France: Growth was disappointing in Q2

The Q2 growth number for the second quarter was disappointing in France. It was just 0,158% (non annualized) which is rounded at 0,2%. It’s the same figure than in Q1 (0,153%).

Carryover growth is just 1.3% for 2018 at the end of the second quarter. The government growth target in the 2018 budget is 1.7%. This is attainable if growth is at 0.55% in Q3 and in Q4. We can’t imagine the reason of this stronger momentum during the second half of 2018.

Households consumption is the weakness of the French growth since the beginning of the year. Change in the purchasing power was negative in Q1 for fiscal reason (higher taxes) and was probably negative also in Q2 due to a higher inflation rate. Corporate investment was higher in Q2 (good news) after a very weak number in Q1.

For 2018 we can expect a growth figure close to 1.5% which will be way below the 2.3% seen in 2017.

This mean that the public deficit target at 2.3% of GDP will not be reached. It will remain close to its 2017 level at 2.6%.

Growth and football – what will happen if France become the world champion?

The French football team is all set for the FIFA World Cup final in Moscow on Sunday, but would a football win propel France into the leading position in Europe in terms of growth too? And looking to the euro area at large – would it make up for Germany’s defeat in the early stages of the competition and Spain’s poor performance? Or to put it another way – we may wonder whether the ECB may consider changing its monetary policy stance if Mbappé and Griezmann were to score during the final. Continue reading

Merkel rejects Macron’s proposals on Europe

Angela Merkel’s interview last week-end, in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, doesn’t not really change the usual German answer on the renewal of European institutions. Her responses remain at odds to Macron’s proposals.

The main difference between France and Germany on the European question is that France thinks that there is an advantage in explicitly coordinating economic policies. A budget can and must do that. This implies a significant intervention capacity which can
be measured by several points of GDP as it has been stressed by Macron and Sarkozy before him.
On the German side, co-ordination is implicit if one respects the defined rules, in particular those which could be taken in the case of a help from the EMF (European Monetary Fund which would take over the European Stability Mechanism. It would be different from the IMF which has a too friendly approach to the Greek debt restructuring). In other words, the adjustment mechanism requires respect for the “right rules” (budgetary austerity) and therefore deeply reducing the need for state intervention.
The coordination advocated by France is the vision of risk sharing within a political entity (the Euro Area) while the German option is that of not sharing the risk because if everyone behaves “in the right way” no country has a risk to share. Continue reading

Emmanuel Macron’s first anniversary as President – part 2 Europe

After just one year it is still too soon to make a full assessment of the Macron presidency, so the question we must answer is whether the measures taken by his government over this first year are the rights one to tackle the changes we have witnessed worldwide.

In part 1 of this series, I outlined the need to make growth more self-sustaining, even in a context of ongoing globalization. I described the need to raise the innovation aspect in our investment, and the necessity of making the labor market more adaptable to better address change. Recent research by Gilbert Cette et al uses a broad international comparison to suggest that high employment protection legislation in France leads to capital-to-labor substitution. This would explain high investment levels in France. However, the authors note that the innovation component of this investment is inadequate and does not sufficiently bolster productivity. Another conclusion of the report is that a more flexible labor market means higher quality capital.
And this equation lies at the very core of the supply question in France: capital needs to be more efficient, while the labor market needs to be more flexible in its ability to adapt. I noted in part 1 that steps taken to support public investment along with government labor market decrees help ease these restrictions and promote an adjustment in supply.

But we have seen two other watersheds in the world economy that the French economy must now address if it is to further integrate i.e. the location of production and the location of innovation.

The second shift is the geographical location of production. Continue reading

Emmanuel Macron’s first anniversary as President (part 1)

This month marks Emmanuel Macron’s first anniversary as President. It is too soon to make a full assessment of his presidency, as he has already said himself that he wants to be judged on the full five-year term, but it is also too early to make that call because the very positive economic outlook overall could skew our analysis somewhat. Business indicators in France followed trends in the euro area, displaying a robust performance followed by a downturn.

The latest example of this is this year’s first quarter growth figure, which slowed to 0.3% in France and 0.4% in the euro area, after the country posted showings in line with its European neighbors in 4Q 2017 at 0.7%. Business leader surveys also reveal similar findings.

Economic policy still to show its mettle
It is still too early to sift out the effects of the government’s economic policy from the impact of the overall economic context, and in this respect, 2018 budget performances will provide a useful benchmark. The budget deficit came out at 2.6% in 2017, falling below the infamous 3% mark for the first time since 2007, primarily as a result of growth picking up from 1.1% to 2% between 2016 and 2017. Growth is expected to come out at 2% in 2018, flat vs. 2017, so it is government policy that will shape public finances this year and the public deficit will act as a good gauge of policymakers’ achievements.

However, there is one thing that has most definitely changed over the past year – the way the international community talks about France and its President, both investors and others. International spectators are more interested in the country, reflecting on the one hand the arrival of this newcomer bursting onto the world political stage, and on the other his active international involvement, particularly in promoting Europe.  Continue reading

French GDP – First elements

French growth slows in Q1 2018 with + 0.3% (non annualized) vs. 0.7% in Q4 2017. Carryover growth for 2018 is 1.2%.

Explanation : a more limited dynamics of business investment and a marginal contraction of exports. This is consistent with the inflection seen recently in the surveys.

My expectations for 2018 is 0.4% on average per quarter. The first quarter is consistent with this. The main point to look at will be surveys during this spring. But April was not a good start. See here

Budget balance in France and the ‘funding pot’

Robust economic growth in France in 2017, coming in at 2%, helps ease the restrictions on public finances. The public deficit is finally set to fall below the 3% mark (2.7%), helping France shake off its image as the worst culprit in the euro area. This is the result of the French economy’s ability to benefit and take advantage of world growth.

The economic improvement drives revenues and means that countries no longer need to spend so much to shore up demand, automatically improving public finances. However, that’s not the whole story, as the French President made a campaign trail pledge to rebalance public finances during his term.

The 2018-2022  Public Finance Planning Act (link in French only) published in January does not confirm this scenario. The bill indicates that the budget balance should remain negative at -0.3% of GDP in 2022, and more worrying still, the structural balance (i.e. adjusted for cyclical components) is still poised to be negative, at -0.8% at the end of the President’s 5-year term. In other words, long-term efforts to adjust the path for public finances are poised to be inadequate over the President’s full term. Measures adopted out to 2022 will not be enough to balance public finances alone, setting aside cyclical components. Continue reading