Just a remark on the US growth profile in 2019

US growth is expected at 2.9% on average in 2018. This corresponds to a growth rate of 0.7/0.8% in Q4 (non-annualized figures). This view is consensual, as is the consensual perceived robustness of the economy and the slowdown to an average growth of 2.5% in 2019.
Making all of these elements compatible is interesting.
If the 2.9% of 2018 is ok (with 0.8% in Q4), it is necessary to think about 2019.
The average quarterly growth rate needed to converge to 2.5% is 0.5% (non annualized) The slowdown in the US economy is strong from the very beginning of the year. This figure must be compared to 0.8% which is the average quarterly growth in 2018.
The assumption of maintaining robust growth in the first half of 2019 (0.8% per quarter) implies a rapid decline from the summer. Convergence to 2.5% implies a contraction of -0.2% per quarter from the summer.
If growth is robust at the beginning of 2019, then to be compatible with the consensus forecasts, it will take a break from the summer

Low inflation rate expected in 2019, lower than core inflation

The price of oil is, on December 19, 20% below its 2018 average. The contribution of energy to the inflation rate will quickly be negative. Inflation will fall below 1% in the euro zone in 2019. (The energy price is the main source of fluctuations of the inflation rate. Sometimes on the upside sometimes on the downside. Currently it’s on the downside)

For a zero contribution to inflation, on average over 2019, the price of oil should increase by 25% It is only above this 25% increase, on average in 2019, that inflation will go above underlying inflation (close to 1%). No rush for the ECB to change its mind on monetary policy

The Federal Reserve tells us one hike now and two next year

The Fed raised its benchmark rate by 25 basis points. The fed funds rate will thus evolve in the 2.25 – 2.5% corridor. This rate level is close to the corridor, 2.5-3.0%, considered by the Fed as a long-term target. This is the 4th rise this year.

The central bank does not appear worried about the pace of the economy in the coming months. Growth will slow down somewhat in 2019, but the unemployment rate will remain close to its current level, beyond full employment. Inflation will be close to 2%. It is a little weaker than at the September meeting because of the drop in the price of oil.

The Fed said it could raise its benchmark rate twice in 2019. In September, at the previous meeting, it was considering 3 rises. The pace of oil prices and its effect on the inflation rate probably explain this lessening.

Why two further hikes: the economy still operates on a trend beyond full employment. This imbalance must be offset by a monetary policy that must become a little restrictive to avoid possible imbalances, currently not very visible but that could develop in the not too distant future. The economy has changed, but not so much that it can function too long beyond full employment without having consequences that are difficult to manage in the long run. In addition, the White House policy that fuels domestic demand is resulting in a rapid rise in imports (see here). Through a somewhat restrictive monetary policy the Fed must weigh on the demand and limit the external imbalance.

The agreement between the European commission and the Italian government is a bluff

Despite the agreement between the Italian government and the European Commission, the question of the Italian public debt sustainability is not solved. The marginal move from the government (reducing its budget deficit to 2.04% of GDP vs an initial 2.4%) is not sufficient to explain it.

The best explanation is that no one wanted to have the responsibility of a deep European financial crisis linked to the lack of liquidity of the Italian debt market The commission has accepted because the situation was not manageable.

In the short term, investors will be pleased and the spread with the German Bund will narrow. But the main question is not solved. Growth in Italy is too low.

The Italian economy is already in recession (GDP growth was negative in Q3 and companies’ surveys are on the contracting side of the economic activity) this means that the budget deficit will converge to 3%, not 2%

The question on the debt is that interest rates are higher than the GDP nominal growth. Therefore the public debt to GDP has a growing bias(a snowball effect). Italy has had a primary budget surplus for years, it is not the question. For Italy a sustainable path for its public debt must find a way to make the government credible in order to limit the premium on its interest rate and to find a way to boost its growth. Who can imagine that? Be prepared then for the next financial crisis it is coming

INSEE expects a moderate recovery in activity in 2019

The latest outlook note from French national statistics body INSEE (full-length version in French, English summary available here) suggests that the French economy will not be affected on a sustainable basis by the recent wave of social unrest in the fourth quarter of the year. The pace of growth over the first half of 2019 fits with the trend witnessed since 2013, apart from 2017, which was an exceptional year.We can see this return to normal on the chart below, showing the half-on-half change in economic activity as reflected by GDP. The pace has returned close to pre-2017 stats and growth is near its potential rate. In these figures, average growth is set to come to 1.5% in 2018 and carry-over at the end of 1H 2019 at 1%.

We can see this return to normal on the chart below, showing the half-on-half change in economic activity as reflected by GDP. The pace has returned close to pre-2017 stats and growth is near its potential rate. In these figures, average growth is set to come to 1.5% in 2018 and carry-over at the end of 1H 2019 at 1%.

The ECB ready to maintain its accommodative policy in 2019

The ECB puts all its energy on it but inflation does not converge frankly towards the objective (2%) it has defined. Can we say, like Mario Draghi, that the Quantitative Easing has worked properly?
Yes probably on the activity. The fall of all the interest rates has modified the inter-temporal trade-off on consumers’ side favoring the immediate expenses to the detriment of the future expenses.
On inflation? Yes, if the recovery helped to avoid deflation but beyond? We can wonder. Convergence towards the ECB’s target is postponed year after year.
Forecasts on growth (convergence towards potential in 2021 estimated at 1.5% by the ECB) and on inflation, suggest, except to change the reaction function, that the ECB will remain accommodative for a extended time.