more tricky month, where it is difficult to make headway. The historic problems may seem overwhelming.
Early 2015 is likely to be mixed, with the longer term problems continuing and the problems making headway also continuing despite the motivation to move forward.
March and April may be marginally better, at least they look stable ( within the confines of the long term debt issues)
The summer months are characterised by much more action. Some of this might be of a difficult nature as there is a suggestion that some events will come as a surprise and that it will not all be easy for the leadership.
The debt and related financial problems are of course on-going though. And there is a period of consolidation at best, stagnation at worst from august to October. Perhaps there are restrictions put in place following the summer.
Things might get quite heated both internally and in terms of trading in these months too.
 The end of the year is characterised by a severely restricting phase. The country will not be seen in its bets light and there may be a noticeable sense of restriction- a feeling of not having any options left and fighting for survival. The people are likely to be unhappy and there may be the start of some militant movements. Of course it will be winter and we can’t rule out a climate rather than economic generated situation over this period.
2016 begins with restraint on trade, on communication with partners and other trading difficulties.  The debt situation seems somewhat more stable though and there is a slight feeling of optimism in the country at large.
While the people are more coordinated and  wanting the same things, by the second quarter the trading situation is confused. There may be deception and challenges from developments in currency and other financial markets. It is difficult to reconcile trade levels with valuations.
In July and August trade with partners is  restricted again. Indeed there is a sense of inertia, perhaps imported from partner nations. The focus seems to be on the outside world n any case.
By September there is a risk that the leadership will overstep its authority and that this will lead to further difficulties.
However a key turning point in the economic development is reached in October  despite the continued background economic and monetary difficulties. There is some stability  in the debt crises and this is followed by an increase in  trade and a greater voice in the wider international arena.
The year ends with the impact of this turning point    being embedded. It is a really important period when the country is likely to be in the news  more widely with the people shifting the balance of power and perhaps also choosing action over diplomacy.

The art by Anna Williamson is not technically by an Irish artist but I think is suitably representative of the celtic culture.


Italy 2013-16

Italy has some very long term structural issues to face. These are difficult but not unsurmountable. It will probably never again have the chance to transform that it does at the moment. However the question is can a country born with such weak foundations ever really overcome the obstacles without power external influence as well.
The full force of the difficulties to be overcome was evident in the run up to the February elections. The people for the most part did not support the works on Monti to stabilise the country’s finances and looked for an easier life.
Comedians aside, the elections of 25 February 2013 were inconclusive, with the need either for coalition or a return to the polls. A government without a solid majority is never good for taking hard long term decisions.
As a result of the election debacle, Italy’s credit rating was further downgraded on 8th March. There are some opportunities to change, particularly in relation  to  foreign trade and relations at the moment but there is insufficient freedom to act.
April sees the beginning of a new phase for working with other countries to improve the rate of change. But the month as a whole  probably fails to meet expectations due to on going inertia which shows no sign of letting up throughout 2013.
The period around May is insignificant, with the issues around garnering sufficient power to act being uppermost. There may be some good economic news but this may prove misleading.
 There is likely to be heated debate around June time but with a government unable to act and  an excess of expectation it is unlikely that much will be accomplished. Italy will continue in a depressed state.
The period around July and August  is more positive. While still suffering from inertia, the balance of opportunity and practical but cautious decision making is likely to be at its best at this time. Of course Italy usually closes down for most of this period – this suggests that it might just do better without any government at all!!
September and October are marginally more positive, there might even be some positive developments financially, although the core issues remain unchanged.
By December there is again the opportunity to harness the motivation for change but once again it is restrained by the desire to cling to the ways of the past.
The main theme of 2014 is conflict ( probably strikes etc given that we are talking about Italy!) undermining the ability of the country to move forward.
That said, the beginning of the year is quite reassuring, despite the continuance of the embedded sense of inertia. There is just the right amount of change to have a positive financial impact.
April is a month with potential, but probably too many upsets to achieve anything useful. It is a likely time for the strikes previously mentioned.
May to July is much better. There is still a dampening effect which makes big changes unlikely, but there is also a helpful background climate which means that the government might briefly be able to make some headway.
The situation gets tougher again by September. Although there are opportunities, these are offset by  more disruption and the size of the financial obstacles. As a result the ability to achieve anything concrete is compromised again.
October though is much better, with some of September’s negative influences in abeyance.
November and December   are more difficult, however. There are difficulties for  some parts of the government ( although other factions might prosper) and as a result there is political and economic inertia again.
There is an excess of motivation to achieve things in place by February and even some alignment between the leadership and the people. But there are real economic restrictions that prevent much headway still.
On balance May is better though.
 And June is characterised by a short period of energy and positive trade, although there might not be any long term gains to be had.
Throughout July and August, there is again a period where there is simultaneously a huge drive to grow and push forward tempered by the desire to cling to the past.
 At least in September and October, however these counterbalancing factors seem to even out and it is possible to adapt without too many obstacles.
November is more mixed again.
And December sees another major milestone passing- where the country reaps, in the global arena, the rewards and punishments for its policies of the last 30 years.  Given Italy’s failure to update it structures over the period, it is likely this will be a tough period. But December is only a taster of this with far deeper effects being delayed until 2016 
Early 2016 is a bit of a mixed bag. The structural issues, particularly technology and innovation and issues of cashflow come under observation at this time.
In March to May, there is a return to some of the longer term issues.     There are obstacles to moving forward and a return to earlier inertia. There are global difficulties impinging on Italy again and although this provides some motivation it does not look as if the balance is right at this time.
Inertia relating to short term finances and reputations seems to dominate in June and July.
As mentioned  in late 2015, we see a re-visitation of that 30 year cycle around August and September. The picture is mixed, although there does appear to be some opportunity to develop and some positive financial factors at play. The greatest risk seems to be that the country will take the line of least resistance again financially.
Oct and November are quieter in comparison, with more conflicting signals about the ability to change.
December , however, comes with a sense of action. Rather than direct obstacles, the past is a positive restraining factor on a powerful drive to move forward this month and suggests the people are clamouring for action.
In the case of Italy it is almost seems as if it is 2 steps forward and 1 /2 steps back over the period so it is worth summarising what has changed if anything over the 4 years. There will have been a very gradual evolution, although blocked on many occasions, changes will have been made and more will be made in the coming few years.   Given the conditions of its history, it has made headway slowly over the four years and more importantly is set up for positive further changes.
As Italy's contribution is design rather than art these days, I've showcased some Murano glass in as its artwork 

