Euro zone: Recovery or deflation?

By Céline Antonin, Christophe Blot, Sabine Le Bayon and Danielle Schweisguth

This text summarizes the OFCE’s forecast for 2014-2015 for the euro zone economy

Will the euro zone embark on the road to recovery, or will it sink into a deflationary spiral? The latest macroeconomic indicators are sending out conflicting signals. A return to growth is being confirmed, with three consecutive quarters of rising GDP. However, the level of unemployment in the euro zone remains at a historically high level (11.9% for the month of February 2014), which is fuelling deflationary pressures, as is confirmed by the latest figures on inflation (0.5% yoy for March 2014). While this reduction in inflation is partly due to changes in energy prices, the fact remains that underlying inflation has fallen under 1% (Figure 1). In these conditions, a turnaround in inflationary expectations cannot be excluded, which would undoubtedly push the euro zone into deflation. The ECB has been concerned about this situation for several weeks and says it is ready to act (see here). However, no concrete proposal for a way to ease monetary policy and ensure that expectations are not anchored on a deflationary trajectory has been set out. Continue reading “Euro zone: Recovery or deflation?”

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And what if the ECB respected its mandate!

By Christophe Blot

Article 127 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), i.e. former Article 105 of the Maastricht Treaty, states clearly that “the primary objective of the European System of Central Banks … shall be to maintain price stability”. However, no precise quantification of this goal is given in the Treaty. The European Central Bank has interpreted this by stating that it would target inflation that is below, but close to, 2% over the medium term. Furthermore, Article 127 of the TFEU adds that, “without prejudice to the objective of price stability , the [European System of Central Banks ] shall support the general economic policies in the Union, as laid down in Article 3 …”, which includes in particular the sustainable development of Europe based on balanced economic growth and price stability, full employment and social progress. It is therefore clear that the goal of growth and employment is not abandoned but subordinated to the goal of price stability. Starting from this review of the definition of the ECB’s objectives, what conclusion can we draw on the orientation of monetary policy in the euro zone? Continue reading “And what if the ECB respected its mandate!”

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Revisions of the growth potential: the impact on deficits

By Hervé Péléraux

Public finances – battered by the Great Recession

At the end of the Great Recession of 2008/09, the fiscal problem that governments had to face was seemingly simple, as was the solution put forward. The operation of the automatic stabilizers and the stimulus packages put in place to counter the 2008/09 recession sharply increased the public deficits. This situation, which was dictated by urgency, was acceptable in the short term, but not in the longer term. Logically this would lead to an adjustment in the public accounts to reduce the deficits and halt the growth of the debt. Fiscal discipline at a forced pace under the baton of the European Commission was therefore the economic policy instrument adopted by almost all the euro zone countries. Continue reading “Revisions of the growth potential: the impact on deficits”

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Manic-depressive austerity: let’s talk about it!

By Christophe Blot, Jérôme Creel, and Xavier Timbeau

Following discussions with our colleagues from the European Commission [1], we return to the causes of the prolonged period of recession experienced by the euro zone since 2009. We continue to believe that premature fiscal austerity has been a major political error and that an alternative policy would have been possible. The economists of the European Commission for their part continue to argue that there was no alternative to the strategy they advocated. It is worth examining these conflicting opinions. Continue reading “Manic-depressive austerity: let’s talk about it!”

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The euro zone quartered

By Céline AntoninChristophe Blot, Sabine Le Bayon and Danielle Schweisguth

This text summarizes the OFCE’s 2013-2014 forecast for the euro zone economy.

After six quarters of decline, GDP in the euro zone has started to grow again in the second quarter of 2013. This upturn in activity is a positive signal that is also being corroborated by business surveys. It shows that the euro zone is no longer sinking into the depths of depression. It would nevertheless be premature to conclude that a recovery is underway, as the level of quarterly growth (0.3%) is insufficient to cause any significant reduction in unemployment. In October 2013, the unemployment rate stabilized at 12% of the workforce, a record high. Above all, the crisis is leaving scars and creating new imbalances (unemployment, job insecurity and wage deflation) that will act as obstacles to future growth, especially in certain euro zone countries. Continue reading “The euro zone quartered”

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Is the euro area out of recession?

By Philippe Weil

At its meeting on October 9th, the Euro Area Business Cycle Dating Committee of the Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) in London drew on the OFCE for this thorny issue (for the composition of this committee, which I chair, see here). The Committee’s mission is to establish a chronology of recessions and expansions in the euro area, similar to what the National Bureau of Economic Research has done for the United States, dating back to 1854.

This chronology is valuable in two ways. Continue reading “Is the euro area out of recession?”

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Shocks, unemployment and adjustment – the limits of the European union

By Christophe Blot

In an article published in 2013 in Open Economies Review [1], C. A. E. Goodhart and D. J. Lee compare the mechanisms for recovering from the crisis in the United States and Europe. Based on a comparison of the situation of three states (Arizona, Spain and Latvia) faced with a property crash and recession, the authors explore the reasons for the growing divergence observed among the euro zone countries, a divergence that is not found in the United States. Their analysis is based on the criteria for optimum currency areas, which enable the members of a monetary union to adjust to adverse shocks and to avoid a lasting difference in their unemployment rates during an economic slowdown or downturn. While Latvia is not formally part of a monetary union [2], its currency nevertheless has remained firmly anchored to the euro during the crisis. Thus none of the countries studied by Goodhart and Lee resorted to a nominal devaluation to absorb the financial and real shocks that they faced. The authors conclude that while Arizona dealt with the shocks better than Spain, this was due both to the greater fiscal solidarity that exists between the states of the United States and to the greater integration of the US banking system, which helps to absorb shocks specific to each state. Continue reading “Shocks, unemployment and adjustment – the limits of the European union”

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Does too much finance kill growth?

By Jérôme Creel, Paul Hubert and Fabien Labondance

Is there an optimal level of financialization in an economy? An IMF working paper written by Arcand, Berkes and Panizza (2012) focuses on this issue and attempts to assess this level empirically. The paper highlights the negative effects caused by excessive financialization. Continue reading “Does too much finance kill growth?”

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Competitiveness: danger zone!

By Céline Antonin, Christophe Blot, Sabine Le Bayon and Catherine Mathieu

The crisis affecting the euro zone is the result of macroeconomic and financial imbalances that developed during the 2000s. The European economies that have provoked doubt about the sustainability of their public finances (Spain, Portugal, Greece and Italy [1]) are those that ran up the highest current account deficits before the crisis and that saw sharp deteriorations in competitiveness between 2000 and 2007. Over that same period Germany gained competitiveness and built up growing surpluses, to such an extent that it has become a model to be emulated across the euro zone, and especially in the countries of southern Europe. Continue reading “Competitiveness: danger zone!”

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Monetary policy and property booms: dealing with the heterogeneity of the euro zone

By Christophe Blot and Fabien Labondance

The transmission of monetary policy to economic activity and inflation takes place through various channels whose role and importance depend largely on the structural characteristics of an economy. The dynamics of credit and property prices are at the heart of this process. There are multiple sources of heterogeneity between the countries of the euro zone, which raises questions about the effectiveness of monetary policy but also about the means to be used to reduce this heterogeneity. Continue reading “Monetary policy and property booms: dealing with the heterogeneity of the euro zone”

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