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The trend of consensus-beating EZ economic data was brought to a halt yesterday. The IFO business climate index in Germany slipped to a five-month low of 109.8 in January, from 111.0 in December, mainly due to a fall in the expectations index. But we are not alarmed. The dip in the headline comes after a run of strong data, and the IFO remains consistent with GDP growth of about 1.6% year-over-year.
The German statistical office will supply a confidential estimate to Eurostat for this week's advance euro area Q2 GDP data. Our analysis suggests this number will be grim, and weigh on the aggregate EZ estimate. Our GDP model, which includes data for retail sales, industrial production and net exports, forecasts that real GDP in Germany contracted 0.1% quarter-on-quarter in the second quarter, after a 0.7% jump in Q1.
The verdict from the German business surveys is in; economic growth probably slowed further in Q2.
Yesterday's German IFO survey suggests that economic momentum in the Eurozone's largest country remained modest at the start of Q2. The headline business climate index fell trivially to 106.6 in April, from 106.7 in March, lower than the consensus expectation of an increase to 107.2.
Yesterday's economic data in Germany confirmed that the economy slowed in Q3, but also added to the evidence that growth will rebound in Q4. The second estimate for Q3 showed that real GDP rose 0.2% quarter-on-quarter, slowing from a 0.4% gain in Q2.
The headline in yesterday's detailed Q1 German GDP data was old news, confirming that growth in the euro area's largest economy slowed at the start of the year.
Detailed GDP data yesterday showed that the domestic German economy fired on all cylinders in the first quarter. Real GDP rose 0.7% quarter-on-quarter in Q1, up from 0.3% in Q4, lifted by strong investment and spending. Domestic demand rose 0.8%, only slightly slower than the 0.9% ris e in the fourth quarter. Net exports fell 0.3%, a bit better than in Q4, when gross exports fell outright.
Survey data in Germany continue to tell an upbeat story on the economy. The IFO business climate index rose to 109.0 in November from 108.2 in October, lifted by gains in both the expectations and current assessment indexes. The IFO tends to be slightly over-optimistic on GDP growth, but our first chart shows that the survey points to upside risks in the fourth quarter.
The IFO survey released yesterday provides further evidence that the cyclical recovery in Germany's economy continued in the current quarter. The headline business climate index rose to 107.9 in March from 106.8 in February, lifted by increases in both the current assessments and expectations index.
Yesterday's IFO survey confirmed that the private business sector in Germany was off to a flying start in Q4. The headline business climate index rose to 110.5 in October, from 109.5 in September, lifted mainly by a rise in the expectations index to a 30-month high of 106.5.
Consumer sentiment data yesterday from the major economies were mixed, signalling that support to Eurozone GDP growth from surging German household consumption is waning. The key "business outlook" index--which correlates best with spending--plunged to a 30-month low in October, while the advance GfK sentiment index dipped to 9.4 in November from 9.6 in October. We see little signs in retail sales data of slowing momentum, and also think consumers' spending rebounded in Q3. But our first chart shows that the fall in the GfK index implies clear downside risks in coming quarters.
Survey data in the Eurozone were mixed yesterday. In Germany, the advance GfK consumer sentiment index slipped to 10.0 in October, from 10.2 in September, marginally below consensus forecasts. The details, reported for September, also were soft.
In our Monitor on January 27 we speculated that the new U.S. administration would see Germany's booming trade surplus as a bone of contention. We were right. Earlier this week, Peter Navarro, the head of Mr. Trump's new National Trade Council, fired a broadside against Germany, accusing Berlin for using the weak euro to gain an unfair trade advantage visa-vis the U.S.
German labour market data continue to break records on a monthly basis. The unemployment rate was unchanged at 6.2% in A pril, with jobless claims falling 16,000, following a revised 2,000 fall in March. March employment rose 1.2% year-over-year, down slightly from 1.3% in February, but the total number of people in jobs rose to a new high of 43.4 million.
Yesterday's IFO survey in Germany was a big relief for markets, in light of recent soft data. The main business climate index jumped to 109.5 in September, from 106.3 in August, the biggest month-to-month increase since 2010.
Yesterday's IFO survey in Germany sent a marginally more downbeat message than the strong PMIs last week. The IFO business climate index fell to 115.2 in September, from 115.9 in August, its second straight monthly dip.
