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Is the recovery on the right path?

Analysis and Forecasting Department

This text is based on the 2016-2018 outlook for the world economy and the euro zone, a full version of which is available here [in French].

The growth figures for 2016 have confirmed the picture of a global recovery that is gradually becoming more general. In the euro zone, which up to now had lagged behind, growth has reached 1.7%, driven in particular by strong momentum in Spain, Ireland, the Netherlands and Germany. The air pocket that troubled US growth at the start of the year translated into slower GDP growth in 2016 than in 2015 (1.6% vs. 2.6%), but unemployment has continued to decline, to below the 5% threshold. The developing countries, which in 2015 were hit by the slowdown in the Chinese economy and in world trade, picked up steam, gaining 0.2 point (to 3.9%) in 2016. suite…»

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Inflationary pressures are mounting

By Hervé Péléraux

The publication of the price index by the INSEE on November 15 confirmed the return of inflation to positive territory, +0.4%, in October and September, after it oscillated around 0 since the end of 2014. The deflationary phase experienced over the past two years has in part replicated the trajectory of the energy price index, which saw the price of oil fall in early 2016 to one-third of its price in mid-2014. With a weighting of almost 8% in the all-items index, the energy price index, which incorporates the price of fuel but also of oil-indexed products such as gas and electricity, automatically pushed down inflation. This phase of energy-related disinflation now seems to have come to an end, with crude oil prices rising to between USD 45 and 50 a barrel since the low in mid-January 2016 at under USD 30. The gradual rise in the year-on-year change in the energy price index since spring has in fact pulled along the overall index. suite…»

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An end to growth?

Analysis and Forecasting Department (international team)

This text relies on the 2016-2018 forecast for the global economy and the euro zone, the full version of which is available here, in French.

After avoiding a Grexit in the summer of 2015, Europeans will now have to face a Brexit. In addition to what should be a significant impact on the UK economy lies the question of the effect this shock will have on other countries. Given that all the indicators seemed to be green for finally allowing the euro zone to recover from the double-dip recession following the 2007-2008 financial crisis and then the sovereign debt crisis, will a Brexit risk interrupting the trend towards a recovery? This fear is all the more credible as the delayed recovery was not sufficient to absorb all the imbalances that built up over the years of crisis. The unemployment rate for the euro zone was still over 10% in the second quarter of 2016. A halt to growth would only exacerbate the social crisis and in turn fuel doubt – and therefore mistrust – about Europe’s ability to live up to the ambitions set out in the preamble to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and reiterated in Lisbon in 2000. suite…»

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France’s battered growth

By the Analysis and Forecasting Department

This text summarizes the 2016-2017 forecast for the French economy. Click here to consult the full version, in French.

The news on 28 October that French economic growth came to 0.2% in the third quarter of 2016 constitutes a cyclical signal that is consistent with our analysis of the state of France’s economy. This figure is close to our latest forecast (+0.3% forecast for the third quarter) and in line with our growth scenario up to 2018.

After three years of sluggish growth (0.5% on average over the period 2012-14), activity picked up moderately in France in 2015 (1.2%), driven by falling oil prices, the depreciation of the euro and a lowered level of fiscal consolidation. For the first time since 2011, the French economy has begun to create jobs in the private sector (98,000 for the year as a whole), which has been encouraged by tax measures that cut labour costs. Combined with an increase in the number of employees in the public sector (+49,000) and the creation of non-salaried jobs (+56,000), the number of unemployed according to the ILO fell in 2015 (-63,000, or -0.2 percentage point of the active population). Meanwhile, boosted by additional tax cuts on industrial equipment, business investment has revived in 2015 (+3.9% yoy).

