EFN Report Summer 2015: Economic Outlook for the Euro Area in 2015 and 2016
External conditions for the euro area economy are still favourable, albeit somewhat less so than at the beginning of the year. Oil prices are by more than a third lower than they were on average in 2014, but about 10 USD higher than in January. Long term interest rates are still very low, but by half a percentage point higher than in January. Worldwide growth in production and trade has disappointed in the first quarter of 2015, and recent leading indicators point to no more than a slightly faster expansion of world production for the rest of the year. The risks of contagion from the Greek crisis to the partner countries appear limited, because financial exposure to the Greek banking sector has been very much reduced. The EU nowadays has instruments with considerable power to fight losses of confidence, and the other countries that received financial assistance in the euro crisis appear politically much more stable, and their economies (including that of Cyprus in the first quarter of this year) have started growing at quite satisfactory rates. According to our forecasts, the euro area GDP will grow by 1.6% in 2015 and by 2.1% in 2016, as negative factors slowly become less important. Both private consumption and investment will expand at a good pace, and the unemployment rate will diminish, but still remain above 10% by the end of 2016. The main risk is that the Greek crisis has a more negative effect on confidence than initially expected. Our inflation forecast for 2015 is 0.2%, with the possibility of a mild deflation not excluded. During the first quarter of 2015 rising oil prices were the main contributors to the ascending inflation expectations, while during the second quarter upward surprises over expected inflation have come from manufactured goods and services. For 2016, we expect that inflation will increase up to 1.2%, still below the 2% ECB’s target.