We are happy to report that the laws of gravity have been temporarily suspended in the German survey data.
Yesterday's consumer confidence report in Germany was soft, in contrast to surging business sentiment data earlier in the week.
Real GDP in Germany grew 0.7% quarter-on-quarter in Q4, thanks mainly to a 0.4% contribution from private consumption, and a 0.2% boost from net trade. Household consumption grew 2.2% annualised in 2014, the best year for German consumers since 2006.
Yesterday's final Q2 GDP report in Germany confirmed the initial data showing that the economy slowed less than we expected last quarter. Real GDP rose 0.4% quarter-on-quarter in Q2, after a 0.7% jump in Q1. The working-day adjusted year-over-year rate fell marginally to 1.8%, from 1.9% in Q1.
The labour market in the Eurozone continues slowly to improve. The unemployment rate fell to 10.7% in October from 10.8% in September, reaching its lowest level since 2013. The divergence in rates, however, between the major economies remains significant. Unemployment in France, Italy and Spain is still above 10%, but the advance German number continued their record-breaking form in November.
Yesterday's IFO survey capped a fine Q4 for German business survey data. The headline business climate index climbed to a 34-month high of 111.0 in December, from 110.4 in November. An increase in the "current assessment" index was the main driver of the gain, while the expectations index rose only trivially.
German survey data did something out of character yesterday; they fell. The IFO business climate index declined to 117.2 in December from a revised 117.6 in November.
Detailed German inflation data today likely will confirm that inflation fell to 0.3% year-over-year in December from 0.4% in November, mainly due to falling food inflation. Preliminary data suggest that food inflation declined sharply to 1.4% from 2.3% in November, offsetting slower energy price deflation, due to base effects. Food and energy prices are wild cards in the next three-to-six months, and could weigh on the headline, given the renewed weakness in oil prices, and lower fresh food prices. Core inflation, however, is a lagging indicator, and will continue to increase this year.
No subject in the EZ economy is a source of more dispute than Germany's ballooning current account surplus. The Economist recently identified he German surplus as a problem for the world economy.
Friday's economic data confirmed that inflation in Germany rebounded last month, and leading indicators suggest that it is headed higher in coming months.
Yesterday's Q2 GDP report in Germany was solid, but the headline disappointed slightly. GDP growth slowed to 0.6% quarter-on-quarter from an upwardly- revised 0.7% rise in Q1. The year-over-year rate, however, rose to 2.1% from a revised 2.0% in Q1.
Yesterday's GDP reports confirmed that growth was stable at 0.3% quarter-on-quarter in the Eurozone, leaving the year-over-year rate unchanged at 1.5%. Rebounding growth outside Germany, which has been a main driver of EZ GDP growth in this cycle, was the key story.
German producer price inflation fell last month, following uninterrupted gains since the beginning of this year. Headline PPI inflation fell to 2.8% year-over- year in May, from 3.4% in April, constrained by lower energy inflation, which slipped to 3.0%, from 4.6% in April. Meanwhile, non-energy inflation declined marginally to 2.7%, from 2.8%.
Producer prices in Germany rose 0.4% month-to-month in May, stronger than the consensus expectation of a 0.3% gain, and we think further upside surprises are likely in coming months. The headline was boosted by a 0.7% jump in energy prices, but food and manufacturing goods prices also rose.
Sentiment in Germany has improved slightly this month with the IFO business climate index rising to 106.8 from 106.7 in January, pushed higher by a small increase in the expectations index.
Yesterday's detailed German GDP report raised more questions than it answered. The headline confirmed that growth accelerated to 0.4% quarteron- quarter in Q4, from 0.1% in Q3, leaving the year-over- year rate unchanged at 1.7%.
Yesterday's detailed GDP report in Germany showed net exports propelled GDP growth to a cyclical high last quarter.
Margins for German manufacturing firms remained depressed at the start of the second quarter. The headline PPI rose 0.1% month-to-month in April, pushing the year-over-year rate down marginally to -3.1% from a revised -3.0% in March. Falling energy prices are the key driver of the overall decline in the PPI.
Yesterday's German IFO survey broadly confirmed the bullish message from the PMIs earlier this week. The headline business climate index rose to 111.0 in February from a revised 109.9 in January, boosted by increases in both the current assessment and the expectations index.
German producer price inflation rebounded last month. The headline PPI index rose 2.6% year-over-year in August, up from a 2.3% increase in July, driven almost exclusively by a jump in energy inflation.