French growth has been below that of the rest of the euro zone since 2014; in addition to the fact that it did better over the period 2008-2013, this is due to two major factors: first, France made greater fiscal adjustments than its European neighbours over the period 2014-16, and second, exports did not contribute much to growth, even though the fiscal approach to supply policy aimed to restore the competitiveness of French business. It seems, however, that since 2015 French exporters have chosen to improve their margins rather than to reduce their export prices, with no impact on their export volumes. While for a number of quarters now this behaviour has resulted in falling market share, this might still turn out to be an asset in the longer term due to strengthening the financial position of the country’s exporters, especially if these margins are reinvested in non-cost competitiveness and lead to upgrading the products manufactured in France.

In 2016, despite a strong first quarter (+0.7%) driven by exceptionally strong domestic demand excluding stock (+0.9%), GDP growth will peak at 1.4% on average over the year (see table). The mid-year air pocket, which was marked by strikes, floods, terrorist attacks and the originally scheduled end of the investment tax reduction, partly explains the weak recovery in 2016. As a result of the pick-up in margin rates, the historically low cost of capital and the extension of the investment tax cut, investment should continue to grow in 2016 (+2.7% yoy). The creation of private sector jobs should be relatively dynamic (+149,000), due to support from the CICE competitiveness tax credit, the Responsibility Pact and the prime Ă  l’embauche hiring bonus. In total, taking into account unwaged employees and the workforce in the public sector, 219,000 jobs will be created in 2016. The unemployment rate will fall by 0.5 point over the year, of which 0.1 point is linked to the implementation of the “training 500,000” programme, so at year end will come to 9.4% of the workforce. Meanwhile the public deficit will drop to 3.3% of GDP in 2016, after a level of 3.5% in 2015 and 4% in 2014.

In 2017, France’s economy will grow at a 1.5% rate, which will be slightly above its potential rate (1.3%), as the country’s fiscal policy will not hold down GDP for the first time in seven years. On the other hand, in contrast to the forecast last spring, France will have to confront two new shocks: the negative impact of Brexit on foreign trade and the terrorist attacks’ influence on the number of tourists. These two shocks will cut 0.2 percentage point off GDP growth in 2017 (following 0.1 point in 2016). The French economy will create 180,000 jobs, including 145,000 in the private sector, reducing the unemployment rate by “only” 0.1 point, due to the rebound in the labour force as people who benefit from the training programme gradually re-join the workforce. The renewed rise in oil prices and the depreciation of the euro will see inflation rising to 1.5% in 2017 (after 0.4% in 2016). Finally, the government deficit will be 2.9% of GDP in 2017, back below the 3% threshold for the first time in ten years. After stabilizing at 96.1% of GDP in 2015 and 2016, the public debt will fall slightly, down to 95.8% in 2017.

The French economy though battered by new shocks and with the wounds from the crisis far from having healed, is recovering gradually, as can be seen by the gradual improvement in economic agents’ financial position: business margins are up, household purchasing power has rebounded, the deficit is down and the public debt has stabilized.

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François Hollande’s five years in office: Stagnation or recovery?

By OFCE

The five-year term of French President Francois Hollande has been marked by serious economic difficulties, but also by some signs of improvement in the last year of his mandate. Overall, France experienced low growth from 2012 to 2014, mainly due to the fiscal consolidation policy, with moderate growth after that (see: OFCE, Policy Brief, no2, September 5th, 2016).

The scale of the fiscal shock at the start of Hollande’s mandate, when the government underestimated the negative impact on growth, proved to be incompatible with a fall in unemployment during the first half of the mandate. suite…»

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Brexit: What are the lessons for Europe?

By Catherine Mathieu and Henri Sterdyniak

The British vote to leave the European Union is aggravating the political crisis in Europe and in many European countries. Leaving the EU has become a possible alternative for the peoples of Europe, which may encourage parties advocating national sovereignty. The United Kingdom’s departure automatically increases the weight of the Franco-German couple, which could destabilize Europe. If Scotland leaves the UK to join the EU, independence movements in other regions (Catalonia, Corsica, etc.) could seek a similar outcome. But the fragility of Europe also stems from the failure of the strategy of “fiscal discipline / structural reforms”. suite…»

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The effects of the oil counter-shock: The best is yet to come!

