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

German risks for Europe

After the failure to form a coalition the first thing to notice is that Merkel is no longer at the center of the game. She has been replaced by the German president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who will decide what will be the next steps.

These steps can be threefold
1 – A coalition between the CDU-CSU and the social democrats of the SPD but the SPD is reluctant to participate.
2 – A minority government but with the risk of doing nothing while important issues have to be managed (the current negotiation failed on the refugees’ question, on carbon emissions, on taxes and on education) These are important issues that cannot be postponed.
3 – New elections at the beginning of next year

I favor the third possibility but my guess is that in this type of situation domestic questions are at the center of the discussion or of the campaign.
European questions were not at the center in recents days but with Merkel’s recent point of view was a kind of guarantee that Europe would not be forgotten.
It could be the case in a foreseeable future if Merkel is no longer the leader. Europe could then be erased from discussions

The recent improvement in the perception of Europe is twofold.
1- GDP growth is stronger and employment is improving rapidly
2- The commitment between Merkel and Macron to improve the way institutions are working at the European level

If Merkel is weaker and focused on internal issues then European reforms will no longer be on the agenda
This would create an uncertainty that could reduce the economic horizon then limiting investment and the possibility to improve the potential growth. Therefore it can have a negative impact on growth and could  be damaging.

Another point on reforms is that with stronger growth it limits the risk of populism. If, because Merkel is no longer at the center of the picture, reforms are not done then we will see the convergence to a lower growth trend rate and more that the come back of populism with the risk of weaker institutions. Some nationalists want to exit from the EU.
The political process in Germany is at risk not only for the Germans but also for Europeans as the current momentum would become more fragile opening the door to populism

The impact on Brexit negotiators will depend on the result of the current political process. A bias positive to populism would a piece of cake for the UK government as populists do not like Europe. It would be the worst situation for a European citizen.

The German Growth in 3 graphs

The GDP growth was 1.7% (at annual rate) during the fourth quarter of 2016.It was a mere 0.4% in the third quarter. For 2016 GDP was up 1.8% after 1.5% in 2015.
The carry over growth for 2017 at the end of 2016 is 0.5%. It was the same number at the end of 2015 for 2016.
Domestic demand is currently the main support for growth with a high contribution from government expenditures. Since the first quarter of 2015, GDP growth is +1.5% on average and the government expenditures’ contribution is +0.7%; Almost half of it, that’s a large number (data until Q3 2016, the detail for Q4 is not available yet).
Construction is also an important contributor.
Government expenditures and construction are the German response to the refugees’ crisis, leading to a more autonomous .growth. Net exports have a negative contribution (imports were up due to a robust domestic demand).
Growth in Germany follows now a more autonomous and centered growth framework. It has a positive and persistent impact of the Euro Area growth.

The first graph shows the stability of the German business cycle. There is no break in the crisis contrary to what was seen in every other developed country. This reflects the absence of rupture in the private domestic demand. (The break in 2008 is mainly associated with external trade in Germany)
germany-2016-q4-gdptrend

The second graph shows the cumulated contributions of different sources of demand to GDP growth. On the right part of the graph we see that the main sources of growth are the private demand and government expenditures. Since 2013, the net exports contribution is almost neutral (no upward trend).
This support from domestic demand is a source of improvement for the Eurozone
germany-2016-q4-gdp-contrib-lt
The third graph is the government expenditures’ quarterly contribution to GDP growth since 2015. On average GDP growth was 1.5% and the contribution was 0.7%.
germany-2016-q4-gdp-gvycontrib

Three Graphs on the German Labor Market

The number of unemployed has slightly increased in August (1 000). Compared to August 2013 this number has decreased by -45 000.
Employment is on a positive trend. During the last 3 months (May – July) it was up by 0.9% at annual rate. But surveys this summer have cast a doubt on such a momentum for the coming months. Continue reading

Germany – Slower Momentum in the Manufacturing Sector in Q2

The German industrial production index dropped in May bu -1.4% compared to April. Carryover growth for the second quarter is negative at -1.1%. It has to be compared to a 0.8% growth during the first quarter (non annualized figures)
3 remarks:1 – On the first chart we notice that the index is almost flat since the beginning of 2011. There is a strong divergence with the American one. Is there a problem of competitiveness in Germany? Continue reading

3 Charts to Characterise the German Labor Market

Employment continues to rise in Germany in April. However, the pace could  change in coming months, particularly with regard to the IFO survey and its correlation with the job annual change.
It is necessary to separate short-term and medium term issues.
In the short-term, two trends are noteworthy
In May the number of unemployed increased by 24,000. This is in contrast to the most recent developments as shown in the graph. Over a year, however, the number of unemployed continues to shrink. It is possible that in May, a random factor (holidays, … ) could have played negatively. Continue reading