An ever so fragile recovery

By the Department of Analysis and Forecasting, under the direction of Eric Heyer and  Xavier Timbeau

This text summarizes the OFCE’s economic forecast for 2015-2017 for the euro zone and the rest of the world.

The figures for euro zone growth in the first half of 2015 have confirmed the upswing glimpsed at the end of 2014. While the zone’s return to growth might once have been taken to indicate the end of the global economic and financial crisis that struck in 2008, the turbulence hitting the emerging countries, particularly over the summer in China, is a reminder that the crisis ultimately seems to be continuing. China’s economic weight and its role in world trade are now so substantial that, even in the case of a soft landing, the impact on growth in the developed countries would be significant. We nevertheless anticipate that the scenario for a recovery need not be called into question, and that euro zone growth will be broadly supported by favourable factors (lower oil prices and ECB monetary support) and by some weakening of unfavourable factors (easing of fiscal policies). But the fact remains that the situation in the developing world will add new uncertainty to an already fragile recovery. Continue reading “An ever so fragile recovery”

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Investing in the zero carbon economy in order to escape secular stagnation

By Xavier Timbeau

What the downward revisions of various forecasts (IMFOECDOFCE) presented in early autumn 2015 tell us about the euro zone is not very comforting. A recovery is underway, but it is both sluggish and fragile (see: “A very fragile recovery“). The unemployment rate in the euro zone is still very high (almost 11% of the labour force in the second quarter), and a sluggish recovery means such a slow fall (0.6 point per year) that it will take more than seven years to return to the 2007 level. Meanwhile, the European Central Bank’s unconventional monetary policy is having difficulty re-anchoring inflation expectations. The announcement of quantitative easing in early 2015 pushed up the 5-year/5-year forward inflation rate [1], but since July 2015 the soufflé has collapsed once again and medium-term expectations are 0.8% per year, below the ECB target (2% per year). Underlying inflation has settled in at a low level (0.9% per year), and there is a high risk that the euro zone will be frozen in a state of low inflation or deflation, strangely resembling what Japan has experienced from the mid-1990s to today. Low inflation is not good news because it is triggered by high unemployment and slowly rising nominal wages. The result is real wages growing more slowly than productivity. Little or no inflation means both real interest rates that remain high, which increases the burden of debt and paralyzes investment, but also an unconventional monetary policy that undermines the ability to measure risks and which gradually loses its credibility for maintaining price stability, i.e. to keep inflation within declared targets. At the Jackson Hole Symposium in August 2014, Mario Draghi announced that, in the face of persistent unemployment, monetary policy cannot do everything. Structural reforms are necessary (what else could a central banker say?). But a demand policy is also needed. Not having one means running the risk of secular stagnation, as was formulated by Hansen in the late 1930s and recently brought up to date by Larry Summers. Continue reading “Investing in the zero carbon economy in order to escape secular stagnation”

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Lower taxation on business but higher on households

By Mathieu Plane and Raul Sampognaro

Following the delivery of the Gallois Report in November 2012, the government decided at the beginning of Francois Hollande’s five-year term to give priority to reducing the tax burden on business. But since 2015, the President of the Republic seems to have entered a new phase of his term by pursuing the objective of reducing the tax burden on households. This was seen in the elimination of the lowest income tax bracket and the development of a new allowance mechanism that mitigates tax progressivity at the lower levels of income tax. But more broadly, what can be said about the evolution of the compulsory tax burden on households and businesses in 2015 and 2016, as well as over the longer term? Continue reading “Lower taxation on business but higher on households”

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Financialisation and financial crisis: vulnerability and traumatic shock

By Jérôme Creel, Paul Hubert, Fabien Labondance

Since the mini-crash that took place in the Shanghai stock market in August, financial instability has resurfaced in the markets and the media and, once again, the link with financialisation has been evoked. The Chinese crisis resulted from a combination of real estate and stock market bubbles that were fed by the abundant savings of a middle class in search of high-yield investments. It feels like we’ve gone back almost ten years when what is considered the excessive financialisation of the US economy – with abundant savings from the emerging countries enabling the build-up of widespread US consumer debt – is treated as the cause of the financial instability and crisis that was triggered in the summer of 2007. Continue reading “Financialisation and financial crisis: vulnerability and traumatic shock”

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The upward drift in senior unemployment continued in August

Analysis and Forecasting Department (France team)

The figures for the month of August 2015 published by France’s Pôle Emploi job centre show a significant increase in the number of people registered as Category A (+20,000), i.e. an additional 156,000 job seekers over one year, following two months of relative stability. While this figure is undoubtedly disappointing, the uncertainty surrounding monthly fluctuations in enrolment at the job centre should not be forgotten. Despite the downturn in the numbers registered in categories B and C in the last month (-11,600), the number of job seekers who have carried out an active job search has risen by nearly 332,000 since August 2014.

