William De Vijlder

Group Chief Economist BNP Paribas

Economic cycle

How are growth, inflation and employment trends evolving in a given country or region? William De Vijlder examines the cyclical fluctuations of an economy in crisis, expansion, recession and recovery phases as part of a cyclical analysis.

Eurozone

Eurozone: which role for automatic fiscal stabilisers?

Automatic fiscal stabilisers help cushion the impact of economic shocks on GDP via changes in government revenues (because of progressive taxes) and expenditures (unemployment insurance). The limited remaining monetary policy leeway in the eurozone is fueling interest in the effectiveness of the automatic stabilisers. European Commission research confirms that, to some degree, automatic stabilisers iron out the impact of negative shocks on GDP. Whether that is enough is another matter. It warrants a debate on the role of discretionary fiscal policy in case of a recession.

Read more
 
Stability

Business sentiment stabilises, but at a low level

Recent business surveys such as the purchasing managers’ indices, point towards a broad-based stabilisation in October. This is a welcome development after a prolonged downward trend. However, in a historical perspective, the recent readings are low or, looking at the manufacturing sector, very low. This points to an ongoing subdued growth environment. Going forward, a sideways movement of these surveys should increase the likelihood of a growth acceleration: when the frequency of bad news drops, confidence should eventually rebound, fuelling spending, all the more so given the very accommodative financial and monetary conditions.

Read more
 

Halloween, fear and the economy

Do fluctuations in uncertainty have a symmetric or asymmetric effect on the economy? The question is important considering that since last year, uncertainty has been acting as a headwind to global growth. Moreover, recent news about the US-China trade negotiations and Brexit have raised hope that uncertainty may have peaked and that growth in activity could accelerate. Empirical research shows that an increase in uncertainty has a bigger effect on the economy than a decline, in particular in a subdued growth environment. This would suggest that, should the decline in uncertainty be confirmed, the pick-up in growth would be very gradual.

Read more
 
question mark

Uncertainty: peaking or just migrating?

The US-China trade conflict and Brexit have been acting as a headwind for growth for a considerable time now. Recent developments have raised expectations that these sources of uncertainty may have peaked. Should it turn out to be the case, this could spur spending by unleashing pent-up demand by companies or households. However, in an environment of slowing global growth and, quoting the IMF, a precarious outlook for next year, we probably will see a more limited reaction, with other sources of concern taking over from the previous ones: uncertainty make have peaked in certain areas, but is likely to migrate to other

Read more
 
IMF

IMF: idiosyncratic recoveries to drive modest growth pick-up

According to the IMF’s chief economist, the growth outlook is precarious. Although the Fund expects somewhat of a pick-up of growth next year, this is driven by a small group of emerging and developing economies which are currently under stress or underperforming. The modest growth acceleration reflects country-specific factors, rather than the expectation of a broad-based improvement. In the US, the growth slowdown is expected to continue well beyond 2020 and Chinese growth is projected to decline to 5.8% next year. Against this background, the projected slight pick-up in the eurozone, driven by Germany and Italy, and which supposes that external demand regains some momentum, looks challenging.

Read more
 
GDP

Global growth slowdown intensifies

The slowdown of global growth has gathered pace, forcing the Federal Reserve to cut the federal funds rate on two occasions, whereas the ECB has announced a comprehensive easing package. Nevertheless, the slowdown is expected to continue. Uncertainty is pervasive. Companies question the true state of demand faced with slower growth, trade disputes, Brexit worries, geopolitical risk. Corporate investment suffers and may impact households via slower employment growth. The room to boost growth via monetary policy and, in many countries, fiscal policy has become limited, and this is another factor which could weigh on confidence. Surveys of US corporate executives point towards high concern about recession risk and the US yield curve inversion adds to the unease. However, the picture provided by a broad range of leading indicators is, at least for the time being, less bleak.

Read more
 
Compass

US: from big growth scare to relief

The manufacturing purchasing managers’ index of the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) has continued its decline in September, reaching 47.8%. The non-manufacturing ISM has registered a big drop of 3.8 percentage points and is now at 52.6% — a very low print for a non-recessionary period. Against this background, bond yields have declined significantly reflecting increasing worries about recession risk, rising expectations about additional Fed easing and a greater flight to safe havens. The labour market data for September however brought some relief. Nevertheless, we expect the Fed to continue to cut rates. US ISM manufacturing and non-manufacturing indices have both declined lately. In this context, the bond yields decline has intensified the fear of a recession. However, the good figures of the labour market data provided some relief.

