ECB: How to burn ammunition for nothing

In Sintra, at the ECB seminar, Mario Draghi stressed the risk on growth and the difficulties of converging to the inflation target (close but below 2%).

If additional risks materialize then the ECB could reduce its rates and restart an asset purchase procedure. The idea is to take back and accentuate what has been the success of the ECB since 2013. (Low rate = less incentive to defer its wealth over time given the low return associated with has been strong support for a stronger momentum for the domestic demand)

At the same time, Draghi called for an active economic policy. On this point, the failure to implement a euro area budget reflects non-homogeneous behavior in the euro zone. As a consequence there will be no common fiscal policy in the euro area. One can not therefore imagine a two-component euro-zone policy.

A major rule of the theory of economic policy is that it requires as many instruments as objectives. There are two objectives (growth and inflation) and one instrument, monetary policy.

This will not work especially with a series of negative external shocks. In 2016/2017, monetary policy benefited from a favorable international context even if fiscal policy was not active. Today, the environment is no longer as buoyant and the absence of fiscal policy will make it difficult to cushion external shocks. The ECB will act alone and becoming more accommodating it will burn ammunition for a poor result.

The ECB monetary policy is too tight

Mario Draghi said the ECB was ready to act if necessary.

But there is something I don’t understand: the ECB revised down its forecasts for growth and for inflation for this year and the 2 years to come. Growth will barely converge to 1.4% in 2021 and the inflation rate is expected to be at 1.6% for the same year(way below the ECB target).

Can it be satysfying ? No, this level of forecasts are too low.

This means that the Euro Area has not been able to cushion the external negative shock. If there is still leeway on monetary policy side this means that the current stance is too tight. Today’s forward guidance on future monetary policy measures is not sufficient to reverse the trend. Need more

The Euro zone slows sharply in March

The publication March’s Markit indices confirms the downward pressure on activity in the manufacturing sector. The leading indices published for the Euro zone, Germany and France, on March 22, have been revised downward. This is never a very good signal as to the strength of the activity. This revision was marginal in the Euro zone (from 47.6 to 47.5) and in France (49.8 to 49.7) but more marked in Germany from 44.7 to 44.1. This latter has not been so low since July 2012.
For the Euro zone, the index has not been as low since June 2013 but at the time the movement was bullish while here it reflects a deterioration of the activity.
For the other two major countries, Spain and Italy, there is a slight rebound in Spain from 49.9 in February to 50.9 in March, but the Italian situation continues to deteriorate, from 47.7 to 47.4.

A good explanation is the pace of international trade. Germany is frankly penalized by the contraction of trade due to an openness rate higher than 44% of GDP. Any shock on world trade has an immediate impact on it.
More generally, because of the intensive trade between countries of the zone, any external shock is amplified by a contagion effect and penalizes the activity of all. This had been a very positive uptrend in 2017 but is declining today.
Germany saw its export orders revised downwards compared to the March estimate (38.9 vs. 39.5 initially). For France, the figure is unchanged.

The proactive economic policy of the Eurozone can only be seen on monetary side with a very accommodative policy but it cannot go further in that direction to limit the impact and the spillover effect of the shock. Except for a sudden and unexpected reversal of world trade, the trend in the Euro zone is here to stay. It should be possible to support domestic demand for this through budgetary means. This is not the current mood at the European level even if France plays constrained by the social unrest

Industrial production shrinks in Euro zone

With the decline of -0.9% in December, the industrial production of the Euro zone fell by -5.3% over the last quarter (annualized rate). and -2.1% over one year. The slowdown in world trade is an explanation that the European slowdown has itself accentuated.

There is now a more complete picture of industrial activity in 2018. The US is doing well, Japan is still very volatile but Europe is falling back quickly, lacking an internal dynamic capable of offsetting external shocks.
We always fall back on this eternal question of coordinated dynamics to get better. Dependence on impulses from the rest of the world is now too important and this is very worrying