While we were out, the key economic news in the Eurozone was mostly positive. The main upside surprise came from the advance Q2 German GDP report, which showed that real GDP rose 0.4% quarter-on-quarter, slowing from the 0.7% jump in the first quarter.
Friday's economic data suggest that the downtrend in German PPI inflation is reversing.
The upward trend in German inflation stalled temporarily in August, with an unchanged 0.4% year-over-year reading in August. A dip in core inflation likely offset a continued increase in energy price inflation. The detailed final report next month will give the full story, but state data suggest that the core rate was depressed by a dip in price increases of household appliances, restaurant services, as well as "other goods and services."
Advance CPI data yesterday continue to indicate that inflation pressures remain depressed in the Eurozone's largest economy, for now. Inflation in Germany rose slightly in May, but only to 0.1% year-over-year, from -0.1% in April. The downward pressure on the headline from the crash in oil prices remains significant. Energy prices fell 7.9% year-over-year, slowing slightly from the 8.5% drop in the year to April.
Industrial production in Germany had a decent start to the third quarter. Output rose 0.7% month-to-month in July, less than we and the consensus expected, but the 0.5% upward revision to the June data brings the net headline almost in line with forecasts. Rebounds of 2.8% and 3.2% month-to-month in the capital goods and construction sectors respectively were the key drivers of the gain, following similar falls in June. A 3.2% fall in consumer goods production, however, was a notable drag.
The combination of upbeat survey data and solid consumer spending numbers indicate that the German economy is in good shape. But manufacturing data continue to disappoint; factory orders fell 0.9% month-to-month in February, equivalent to a 1.3% decline year-over-year.
Friday's industrial production report in Germany capped a miserable week for economic data in the Eurozone's largest economy.
Yesterdays' industrial production report capped a poor week for German manufacturing. Output fell 1.2% month-to-month in August, well below the consensus, +0.2%, though note that a 0.5% upward revision to the July data made the August headline look worse. Similar to the factory orders report earlier this week--see our October 6th Monitor--base effects also mean that production accelerated to 2.5% year-over-year, from a revised 0.8% gain in July.
Demand for German manufacturing goods slipped at the end of Q3. Yesterday's report showed that factory orders fell 0.6% month-to-month in September, constrained by weakness in domestic demand and falling export orders to other EZ economies.
New orders data increasingly suggest that German manufacturers all but shut their production lines at the start of the year.
New orders data indicate that German manufacturing enjoyed a strong start to the second quarter. Factory orders rose 1.4% month-to-month in April, equivalent to a modest 0.4% gain yearover- year, down from a revised 2.0% in March. The numbers put new orders on track for a solid 1.8% quarter-on-quarter gain in Q2--assuming no change in May and June--but these data are volatile, making this estimate highly uncertain.
A setback in German manufacturing orders was coming after the jump at the end of 2016, but yesterday's headline was worse than we expected. Factory orders crashed 7.4% month-to-month in January, more than reversing the 5.4% jump in December. The year-over-year rate fell to -0.8% from a revised +8.0%. The decline was the biggest since 2009, but the huge volatility in domestic capital goods orders means that the headline has to be taken with a large pinch of salt.
The German manufacturing sector is showing signs of stabilisation with industrial production rising 0.2% month-on-month in October, equivalent to 0.8% year-over- year. This is consistent with a decent retracement in production this quarter, but growth is still only barely above zero.
German industrial production data were presented by Bloomberg News as signs that the recovery is "gathering momentum", but it is slightly premature to make that call. Narrow money growth is currently sending a strong signal of higher GDP growth this year in the euro area, but the message from the manufacturing sector is still one of stabilisation rather than acceleration.
Friday's industrial production data capped another dreadful week for German manufacturing. Output fell 1.1% month-to-month in September, pushing the year-over-year rate lower to 0.2%, from a revised 2.9% in August. The 0.6% upward revision of the previous month's data makes the data slightly less awful than the headline, but the details showed weakness across all core sectors. The underlying trend in production is stable at about 1.2% year-over-year, but downbeat new orders suggest it will weaken in the fourth quarter.
Trade data yesterday added to the downbeat impression of the German economy, following poor manufacturing data earlier in the week. Exports plunged 5.2% month-to-month in August--the second biggest monthly fall ever--pushing the year-over-year rate down to 4.4%, from a revised 6.3% in July. Surging growth in the past six months, and base effects pointed to a big fall in August, but we didn't expect a collapse.
