The manufacturing sector is running out of steam in the euro area – My Monday column

World growth stepped up a pace in 2017 as a result of a policy mix that was heavily on the side of demand, while effective monetary accommodation worldwide combined with loose fiscal policy to further drive this recovery.
This extra demand had a positive impact on manufacturing activity in particular, leading to a recovery in world trade.
This upswing turned the trend around in the sector in the euro area as well as in France, where job trends displayed a shift, stabilizing and even improving in 2017 after several years on a downtrend, if we include temporary employment in the sector. There was also a knock-on effect on services, pushing up overall activity overall.


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Greece, a long and very expensive adjustment

This simple graph from the Wall Street Journal is just a measure of the constraints that have been imposed to Greece since the beginning of their adjustment. The US depression is just small potatoes  compared to Greece.
How many years will be needed for the Greek people to come back to their pre-crisis level? At a 2% growth rate per year it would take about 15 years. In other words, the time for adjustment is around 25 years. This is a generation. Continue reading

British inflation eases

Economists said after the referendum on Brexit that a temporary spike in the inflation rate could be expected due notably to the British currency depreciation.
That’s what has happened with a peak in November 2017 at 3.1%. After this date, the inflation rate is receding at less than 2.5% in March 2018. The core inflation rate has followed the same profile with a current rate at less than 2.3%.
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ECB rate: an amazing calculation

Central bankers are very attentive to the unemployment rate even if it is for different reasons. In the US, Janet Yellen’s main target was the unemployment rate and she drove the USA economy to full employment at the end of her mandate. Mario Draghi doesn’t focus too much on the unemployment rate during his press conferences. But when we look at low inflation pressures in a Phillips curve we can anticipate that the equilibrium unemployment rate is lower than what we previously thought. It will have to be lower than now to generate inflation pressures.
The comparison of the US and EA unemployment rates is amazing as they follow the same post recession trend Continue reading

Wage trends and employment – My Monday column

The minutes of the ECB’s March meeting reflect the central bank’s confidence in economic activity conditions in the euro area. The most noteworthy point reflecting this perception is the removal of APP easing bias i.e. the reference to increasing the asset purchase program if necessary. The bank no longer thinks that economic momentum will require emergency intervention. However, uncertainty remains on inflation trends and the ECB continues to insist that the ongoing reduction of economic slack would allow inflation to converge towards the central bank’s aim. March 2018 projections are still far from the 2% target even in 2020, when headline inflation is only expected to come to 1.7%.
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Soaring US deficit is a source of concern

When our grandchildren study economics one day, will they systematically have to add a dummy variable* to their econometric equations for the period covering the Trump administration? Will the US economy over this period have something of a “special status” due to Trump’s and Congress’ decisions? This question is worth raising in light of moves to cut taxes and raise spending, with the ensuing effects on the appalling US public deficit.

The state of public finances is the trickiest of questions. The sustainable rise in the public deficit seems to show that the economy is undergoing a severe recession, yet this is far from true as Janet Yellen took the economy to full employment (see analysis from Jason Furman). So economic stimulus moves from the White House and Congress raise very real questions on the rationale behind this policy. Governments do not embark on economic stimulus programs when the country is running on full employment, otherwise major long term imbalances are created, which are bad news for all concerned. Continue reading