This figure nuances the publication of the unemployment rate as defined by the International Labour Office (ILO), which gives a less negative image of the French labour market. This statistic points to a slight fall in the unemployment rate in the first six months (-0.1 point), largely due to shrinkage of the labor force (-0.2 point). Continue reading “The upward drift in senior unemployment continued in August”

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Unemployment: a fall by temping

by Analysis and Forecasting Department (France team)

The unemployment figures for the month of July 2015 indicate a slight fall (-1900) in the number of people registering in category A. There is still too much uncertainty about monthly changes in enrolment at France’s Pôle Emploi job centre to conclude that there has been a lasting improvement in the state of the labour market. However, the increase observed since January 2015 (+50,900 registered in category A) is smaller in scale than the figures recorded for this same period during the past three years (+128,500 on average for the first seven months of the previous three years). It is comparable to the situation in 2010-2011 (+44,300 on average in the first seven months of both years), which were years of renewed growth. Continue reading “Unemployment: a fall by temping”

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Greece: When history repeats itself

By Jacques Le Cacheux

The duration of the Greek crisis and the harshness of the series of austerity plans that have been imposed on it to straighten out its public finances and put it in a position to meet its obligations to its creditors have upset European public opinion and attracted great comment. The hard-fought agreement reached on Monday 13 July at the summit of the euro zone heads of state and government, along with the demands made prior to the Greek referendum on 5 July, which were rejected by a majority of voters, contain conditions that are so unusual and so contrary to State sovereignty as we are used to conceiving of it that they shocked many of Europe’s citizens and strengthened the arguments of eurosceptics, who see all this as proof that European governance is being exercised contrary to democracy.

Continue reading “Greece: When history repeats itself”

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Regulating the financial activities of Europe’s banks: a fourth pillar for the banking union

By Céline Antonin, Henri Sterdyniak and Vincent Touzé

At the impetus of EU Commissioner Michel Barnier, on 29 January 2014 the European Commission proposed new regulations aimed at limiting and regulating the commercial activities of banks “of systemic importance”, that is to say, the infamous “too big to fail” (TBTF). Continue reading “Regulating the financial activities of Europe’s banks: a fourth pillar for the banking union”

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TOFLIT18: for a better understanding of the French economy

By Loïc Charles and Guillaume Daudin*

Recurrent questions on our economies are, to quote a few: Which factors and actors are key for economic development? What private and public behaviors are particularly growth-enhancing? How important are institutions and policies in shaping trade, in promoting innovations and then growth?…There are different ways of enhancing our knowledge to answer these questions. The first way consists in laboratory experiments where a small-scale environment is created in order to understand “how the different pieces of the system work and interact” This is particularly appropriate for learning on social preferences and dealing with welfare issues. But, as soon as questions related to growth – such those mentioned above – are concerned, laboratory experiments do not appear very suitable. One other way of enhancing our knowledge consists in analyzing what happens today in our country and, possibly, to carry out international comparisons in order to disentangle between what is “good” and what is “bad” for the economy. Once one is engaged in that direction, why stop at comparison across space? Analyzing what happened several decades or centuries ago and to learn from these past experiences for the current period can also be very fruitful. Continue reading “TOFLIT18: for a better understanding of the French economy”

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Is the French tax-benefit system really redistributive?

By Henri Sterdyniak [1]

France has set up benefits such as RSA income support, PPE in-work negative income tax, CMU universal health care, the minimum pension, housing allowances, and exemptions from social security contributions for low-wage workers. From the other side, it has a tax on large fortunes; social insurance and family contributions apply to the entire wage; and capital income is hit by social security contributions and subject to income tax. France’s wealthy are complaining that taxation is confiscatory, and a few are choosing to become tax exiles.

Despite this, some people argue that the French tax-benefit (or socio-fiscal) system is not very redistributive. Continue reading “Is the French tax-benefit system really redistributive?”

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