France’s growth in 2018-2019: What the forecasters say …

By Sabine Le Bayon and Christine Rifflart

Following the INSEE’s publication of the first version of the accounts for the fourth quarter of 2017 and a first estimate of annual growth, we have been considering the outlook for 2018 and 2019 based on a comparative analysis of forecasts made for France by 18 public and private institutes, including the OFCE, between September and December 2017. This post presents the highlights of this analysis, which are given in detail in OFCE Policy Brief No. 32 of 8 February 2018 entitled, “A comparison of macroeconomic forecasts for France” and the associated working paper (No. 06-2018) (which contains the tables of the institutes’ forecasts). Continue reading “France’s growth in 2018-2019: What the forecasters say …”

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Italy: The horizon seems to be clearing

By Céline Antonin

With growth in Italy of 0.4% in the third quarter of 2017 (see table below), the country’s economy seems to have recovered and is benefiting from the more general recovery in the euro zone as a whole. The improvement in growth is linked to several factors: first, the continued closing of the output gap, which had worsened sharply after a double recession (2008-2009 and 2012-2013). In addition, the expansionary fiscal policy in 2017 (+0.3 fiscal impulse), mainly targeted at businesses, and thriving consumption driven by expanding employment and rising wages explain this good performance. The increase in employment is the result of the reduction in social contributions that began in 2015 as well as the pick-up in growth in 2016 and 2017. Continue reading “Italy: The horizon seems to be clearing”

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The euro zone: A general recovery

By Christophe Blot

This text is based on the 2017-2019 outlook for the global economy and the euro zone, a full version of which is available here.

The euro zone has returned to growth since mid-2013, after having experienced two crises (the financial crisis and the sovereign debt crisis) that led to two recessions: in 2008-2009 and 2011-2013. According to Eurostat, growth accelerated during the third quarter of 2017 and reached 2.6% year-on-year (0.6% quarter-on-quarter), its highest level since the first quarter of 2011 (2.9%). Beyond the performance of the euro zone as a whole, the current situation is marked by the generalization of the recovery to all the euro zone countries, which was not the case in the previous phase of recovery in 2010-2011. Fears about the sustainability of the debt of the so-called peripheral countries were already being reflected in a sharp fall in GDP in Greece and the gradual slide into recession of Portugal, Spain and a little later Italy. Continue reading “The euro zone: A general recovery”

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A new Great Moderation?

by Analysis and Forecasting Department

This text summarizes the OFCE’s 2017-2019 forecast for the global economy and the euro zone; the full version can be found here.

Ten years after the financial crisis broke out in the summer of 2007, the world economy finally seems to be embarking on a trajectory of more solid growth in both the industrialized and most of the emerging countries. The figures for the first half of 2017 indicate that global growth is accelerating, which should result in GDP growth of 3.3% over the year as a whole, up 0.3 percentage point over the previous year. Some uncertainty remains, of course, in particular concerning the outcome of Brexit and the ability of the Chinese authorities to control their economic slowdown, but these are the types of irreducible uncertainties characteristic of an economic system that is subject to political, technological, economic and financial shocks[1]. Continue reading “A new Great Moderation?”

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France: growth as inheritance

by OFCE Department of Analysis and Forecasting (France team)

This text summarizes the OFCE’s 2017-2019 forecast for the French economy; the full version can be found here.

After five years of sluggish growth (0.8% on average over the period 2012-16), a recovery is finally taking shape in France, with GDP expected to rise by 1.8% in 2017, 1.7% in 2018 and 1.9% in 2019. Some negative factors that affected 2016 (a fall in agricultural production, impact of terrorist attacks on tourism, etc.) were no longer at work in 2017, and the economy should now feel the full benefit of the supply-side policies implemented during the Hollande presidency. Added to this is the ripple effect from stronger growth in the European economies. Continue reading “France: growth as inheritance”

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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. Continue reading “Is the recovery on the right path?”

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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. Continue reading “Inflationary pressures are mounting”

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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. Continue reading “An end to growth?”

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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 à 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. Continue reading “François Hollande’s five years in office: Stagnation or recovery?”

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