Friday's German new orders data were sizzling. Factory orders jumped 3.6% month-to-month in August, pushing the year-over-year rate up to a nine-month high of 7.8%, from an upwardly-revised 5.4% in July.
Yesterday's economic reports showed that the German economy firmed at the end of Q1, but this doesn't change the story for a poor quarter overall.
Economic reports released yesterday indicate that the German economy was off to a solid start early in the second quarter. Industrial production rose 0.9% month-to-month in April, equivalent to a 1.4% increase year-over-year, up from a revised tiny 0.2% gain in March. This is the biggest annual jump in production since July last year, but the underlying trend is turning up only slowly, in line with the moderate improvement in survey data this year.
In contrast to the strong December trade numbers in France--see here--yesterday's German data were soft. The seasonally adjusted trade surplus dipped to €21.5B in December, from €22.3B in November.
The upturn in German manufacturing orders waned slightly towards the end of 2017; factory orders fell 0.4% month-to-month in November.
Friday's industrial production data in Germany added to the manufacturing optimism following the sharp rise in new orders--see here--reported earlier in the week.
German GDP growth jumped in the first quarter, but monthly economic data suggest the economy all but stalled in Q2. Yesterday's industrial production data are a case in point. Output slid 1.3% month-tomonth in May, pushing the year-over-year rate down to -0.4% from a revised 0.8% gain in April. Adding insult to injury, the month-to-month number for April was revised down by 0.3 percentage points
German GDP growth likely accelerated in the second quarter, following a disappointing 0.3% quarter-on-quarter expansion in Q1. Growth in the manufacturing sector remains modest, and the trend in consumers' spending remains solid. Industrial production was unchanged in May, pushing year-over-year growth to 2.1% from a revised 1.1% in April.
German manufacturing data continues to offer a sobering counterbalance to strong services and consumers' spending data. New orders plunged 1.7% month-to-month in September, well below the consensus, pushing the year-over-year rate down to a 1.0% fall from a revised 1.7% increase in August. These data are very volatile, and revisions probably will lift the final number slightly next month, but the evidence points to clear risks of a further decline in the underlying trend of production.
Yesterday's EZ PMI data surprised to the downside. The composite PMI in the euro area dipped to 52.9 in August, from 53.2 in July, below the initial estimate 53.3. The headline was marred by weakness in the German services PMI, which crashed to a 40-month low of 51.7, from 54.4 in July.
Yesterday's German industrial production data were poor, but better than we expected. Output fell 0.5% month-to-month in February, pushing annual growth down to 1.3% from a revised 1.8% in January. In addition, net revisions to the month-to-month data were a hefty -1.0%, but this is not enough to change the story of a Q1 rebound in industrial production.
Demand in German manufacturing rebounded strongly midway through the second quarter.
Advance inflation data from Germany and Spain indicate that the Eurozone slipped into deflation last month, piling maximum pressure on Mr. Draghi later this month. Inflation in the euro area's largest economy fell to 0.2% year-over-year in December from 0.6% in November, driven by a 6.6% plunge in the energy component.
The labour market in Germany tightened further at the end of last year. The headline unemployment rate--unemployment claims as a share of the labour force--fell to 5.5% in December, from 5.6% in November, driven by a 29K plunge in claims.
Friday's economic data in Germany suggest that households had a slow start to the year.
Factory orders in Germany probably jumped in September, following a string of losses in the beginning of Q3. We think new orders rose 1.0% month-to-month, pushing the year-over-year rate slightly lower, to 1.8% from 2.0% in August. A rebound in non- Eurozone export orders likely will be the key driver of the monthly gain, following a 14.8% cumulative plunge in the previous two months. The rise will be concentrated in capital and consumer goods, and should be enough to offset a fall in export orders within the euro area. Our forecast is consistent with new orders falling 2.0% quarter-on-quarter in Q3, partly reversing the 3.0% surge in the second quarter, and raising downside risks for production in Q4.
Demand for German manufacturing goods remained firm at the start of Q4. Data yesterday showed that factory orders increased 0.5% month-to-month in October, helped by gains in both export and domestic activity.
