Editorial: Europe’s consumer confidence up, U.S. consumers down
And a new study presented at the European Cancer Conference (ECC) in Amsterdam at the weekend showed men experience more harm than good from routine prostate cancer screening tests. In bowel cancer screening, however, the risk of over-diagnosis is very low, while gains in terms of reducing deaths are large – making routine testing cost-effective, Philippe Autier, a professor at France’s International Prevention Research Institute (IPPR), told the conference. “There is now an irrefutable case for devoting some of the resources from breast and prostate cancer screening to the early detection of colorectal (bowel) cancer,” he said. A large European study published last year found that breast screening programs over-diagnose about four cases for every 1,000 women aged between 50 and 69 who are screened. The IPPR’s research director Mathieu Boniol, who studied the impact of prostate screening, said his results showed routine use of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests creates more harm in terms of incontinence, impotence and other side-effects from prostate cancer treatments than benefit in terms of detecting life-threatening cancers. “PSA testing should be reduced and more attention should be given to the harmful effects of screening,” he told delegates. Meanwhile, results of a study conducted by Autier using data from 11 European countries between 1989 and 2010 showed that the greater the proportions of men and women routinely screened for bowel cancer, the greater the reductions in death rates. Colorectal cancer kills more than 600,000 people a year worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. In Europe some 400,000 people are diagnosed with the disease each year. In Austria, for example, where 61 percent of those studied reported having had colorectal screening tests, deaths from this form of cancer dropped by 39 percent for men and 47 percent for women over the decade. Meanwhile in Greece, where only 8 percent of males had had bowel cancer screening, death rates rose by 30 percent for men. In the light of the results, Cornelis van de Velde, an oncologist at Leiden University Medical Centre in the Netherlands and president of the European Cancer Organisation, said it was “very disappointing” there are such wide differences in European governments’ approaches to colorectal screening. “People over 50 should be informed of the availability of the test, and pressure should be put on national health services to put more effort into organizing screening programs,” he told the conference. Screening for early signs of bowel cancer involves either a fecal occult blood test, which checks a sample of feces for hidden blood, or endoscopy, where a tiny camera is introduced into the large bowel to look for the polyps that can be a precursor of cancer.
Europe shares close down as Italian crisis persists
While the U.S. came out of the Great Recession in 2009, much of Europe suffered through a double-dip recession. Economic crises in Greece, Ireland and other countries threatened to be contagious. That sent confidence reeling in the Old World. Talk about role reversal. For some time, it seemed, U.S. hopes for a robust recovery were being held back by the risk created by the economic failures of Europe. Now it looks like the public perception here is that our problems are homegrown. The political firmament in Europe looks more solid, buoyed by this month’s election success of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The consumer confidence measures are important because they tend to signal if shoppers will buy and businesses will hire. Economists pay attention to confidence indicators not just for what they show about today, but for what they suggest about the future.
Congress must reach an agreement on the budget before October 1, next Tuesday, to prevent a government shutdown that could result in federal employees taking unpaid temporary leave and a delay in the payment of military personnel. Reuters reported on Wednesday that Senior Republican Jeff Sessions said there will be no shutdown or government default. House speaker John Boehner said a Republican proposal is coming that will tie federal government spending cuts to a U.S. debt limit increase. (Read More: Brawl in US Congressshould the world care? ) On the data front, the European Commission released figures on Friday showing that euro zone confidence picked up in September. An economic sentiment index, that gauges both businesses and consumers, rose to 96.9 in September from 95.3 in August, reaching its best level for two years. Nationwide released its house price index for the U.K. which showed a 5 percent (year-on-year) rise amid growing concerns that stimulus in the country is fueling a bubble in prices. House builder Persimmon led Britain’s FTSE lower on the prospect of less stimulus from the Bank of England and signs that politicians are fearful of a property bubble. Persimmon shed 4.3 percent by the day’s close. The FTSE 100 closed the day down 0.9 percent, ending the whole week lower by 1.31 percent.
Europe’s global role
Also, there is no appetite in Berlin to alienate Russia and China, countries which oppose international interventions and with which Germany has strong trade links. In the rest of Europe, the situation is more complex. Some governments may want a more forceful global profile for the EU a but thatas not necessarily shared by the people. The doomsayers a of which there are many a insist that the Eurozone crisis and the impact of economic stagnation on European societies have accelerated the loss of EU influence in the international arena. China, India, Russia, Brazil and others are seen as fierce rivals who want a afull-scale reversala of their relationship with the West by demanding better representation in multilateral fora. Others argue that Europe should be more assertive and more self-confident when dealing with the cheeky new kids on the bloc. It was partly to respond to such concerns that the European External Action Service (EEAS) was set up three years ago to act as an EU foreign ministry a and certainly the EUas international profile has gone up a notch. But in todayas competitive world of rising powers, new alliances and increased geo-strategic competition, the EEAS is still seen as underperforming. Much of the criticism is levelled at Catherine Ashton, the head of the EEAS and the EUas de facto foreign minister. It has to be said, however, that Ashtonas role is constrained by the limited space she is allowed by some of the EUas bigger member states, including Britain and France. Still, some EU countries want to go further.