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 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.

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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.

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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.

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Trade

US: The import tariff boomerang

Import tariffs have a negative impact on the targeted country. Retaliation will in turn have negative consequences for the country which started the tariff hikes. Even in the absence of retaliation, there will be negative consequences. Household spending will suffer from a loss of spending power due to an increase in inflation following higher import prices and/or a switch to domestically produced goods. For the same reason, aggregate corporate profits may suffer. Companies may also cut back their investment because of increased uncertainty. Empirical research confirms these outcomes.

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GDP

United States: Strong growth but questions about quality

According to Jerome Powell, the fundamentals supporting the US economy remain solid. First quarter growth has been robust but underlying concerns about the quality of growth have emerged. Growth has benefitted from a drop in imports and rising inventory levels while residential investment acted as a drag. In the coming months, imports should rebound and inventories should witness a scale back. The onus will fall on consumer spending and corporate investment to neutralise the effects of these anticipated headwinds on growth.

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global economy

Lingering concerns despite hopeful signs

Recent data in China and the eurozone point towards a stabilisation of growth and have been met with relief. Although the US economy is slowing, growth should remain at a satisfactory level in the near term. Yet there are lingering concerns about the underlying strength of the global economy. The IMF has again scaled down its forecasts and only expects a modest growth pickup later this year. The flattening of the US yield curve fuels worries that growth will disappoint. The Fed insists it is confident about the outlook and patient in setting its policy. Markets have welcomed this accommodative message. Yet the signals sent by equity and bond markets about future growth are quite different. It only adds to the list of concerns.

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Global economy

Global economy: Starting to look a bit better

Strong job creation in March in the US has brought relief after the disappointing data the month before. The Chinese manufacturing indices have rebounded and crossed the 50 level. In the eurozone, the pressure on the manufacturing sector continues but the services PMI has improved. Retail sales have beaten expectations. For the manufacturing sector, a lot will depend on how uncertainty evolves. In this respect there are hopeful signs. The likelihood that an agreement will be reached between the US and China has increased whereas in the UK, cross-party negotiations seek to avoid a hard Brexit.

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euros

Eurozone growth: Some hopeful signs

After last week’s poor flash PMIs, data published this week show a mixed picture. The European Commission’s Economic Sentiment Index continues to decline in a large number of countries and for the eurozone as a whole as well. IFO data for Germany show an improvement in the overall climate though manufacturing continues to go down. INSEE data for France show a stabilisation or even some modest improvement. All in all there are some hopeful signs but it would be premature to conclude that the growth slowdown is about to end. April data will be particularly important

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Fed

US: Discomforting dots

The growth projections of the FOMC members have been revised downwards and the unemployment projection has seen an upward revision. The projections for the federal funds rate (the “dots”) have dropped 50 basis points. The Fed chairman considers the outlook to remain favourable, adding that it is a great time to be patient. Markets are less upbeat. They interpret patience as an underlying concern about downside risks and price a rate cut in the course of next year. We expect the policy rate to stay at its current level, this year and next.

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yuan

China: towards a stabilisation of growth? Not yet.

The plethora of data released this week didn’t remove concern about the Chinese growth slowdown. Lunar holiday bias and the recent fiscal stimulus measures imply it is too early to draw firm conclusions. The matter is important for the global economy given China’s weight. It is also important for key exporters to China such as Germany. Against this background, reaching a trade agreement with the US becomes key.

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graphique economie

Sentiment measures offer mixed picture

The latest survey data show a very mixed picture. In the manufacturing sector, China saw some signs of stabilisation, whereas Japan experienced a deterioration. In Germany, manufacturing remains under pressure. The picture in the eurozone is quite diverse, depending on the country and the sector.Looking at the broadest survey indicator for the eurozone, one observes a stabilisation. Whether this will be confirmed depends to a large degree on developments in China and on the well-known sources of uncertainty (trade, Brexit).

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chinese dragoon

Europe: China exposure and export sentiment

Considering its considerable weight in world GDP, slower growth in China causes spillover effects. Over the past 12 months, countries which are more exposed to China in terms of exports have seen a bigger drop in their new export order assessment. In Germany there is a close correlation between the Chinese purchasing managers index and the assessment of exports in the PMI. This shows that Germany and, by extension, Europe as a whole should hope that recent Chinese growth support measures will be successful.

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global trade

Foreign versus domestic drivers of weaker sentiment

Since early 2018, based on the purchasing manager indices, a large number of countries have witnessed a decline in the assessment of new export orders which was bigger than the decline of the general climate in manufacturing. This suggests a dominance of foreign demand shocks, rather than domestic shocks, in explaining slower overall growth. The drop in new export orders echoes the significant slowdown in world trade growth. This is probably related to slower Chinese growth and, in many countries, slower growth in capital expenditures, which have a higher import content than consumption. Trade-related uncertainty may also play a role.

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vague

The risk of drowning in a wave of sentiment

Business confidence surveys play a key role in economic analysis. They measure the “waves of sentiment” on which economic players use to surf. But when will we reach the trough of the wave that just peaked about 12 months ago ?

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euro

Eurozone: what does weakening sentiment tell us about growth?

The European Commission now expects 1.3% growth for the eurozone this year, down from 1.9% in its previous forecast. This downward adjustment doesn’t come as a surprise, considering the declining trend of several survey indicators. The recent performance of these indicators in tracking GDP growth is mixed, which makes the assessment of the current growth momentum challenging.

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