EFN Report Summer 2014: Economic Outlook for the Euro Area in 2014 and 2015
World growth disappointed at the beginning of the year, when in the US extremely cold weather caused production to contract, the recovery in the euro area stumbled and the slowdown of the Chinese economy continued. At present, however, confidence indicators and order books point to a moderate pickup of growth in most regions. Prices on markets for energy, real and financial assets have reacted little to recent bad news about rising geopolitical risks in the Middle East and Eastern Europe up to now. A sudden increase of risk aversion or a change of believes among investors could trigger a swift deterioration of financial conditions for the world economy. In the euro area, strong stimuli from abroad are not to be expected and private households continue to keep their real spending about constant. Investment has been expanding since summer 2013, but at a very moderate rate. In this context, our forecast for GDP growth is 1.1% in 2014 and 1.6% in 2015. For 2014 and 2015, we do not see any significant reduction of the unemployment rate, because employment dynamics will stay weak due to subdued growth and the still rising participation rate in the euro area. Our inflation forecast for 2014 is 0.6%. In 2015 inflation will also remain subdued, at about 1.0%. In this context of very low price dynamics, monetary policy keeps the recovery alive: official interest rates around zero and the search for yields on financial markets have depressed yields for government bonds; the fall in financing costs allows euro area governments to conduct fiscal policies that are much less restrictive than in the years before, with tax cuts in Italy, France, and Spain starting this year. Nonfinancial firms benefit from a shrinking burden of interest payments, and the availability of bank loans for small and medium enterprises has improved since 2012 in most countries.