German manufacturing is in good shape, but probably is not as strong as implied by yesterday's surge in new orders. Factory orders jumped 5.2% month-to-month in December, rebounding strongly after a downwardly revised 3.6% fall in November. December's jump was the biggest monthly increase in two years, but it was flattered by a leap in bulk investment goods orders, mainly in the domestic market and other EZ economies.
German industrial output was off to a sluggish start in the fourth quarter. Production eked out a marginal 0.2% month-to-month gain in October, pushing the year-over-year rate down to 0.0% from a revised 0.4% in September. Manufacturing output rose 0.6%, led by a 2.7% jump in production of capital goods, but the underlying trend in the sector overall is flat. On a more positive note, construction output rose 0.7% month-to-month in October, and leading indicators suggest this could be the beginning of a string of gains, lifting investment spending in coming quarters.
German manufacturing data are all over the place at the moment. Earlier this week, data showed that new orders jumped toward the end of 2016, but yesterday's industrial production report was a shocker. Output plunged 3.0% month-to-month in December, pushing the year-over-year rate down to -0.7% from a revised +2.3% in November.
Industrial production in Germany stumbled at the end of Q4. Data yesterday showed that output fell 0.6 month-to-month in December, though this drop has to be seen in light of the downwardly-revised 3.1% jump in November.
German factory orders probably bounced a modest 0.3% month-to-month in February, equivalent to a 0.5% decline year-over-year. We expect private investment growth to have picked up in the first quarter, but leading indicators for the industrial sector in Germany are sending conflicting signals.
The disappointing German factory orders ended the run of strong economic data last week. New orders fell 1.4% month-to-month in July, pushing the year-over-year rate down to a 0.6% fall from a 7.0% increase in June. This is a poor headline, but it partly reflects mean-reversion from last month's revised 1.8% jump. We expect a rebound next month, and the details also offer a useful reminder that these data are extremely volatile on a month-to-month basis.
The hard numbers in Eurozone manufacturing continue to lag the sharp rise in the main surveys. Data yesterday showed that German factory orders rose 1.0% month-to-month in May, only partially rebounding from a downwardly revised 2.2% plunge in April.
German factory orders struggled in the second quarter. New orders were unchanged month-to-month in May, a poor headline following the revised 1.9% plunge in April. The year-over-year rate rose to -0.2%, from a revised -0.4% in April. The month-to-month rate was depressed by a big fall in domestic orders, which offset a rise in export orders.
Yesterday's factory orders report in German was grim reading. New orders fell 1.8% month-to-month in August, following a downwardly revised 2.2% plunge in July. Weakness in export demand and mean reversion in domestic orders were the key culprits. Domestic orders fell 2.6% month-to-month; nothing to worry about after a near-4% jump in July.
The German economy fired on all cylinders at the beginning of the year. Advance data on Friday showed that real GDP rose 0.6% quarter-on-quarter, accelerating from a 0.4% increase in Q4.
Manufacturing activity in Germany rebounded at the start of the fourth quarter, following a miserable Q3. New orders jumped 1.8% month-to-month in October, lifted by increases in consumer and capital goods orders, both domestic and export. But the year-over-year rate fell to -1.4%, from a revised -0.7% in September, due to unfavorable base effects, and the three-month trend remained below zero. Our first chart shows that non-Eurozone export orders are the key drag, with export orders to other euro area economies doing significantly better.
Yesterday's economic data in Germany cemented the story of a strong start to the year, despite the disappointing headlines. Industrial production slipped 0.4% month-to-month in March, pushing the year-over-year rate down to +1.9% from a revised +2.0% in February.
The 12-month average German trade surplus continues to set records, rising to €18.2B in January, but exports started the quarter on a weak note, falling 2.1% month-to-month in January, equivalent to a mere 1.9% rise year-over-year.
Germany's external balance was virtually stable at the beginning of the second quarter. The seasonally adjusted trade surplus rose marginally to €23.9B in April from a revised €23.7B in March, mainly due to weakness in imports. Demand for goods abroad fell 0.2% month-to-month, which pushed up the surplus despite amid unchanged exports. Imports fell 1.5% year-over-year in April, up slightly from a 2.5% decline in March.
New business in German manufacturing ended the first quarter on a strong note. Factory orders rose 1.9% month-to-month in March, above the consensus 0.6%, and net revisions to the February data were +0.4 percentage points. The rise in new orders was exclusively due to a 4.3% increase in export orders, which offset a 1.2% fall in domestic orders. These are strong numbers, but the details suggest that mean reversion will push the headline down next month.