Spain 2013-16

In the period up to and including 2012 there was a restlessness in the way people  feel, but this was for the most part overwhelmed with a feeling of disillusionment and lack of direction coupled with the structural economic issues such as mass unemployment. However it must be understood that Spain is a country where culturally they are used to restriction after the Franco era, as a result their ability to deal with the recent challenges is much greater than in some other nations. Those who compare Spain to Greece fail to take some of these cultural differences into account. Spain are, in some ways, more like Germany.
The first two months of 2013 showed little change from the themes of 2012. However there are some signs that things might be beginning to change. 
In the period March to May, there is still a background theme of non-specific unsettlement. But the impact on the people and leadership is mixed. On balance though there seems to be some breakthrough and light at the end of the tunnel.
However June us less positive with the people briefly affected by the major global shifts taking place and  probably causing dissent. There is a slightly more positive short term economic mood even though the long term structural debt/property issues remain a problem.   
 In July and August these themes continue but there is evidence that the low point has been reached and the situation will improve in future.
September actually sees a more positive mood generally and some good news, possibly in the latest statistics. It is a more challenging month for the leadership though.
The period October to December is surprisingly good; there is more optimism. The country is viewed in a positive light, and there is a much better sense of stability as a result of the improved data.
The theme for 2014 is restoring the reputation.
The first four months of 2014 see further good news, and, although there is still a long way to go, there is a sense of positive change coming in particularly in government policy. The only risk is that some of the optimism is premature; there are a lot of problems in the world till and the country is by no means immune to external effects.
This seems to be borne out in May and June. While the  buoyant mood continues, there are some shocks; media, transportation and other communications might be affected as might trading matters.
But it does not seem to have too much impact in the longer run as the people and the government are aligned in July suggesting that the people believe that the country is on the right track. Of course it just might be that Spain are going to win the World cup again!
The mood continues into August as there is a potential upturn in the financial cycle – with more liquidity and a better debt position.
The biggest risk is that the government are too pleased with themselves in September, and this turns out to be premature.
The picture in October and November is of stability but less enthusiasm. Whether it is a better economic climate or success in other matters there is a sense of having a stronger footing.
December is more of a mixed month. There is a possibility of some difficulties with partner countries, or  heavier commitments to them which might lead to some opposition or `need for renegotiation.
The 2015 theme is over stretching.
The first six months are characterised by restrictions in liquidity and technological communications but this is not accompanied by difficult debt conditions and there is plenty of strength to transform. The earlier part of the period is more tricky with pressure on communications and trade again. The latter part of the period is better with a return to optimism.  A key point in a 28 year cycle is reached in March  and suggests that although the mood is less buoyant than in 2014 the foundations that are being built are more secure
However May brings some upsets particularly in relation to partner nations and these may for a time resurrect debate over some of the more structural issues.
July and August see consolidation of the partner issues from December 2014, and some unexpected financial events which polarise government and people.
September is a little unstable, but this is a short term effect.
The period from October to November sees a return to the themes at the beginning of the year. And much ado about foreign relations again. However the overall picture is of consolidation and opportunity for some growth.
 December is therefore a very financially stable month. With a sense of optimism for the future again.
The theme of 2016 is leadership stability.
February through  March  is again a positive period.
But around April the foreign partner issues disrupt matters again. The month is more mixed, with both drive for growth and restrictions meaning that transformation is slower.
 There are some unexpected  events which negatively affect Spain’s reputation  in May and June, but the overall picture is not too severe.
There is more opportunity to ensure consolidated stable growth  in   July and August and the environment is generally favourable for the leadership.
 Sept and Oct are a little more mixed, but on balance the motivation to evolve  and access to strong funding seems to dominate positively.
However, there are radical events happening in the outside world that cause the period around December to be characterised by major shifts in relations. The situation seems unstable but not serious though.
The art, or in this case architecture needs no introduction.