By Eric Heyer and Paul Hubert

After falling sharply over the past two years, oil prices have been rising once again since the start of the year. While a barrel came in at around 110 dollars in early 2014 and 31 dollars in early 2016, it is now close to 50 dollars.

Will this rise in oil prices put a question mark over the gradual recovery that seems to have begun in France in 2016?

In a recent study, we attempted to answer three questions about the impact of oil prices on French growth: will a change in oil prices have an immediate effect, or is there a time lag between the change and the impact on GDP? Are the effects of rises and falls in oil prices asymmetrical? And do these effects depend on the business cycle? The main results of our study can be summarized as follows: suite…»

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Small recovery after a big crisis

By the Analysis and Forecasting Department

This text summarizes the 2016-2017 outlook for the global economy and the euro zone. Click here to consult the complete version [in French].

Global growth is once again passing through a zone of turbulence. While growth will take place, it is nevertheless being revised downwards for 2016 and 2017 to 2.9% and 3.1%, respectively. The slowdown is first of all hitting the emerging countries, with the decline in Chinese growth continuing and even worsening (6.1% anticipated for 2017, down from 7.6% on average in 2012-2014). The slowdown in Chinese demand is hitting world trade and fuelling lower oil prices, which in turn is exacerbating the difficulties facing oil and commodity producers. Finally, the prospect for the normalization of US monetary policy is resulting in a reflux of capital. The dollar is appreciating even as the currencies of the emerging countries of Asia and Latin America are depreciating. While the industrialized countries are also suffering from the Chinese slowdown through the demand channel, growth is resilient there thanks to falling oil prices. The support provided by monetary policy is being cut back in the US, but is strengthening in the euro zone, keeping the euro at a low level. Countries are no longer systematically adopting austerity policies. In these conditions, growth will slow in the US, from 2.4% in 2015 to 1.9% in 2016 and then 1.6% in 2017. The recovery will pick up pace slightly in the euro zone, driven mainly by the dynamism of Germany and Spain and the improved outlook in France and Italy. For the euro zone as a whole, growth should come to 1.8% in 2016 and 1.7% in 2017. This will push down the unemployment rate, although by year-end 2017 it will still be 2 points above its pre-crisis level (9.3%, against 7.3% at year-end 2007). suite…»

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Is missing disinflation a uniquely American phenomenon?

By Paul Hubert, Mathilde Le Moigne

Are the dynamics of inflation after the 2007-2009 crisis atypical? According to Paul Krugman, “If inflation had responded to the Great Recession and aftermath the way it did in previous big slumps, we would be deep in deflation by now; we aren’t.” In fact, after 2009, inflation in the US has remained surprisingly stable in terms of changes in real activity. This phenomenon has been called “missing disinflation”. Can a phenomenon like this be seen in the euro zone? suite…»

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Should we be worried about the slowdown in China?

By Eric Heyer

China’s growth is slowing. This does not really come as a surprise: the slowdown was announced by the Chinese authorities; it can be seen in the national accounts; and it was predicted in all the medium-term scenarios of the major international organizations. It corresponds to a new phase in China’s economic and social development, towards growth that the authorities want to be more “qualitative, inclusive and innovative”.

However, many analysts and experts believe that the Chinese economy has slowed down more than is reflected in the country’s national accounts. According to a survey conducted in 2015 by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, 75% of investors are convinced that the real growth rate of the Chinese economy was less than 6% in the second quarter of 2015 on an annualized basis. For some, the overestimation of growth is due to an underestimation of inflation, particularly in the service sector. For others, China’s GDP growth rate needs to be correlated with the rate for electricity generation and be in line with freight by road, rail, sea or air. However, all these values have experienced ​​a significant decline since the start of 2014, and the stable relationship between GDP and these elements tends to indicate lower annual growth for the Chinese economy, of around 2% in early 2015 according to Artus, which is more in line with the observed fall in imports. This steeper slowdown would have a violent impact on the global economy, endangering the shoots of recovery in the developed economies. suite…»

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