EFN Report Spring 2018: Economic Outlook for the Euro Area in 2018 and 2019

• The world economy is booming. The global upswing is investment-driven, and since investment goods usually have a large import content, it is no surprise that world trade has been buoyant during winter. The very expansionary US fiscal policy (tax reform and lifting of spending caps) could give an additional shortterm stimulus for the world economy. • However, we forecast world trade to slow down during 2018. The US administration’s announcement of high tariffs on steel and aluminium comes close to triggering a spiral into a broader trade conflict. Moreover, the globalization of value chains has been slowing down since the financial crisis due to the industrial upgrading in China and in other emerging economies that has declined processing trade. In addition, some types of manufacturing jobs have returned to source countries (reshoring) in response to technology innovation and lower labour costs differentials. • The euro area is in the middle of a broad based cyclical upswing. Higher exports and improved expectations have induced firms to invest more into equipment, as capacity utilization has been above average for some time now and is still increasing, and financing costs are very low. However, recent soft indicators, but also industrial production have been surprisingly downbeat, and there was some turbulence in financial markets, which suggests some caution. • The ECB will probably stop its asset purchase program at the end of 2018, but only later in 2019 start raising interest rates. Fiscal policy in the euro area is slightly expansionary this year, and a notable fiscal stimulus in France and in Germany is to be expected for 2019. • Overall, we forecast euro area GDP to expand by 2.2% in 2018 and by 1.6% in 2019. Accelerating wage dynamics will, together with higher price setting powers of firms and the recent increase in oil prices, cause consumer price inflation rising to nearly to 2% in 2019. Uncertainty, is however substantial, as a slight slowdown cannot be ruled out, which would also impact inflation dynamics.

20. April 2018

Authors European Forecasting Network

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