France 2013-16

 People often ask ‘why, if astrology works so well, do you not get your predictions right all the time?’ A great example of why this is so can be seen in the France chart at the moment.
One would be struck by the major configuration in the chart that suggests that the image France would be projecting to the world now is  that of a dark, secretive, undermining and scheming country undergoing a significant deep transformation. Now while some people might say there is some truth in that , I was drawn to the news item which says that Paris is to have a major Metro extension – the country’s capital will have a major underground upheaval. It is a perfect illustration of the difficulty of forecasters when presented with so many potential ways a theme can manifest.
Of course far more pertinent is France’s involvement in Mali since the beginning of the year. I am certainly glad I did not have to predict this in advance as Mali wouldn’t have been on my radar at all.
While France’s economic situation is not dire ( after a poor Q4 2012 it expects to grow minimally in Q1 2013), it is suffering its worst financial situation since the start of the crisis ( something incidentally I did point out in 2008) and recent opinion polls show the Socialist president's popularity is falling.
However the mood by April looks good. Expect better than  anticipated statistics and a brief few weeks of indulgence before reality resurfaces.
The period from May sees a return to the stresses of economic and other difficulties, with perhaps a few unexpected shocks to unsettle things further. However  it looks as if France still has sufficient reputation to overcome any financial setbacks and there is still plenty of funds available to it in the markets.
The period around August and September is tougher. While the government will still be in a strong position, there are some tough challenges which will resonate with the French public at this time. It is likely that the Mali situation or a similar event will escalate.
October is more mixed. There is no let up with the conditions already in place and there are some further shocks for the people. 
The last two months of the year see France associated with  more restriction and some limitations on the ability of the leadership to act as they would wish. However there is also good news possibly even on the financial front.
The beginning of 2014 sees both opportunity and the power to improve situations but coupled with a mood that dampens the affinity of France with its history as a republic created through revolution. Although the latter is a theme that pops up every 7 years or so, in this case it resonates with something in the global environment and may this have longer lasting impact. 
 March to May are characterised by disruptive instability, affecting the economy and the country’s relations with its partners.
 June is a more mixed month, but on balance there is a good feeling again for a while.
 In July, there is focus on France , and the financial foundations of the country, but this is unlikely to be too serious as it is beneficial for the government. We can assume some economic pronouncements on the Eurozone are made.
 August and September see a resurrection of some of the more difficult themes from 2013. The impact is mixed though with some positive responses followed by a more negative tone affecting the government and the country’s image.
October and November see some shocks brought in to the picture again. And issues that resonate with the history of the country are likely to take prominence.  It is possible there will be strikes etc. This is also a key turning point in relations with other countries.
December repeats many of the themes of the previous months but with a stronger resonance with the people and a greater focus directly on the economic situation.
The first 3 months of 2015, while continuing some of the 2014 trends, also begins to see a little more stability creeping in . There might even be some positive financial outcomes/
 April and May is actually so positive that it might cause the government to overdo its actions.
By June there is a final evaluation of the issues that were highlighted from October 2014, there seems to be sufficient power at ttime to overcome most difficulties.
Q3 of 2015     sees consolidation of the actions taken to date, an abundance of power in the country which is likely to only be a difficulty is there is too much action and too much financial ease. The only significant risk at this time is that the French people feel they are being deceived or not able to influence the agenda as much as they should. But this affect is likely to be minimal in comparison with the drive to overcome obstacles being so strong.  
Certainly the government is all powerful in November.  And the French people might resent this by December when they might raise some objections to policy.
January to March of 2016 are more mixed therefore. There is still a lot of power that can be harnessed, but there is also a need to adjust the way this is used and to pacify some more vocal members of the population.
April to June sees another mixed period, when there is real opportunity to move forward and change things for the better, but there is also dome dissent from some elements of the country.
The sense of unsettling power, coupled with a sense of being restricted with continue over the summer months  
This leads up to another key time in September. The period marks a time of opportunity and the start of a new period of success for the French leadership. There is some very powerful change in play but it is generally received in a positive way. 
 October sees the process of change continue but with a return to the concerns about deception.
 The last two months of 2016 are eventful but there is nothing that indicates a major change of mood and there is no clear direction. The themes of change and deception both continue but there is also a feeling of satisfaction and success in some areas and there is even some over exuberance.  However the benefits are not universal and this means that there are still some people who demand adjustment in policies.
The art is by Fay├žal Baghriche

