G7 finance chiefs gather as dollar tops 101 yen
George Osborne (centre) with Germany's Wolfgang Schauble and IMF chief Christine Lagarde in London on Thursday. Finance ministers and central bank chiefs from the Group of Seven leading economies will meet in the English countryside on Friday for talks on spurring growth, amid US-Europe divisions over the scale of austerity.
The G7 -- comprising Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States -- is expected to build on last month's wider Group of 20 meeting, while looking ahead to next month's G8 heads of state summit in Northern Ireland.
Britain is this year president of the G8 -- or G7 plus Russia -- and is using the platform to also push for greater multilateral co-operation in tackling tax evasion.
The two-day G7 meeting in Aylesbury, north of London, concludes Saturday.
On Thursday, the dollar vaulted past the key 100-yen barrier for the first time in more than four years, as Tokyo's aggressive stimulus efforts to lift the Japanese economy continue to depress its currency, helping to boost demand for Japanese exports.
And the dollar raced as high as 101.74 yen on Friday, touching a level last seen on October 17, 2008, with sentiment boosted also by upbeat US labour market data.
The G7 is "due to discuss a number of issues including ways to get the global economy moving again, as well as the controversial topic of central banks," noted analyst Craig Erlam at traders Alpari.
"So far, they have attempted to distance themselves from suggestions that certain central banks are intentionally devaluing their currencies in order to increase competitiveness, but with more central banks cutting rates and announcing large stimulus programmes, it could only be a matter of time until we see their tone change."
Last month, G20 nations gave the green light to aggressive stimulus by Japan, despite recent heavy criticism in Europe that the Asian country is forcing down the yen's value to help its exporters.
Japan maintains that the policy is aimed at boosting growth and overcoming deflation.
The G7 nations, which together produce about half of the world's economic output, are slowly recovering from a late 2012 slowdown, the OECD said recently, with Japan and the United States leading the way, ahead of a struggling, two-speed eurozone.
Emerging economies were tipped to remain by far the strongest growth performers, with China expected to expand by well more than 8.0 percent in the first half of 2013, the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation said.
Forecasts remain very uncertain however, the OECD added, with new-found buoyancy on financial markets yet to feed through to the wider economy.
The US and Frankfurt stock markets have raced to record high points this week following positive economic data out of the United States and Germany, but some analysts believe the rally will be short-lived owing to eurozone debt strains.
-- Debate expected on fiscal discipline and austerity versus economic stimulus --
Ahead of the G7 gathering, the United States called on Europe to further ease fiscal consolidation to avoid more economic damage.
Europe's leaders have been successful at removing some of the more immediate risks in the eurozone debt crisis, a senior US Treasury official told reporters.
"Now the focus needs to shift to boosting demand and employment, to avoid lasting damage to the economy," the official told a briefing.
"It's important to recalibrate the pace of fiscal consolidation...continued sharp fiscal consolidation risks undermining demand."
The European Union recently granted France two extra years to meet its deficit target on condition that it pursues reforms. But France has made clear that it does not want to go down a path of deep austerity as seen in neighbouring eurozone countries Italy and Spain.
A French source told AFP on Thursday that "it is counter-productive to set (deficit-reduction) targets that are impossible to reach because it will destroy the motor" of the economy.
And the International Monetary Fund, while welcoming efforts by indebted nations to cut state spending, has urged Britain to lessen the pace of its austerity programme to support the country's fragile economic recovery.
British finance minister George Osborne, who will host the G7 gathering, said: "We will be talking about the global economic situation and how to nurture the recovery."
He added that participants will also be "talking about the fiscal issues we all face and how we can make sure that our public finances are in good order".
Victoria Clarke, an economist at Investec financial group, said that at the meeting Osborne might seek "support from other fiscally cautious members such as Germany, to continue with his fiscal policy plan rather than relax the pace of austerity as some, including the IMF, have been suggesting".
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