USD/MXN facing a perfect storm in H1 2018?

Overall, the Mexican peso has had a relatively good year in 2017, set to close a shade under 20 to the US dollar at end-December (19.72 at time of writing), having opened at the year at 20.74. This would make for a gain of about 5% for the year.

At the beginning of the year, the peso was still reeling from the election of Donald J. Trump as President of the U.S. on a platform hostile to imports of goods and people from Mexico. There was concern that he may follow through on threats to unilaterally withdraw from NAFTA, tax remittances and build a big border wall, among other measures. It was in the latter stages of a rout which would see the peso climb from a shade under 18 to the dollar in mid-August 2016 to an all-time high of nearly 22 in the third week of January 2017.

A strong nine-month run would see the peso more than retrace this move as the worst fears of a Trump Presidency appeared to have been unfounded, with the Mexican currency dipping back below 18 to the dollar during the summer months.

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Previewing Ireland’s economy in 2018: It’s gonna get better, before it gets worse

PEOPLE LIKE TO have something to look forward to. That’s why, even in the dark days of December, people look forward to ringing in the New Year, full of new possibilities.

They may call economics the ‘dismal science’, but even economists are not immune to looking for silver linings among the winter clouds. So, what’s in store for the Irish economy in 2018, I hear you ask?

*** This article was first published on thejournal.ie on 22 December, 2017 ***

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Technology: friend or foe to working people?

First, they came for the factory workers, but I did not speak out –

Because I was not a factory worker.

Later, they came for the bank tellers, but I did not speak out –

Because I was not a bank teller.

Soon, they’ll come for the taxi drivers, but I do not speak out –

Because I am not a taxi driver.

Are they coming for me?

***

This adaption of Martin Niemöller’s famous poem about the Nazis’ creeping reign of terror is supposed to illustrate the ambivalence of ordinary people to technological change.

We like the fact that TVs, computers, mobile phones and domestic appliances are better and cheaper than in the past. Progressive automation in manufacturing has been a key driver of the productivity gains that allowed this happen.

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Clash of Generations: Ireland’s no country for young people

Since time immemorial, young people have grown up in the anticipation that they will live a life at least as comfortable as that of their parents – that the next generation will reap the benefits of social, economic and technological progress. This is at the foundation of the social contract between generations, not just in Ireland, but across Europe and around the world.

But, something has changed.

Next generation can expect to work harder for less.

Generation Y, the so-called millennials, born since 1980, may be the first generation for whom this dream turns out to be a mirage. Long-term demographic trends, coupled with the long-term slowdown in productivity growth in developed countries, mean that the social escalator of yesteryear has broken down.

But, the real tipping point came with, and since, the 2008 financial crisis. Youth unemployment soared across Europe. In Ireland, mass emigration made a comeback as many who graduated from school or college – or lost their jobs in construction-related trades – saw few prospects at home.

Rather than helping, public policy often makes things worse.

*** This article was first published on thejournal.ie on 30 September, 2017 ***

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When the quake hit

Victor Duggan and his Mexican wife Ixchel in the park in Mexico City that they headed to when Tuesday’s earthquake struck. Photograph: Tom Griffen

My wife, Ixchel, and I moved from Paris to Mexico City late last year for work. Although born here, and having lived here most of her adult life, my wife’s family had moved to the north of the country only weeks before the earthquake that hammered the city in 1985, killing nearly 10,000 people.

Even she had never felt anything like the mega-quake that struck this past Tuesday, September 19th, nor the one that hit the south of the country a dozen days earlier. This was a new and terrifying experience for both of us.

We live in Roma Norte, a newly-hip neighbourhood that has only in recent years been reclaimed and restored, having been devastated and depopulated by the 1985 quake.

My wife, Ixchel, and I moved from Paris to Mexico City late last year for work. Although born here, and having lived here most of her adult life, my wife’s family had moved to the north of the country only weeks before the earthquake that hammered the city in 1985, killing nearly 10,000 people.

Even she had never felt anything like the mega-quake that struck this past Tuesday, September 19th, nor the one that hit the south of the country a dozen days earlier. This was a new and terrifying experience for both of us.

*** This article was first published in The Irish Times on 21 September, 2017 ***

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Leonomics: lost in fiscal space

After months, if not years, of shadow boxing, the Fine Gael leadership race was less Game of Thrones, and more Mad Max. Two men entered, one man leads. Realistically, there was only ever going to be one winner.

In some ways, the new Age of Leo bears all the hallmarks of what came before. His swift and seemingly inevitable ascent to the throne was a decade-long masterclass in media management and the projection of a political image. Ever-ready with a pithy soundbite, if light on Ministerial accomplishment, it was a true triumph of style over substance.

That is not to say that the Taoiseach is devoid of substance. Far from it. In fact, recognising Paddy’s scepticism of ‘ologies and isms’, he has become adept at using the dog-whistle, where once he would have blown the fog-horn. Where once he whipped up a frenzy of opposition to the sale of methadone in his local chemist or openly invited immigrants to self-deport, his recent leadership campaign was aimed at ‘people who get up early in the morning’. He has learned over the years to cloak his hard-right instincts in language that is populist and palatable. This is Leonomics: Reaganomics with Irish characteristics.

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Twelve steps to tackle Ireland’s housing crisis

Watching Ireland’s housing crisis unfold has been like watching a slow-motion car crash.

Surging numbers of rough sleepers around our cities were an early sign, shortly after the economic crisis struck. As job losses mounted, and wage cuts began to bite, more and more people struggled to pay their mortgage and keep a roof over their family’s heads.

Meanwhile, the shutdown in house-building was storing up problems for the future. Chronic shortages in housing supply have sent rents surpass their boom-time peaks, while house prices have increased by half since they bottomed out four years ago. Record numbers of families are forced to stay in hotels or in emergency accommodation. Some have had to resort to sleeping in their cars or putting themselves at the mercy of the local Garda station.

*** This article was first published on thejournal.ie on 29 June, 2017 ***

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