Read more
 
Interrogations

Elevated uncertainty slows growth despite lower rates

Business surveys in the US paint a diverging picture: manufacturing is worsening significantly but services have picked up nicely. Taking a broader perspective, evidence is building of a slowing economy. Less dynamic growth can be observed in engines of growth of the world economy: China and India, although reasons differ. In Europe, Germany is probably already in a technical recession whereas France is resilient. Central banks are back in easing mode but the effectiveness will be hampered by elevated uncertainty, despite the announcement of a new round of trade negotiations between the US and China.

Read more
 
inflation definition

Eurozone: pockets of inflation in a low inflation world

Despite an increase in June, core inflation in the eurozone remains stubbornly low. The dispersion is significant between countries and between the expenditure components of the price index. Inflation is low for clothing and footwear, furnishings and household equipment, transport and communications. It is higher for housing-related items, restaurants and hotels, miscellaneous goods and services and recreation and culture. Non-energy industrial goods price inflation is very low. Should this continue, it would imply that the acceleration of inflation which is the ECB is pursuing by renewed policy easing, has to come from services. However, research shows that it takes more time for services prices to respond to monetary policy and economic activity. Monetary accomodation is here to stay.

Read more
 
risks

Growth concerns on the rise

A sigh of relief followed the publication of first quarter GDP data. However since, growth concerns have picked up again on the back of a collection of new economic data but also — and perhaps more importantly — due to continued high uncertainty. The latter stems from concerns over the extent of the slowdown and its consequences in terms of economic risks. It also emanates from escalating tensions between the US and China over trade. The effects of this confrontation already show up in the Chinese data while in the US, mounting anecdotal evidence also point to its detrimental impact on business and the agricultural sector. The Federal Reserve has turned a corner and indicated that rate cuts are coming, much to the joy of the equity market. The ECB has also changed its message: with risks tilted to the downside and inflation going nowhere, it considers more easing is necessary.

Read more
 
William De Vijlder - EcoTV Week - July 2019

United States: Much reason to celebrate?

This week saw two reasons to celebrate in the US. First, it’s 4th of July week and, second, we have started the 121th month of economic expansion, the longest in US history. The former is obviously a festive event, but turning to the economy, is there still reason to celebrate?

Read more
 
ecnomic slowdown

France and Germany: Very different cyclical slowdowns

The slowdown since the start of last year is of a different nature in France, where it has manifested itself in manufacturing and services, compared to Germany, where it is very much concentrated in the manufacturing sector. Recent data show a somewhat improving picture in France whereas in Germany signs of stabilisation remain tentative. Under the hypothesis that concerns about trade relations (US-China, US-Europe) and Brexit will not disappear anytime soon, it seems difficult to expect a significant improvement in the near term. France could however surprise positively on the back of the measures to support the purchasing power of households.

Read more
 
US flags

US economy: on a slippery slope

Speaking before the Economic Club of New York recently, Richard Clarida, Vice-President of the Federal Reserve, drew a positive picture of the US economy. Over the past four quarters, real GDP growth has averaged 3.2%, while the unemployment rate verged on a 50-year low of 3.6%. Month after month, job creations are still going strong. The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is projecting growth of about 2% for the next three years. Clearly, all seems to be going for the best in the best of all possible worlds.

Read more
 
eurozone tagcloud2

Eurozone: when manufacturing sneezes, do services catch a cold?

According to Mario Draghi, a key question is how long the rest of the economy can remain insulated from the weakness in the manufacturing sector. Historically, the purchasing manager indices for manufacturing and services have been highly correlated, which can be partly attributed to the important role of services in the value chain of the manufacturing sector. The future resilience of the services sector in the eurozone will very much depend on what happens in Germany where the gap between the PMIs of the two sectors is abnormally high.

Read more
 
ECB by night

ECB: getting ready for more easing, but not in a hurry

The ECB has eased policy slightly, by extending its forward guidance on policy rates. On the other hand, the conditions on TLTRO III are slightly less generous than those on the previous operation. Importantly, a discussion has started within the Governing Council on how to react should the environment worsen. Understandably, given the eurozone fundamentals, the ECB is not yet in a hurry to react to the prolonged uncertainties. This is a matter of keeping its powder dry.

Read more
 
eurozone tagcloud2

Eurozone: Mixed signals

Survey data released this week provide mixed signals with an improvement of consumer confidence, a weakening of the ifo business climate index in Germany and a stabilisation of the INSEE indicator in France. The IHS Markit PMIs show a stabilisation in recent months in manufacturing, at a subdued to low level, and in services, at a more satisfactory level. Several drivers of domestic demand remain supportive. Nevertheless, unease remains, mainly for reasons on which the eurozone has no control and where the risk of further tariff increases is top of the list.

Read more
 
Menu