Germany 2013-16

Germany, like many countries, is facing a period of long term structural transformation at this time. Fortunately the country will benefit from a resonance to its conservative nature during the coming period. However there have been some questions over the future of the leadership in the upcoming elections but the picture should now start to become clearer.
March is a month when change is the dominant theme. But it is the influence of partner countries which is the most prominent theme.
In April the theme of changes continue with the focus of the global image of the country.
May is a relatively benign month, although there are some challenges that will affect the leadership, no doubt in readiness for the election later in the year.
June is more of a mixed bag really, with a certain amount of over-reaching- perhaps the country is involving itself a little too much in external matters, and is perhaps a little too ambitious with trade matters. But it is also the beginnings of a new 12 year cycle in economic development and international matters for the country.
The period July and August, in the run up to the elections, is more challenging. An on-going theme of slow undermining change in the identity of the country continues.  So, generally the country will feel somewhat negative in the first few weeks, but there is a sense of new direction by the second half of August, when the leadership contest is at its peak.
There is no real change in September, although the mood is more stable. On balance it seems as if Merkel would be re-elected but it is not clear cut as there is not much difference from an economic perspective between the policies of the main candidates.
It is possible that there will not be a clear winner and there might be some difficulty in setting a strategy post election. There are some global major ( probably, though not definitely, economic) issues which will also constrain direction in the last quarter.
Although it won’t be till December when the leadership will find itself under threat in a more noticeable way. This is a difficult period when the status quo is being severely shook up.
2014 begins with some of the issues moderating a little for a few weeks.
However there are significant financial issues, with questions over debt and spending,  to face in the period February to April. This period will once again put the country at the forefront of international issues. The impact internally is likely to be a mix – with both radical views and support for the country at play. On balance the mood becomes more nationalistic.
There is probably  more support for the government and better economic news in May through to July.  However there are some dark views being expressed by some groups.
The situation is much the same in August and September but there is much more opportunity for the government to achieve direction in ts policies now.  
The period around October and November is focussed more on financial ( debt/banking etc )issues again, but there seems to be some increase in the flow of funds which benefits technology and growth.
The last month of the year sees the global focus fall on financial issues again , but the overall signs for this period are good, with internal and external support for the government.
2015 sees a number of slow burning but significant themes for Germany, and a number of opportunities to be grasped which we can expect to change the way the nation operates for the future.
The first half of the year is dominated by political themes that echo back to 1983, and Germany’s role as an international l leader and might cause some difficulties for the current leadership. However the general mood  in the country is mild and supportive it is possible to accomplish a great deal.
March is a particularly positive month, probably with mainly god economic news.
The period from April to June, on balance,  sees some interesting ideas and positive developments. There seems almost to be a leap of faith at this time, however that does not necessary have to be a good thing since this mirrors a theme from 1932 ( but in 1932 it was accompanied by other more radical undertones). However the period  also sees the completion of a  shift in tone in the country which started  in 2013, to a more outward looking and inclusive and thus less conservative phase in the country which should have positive outcomes. It is also likely to see the benefit from being more forward looking and embracing new technologies and methods.
July and August aren’t especially noteworthy months. Although there is a return to consideration of economic and especially debt issues.
The last few months of the year consolidate the new position repeating many of the themes from the early part of the year. There is a sense of stability and strength.  So although  there may be some challenges in December for the leader , these are set within a new more evolved environment.
The early part of 2016 shows little change from the end of December. There is perhaps a bit more regulation and caution than in 2015 but there is still a strong element of expectation to carry things along….
April to June us therefore a pleasant time, although the downside of the      dramatic shifts that have taken place may be some disruption.
The mood continues in July with a positive feel about the economic environment.
While August and September are quieter, there is  still focus on financial matters.
 October is a month of huge development and prominence for Germany, when it will probably take up the mantel of leadership in some area.
However financial issues remain on the agenda and November sees some conflict between the new role and the more traditional one.
2016 ends with the focus still on long term economic issues with the opportunity to consolidate its economic leadership.
A return to the art theme at last. This is by Martin Klimas