German trade data yesterday added further evidence that net exports likely will wreak havoc with the Q3 GDP report this week. Exports rose 2.6% month-to-month in September, partially rebounding from a 5.2% plunge in August. But imports jumped 3.6%, further adding to the net trade drag on a quarterly basis. Our first chart shows our estimate of real net trade in Q3 as the worst since the collapse in 2008-to-09.
German inflation pressures were unchanged last month. The CPI index rose 0.8% year-over-year, matching the increase in October, and in line with the consensus and initial estimate. Energy deflation intensified marginally, as a result of lower prices for household utilities.
German manufacturing snapped back at the end of summer. Industrial production jumped 2.6% month-to-month in August, pushing the year-over- year rate up to 4.7% from a revised 4.2% in July.
Germany's newly-appointed finance minister, Olaf Scholz, proudly announced earlier this month that his country would be running a budget surplus of €63B over the next four years--about 1.9% of GDP between now and 2022--some €14B more than initially estimated.
Yesterday's economic data in Germany were stellar, but base effects mean that the story for Q4 as a whole is less upbeat.
German exports had a sluggish start to the fourth quarter, falling 1.2% month-to-month in October. The monthly drop pushed the year-over-year rate down to 3.0% from 4.2% in September, well down from the 5.6% third quarter average and extending the loss of momentum in recent months. Imports fell 3.6%, so net exports rose, but it's too early to make any useful estimates of net trade in the fourth quarter as a whole.
The German manufacturing sector is showing signs of stabilisation with industrial production rising 0.2% month-on-month in October, equivalent to 0.8% year-over- year. This is consistent with a decent retracement in production this quarter, but growth is still only barely above zero.
External demand for the Eurozone's largest economy is going from strength to strength. Seasonally adjusted German exports rose 3.4% month-to-month in December, equivalent to a solid 7.5% increase year-over-year.The revised indices show that the annualised surplus rose to an all-time high of €218B, or 7% of GDP, last year, indicating that the level of external savings remains a solid support for the economy.
Yesterday's German manufacturing and trade data did little to allay our fears over downside risks to this week's Q4 GDP data. At -1.2% month-to-month in December, industrial production was much weaker than the consensus forecast of a 0.5% increase. Exports also surprised to the downside, falling 1.6% month-to-month. Our GDP model, updated with these data, shows GDP growth fell 0.2%-to-0.3% quarter-on-quarter in Q4, reversing the 0.3% increase in Q3.
Survey data have been signalling a stronger German economy in the last few months, and hard data are beginning to confirm this story. Data yesterday showed that industrial production rose 0.4% month-to-month in November, pushing the year-over-year rate up to 2.2%, from an upwardly-revised 1.6% in October. The headline was boosted mainly by a 1.5% month-to-month jump in construction and a 0.9% rise in intermediate goods production.
German exporters stumbled at the end of last year. The seasonally adjusted trade surplus in Germany dipped to €18.4B in December, from €21.8B in November, hit by a 3.3% month-to-month plunge in exports. Imports were flat on the month. The fall in exports looks dramatic, but it followed a 3.9% jump in the previous month, and nominal exports were up 2.5% over Q4 as a whole. Advance GDP data next week likely will show that net trade lifted quarter-on-quarter growth by 0.2 percentage points, partly reversing the 0.3pp drag in Q3. Real imports were held back by a jump in the import price deflator, due to rebounding oil prices.
The first quarter probably saw continued weakness in German net trade, despite the modest February rebound in gross exports. The seasonally-adjusted trade surplus rose to €19.7B from €18.7B in January, lifted by a 1.3% month-to-month rise in exports, which offset a 0.4% increase in imports.
Germany's external surplus remained resilient at the start of the year. Data on Friday showed that the seasonally adjusted trade surplus rose marginally to €18.5B in January, from a revised €18.3B in December.
The seasonally adjusted trade surplus in Germany slipped to €19.6B in July, from €21.2B in June, its lowest since April, and we are confident that it has peaked for this cycle.
Yesterday's German trade data showed that the external surplus recovered in August, following its poor start to Q3. The seasonally-adjusted trade surplus rose to €22.2B, from €19.4B in July.
The final June inflation report from Germany yesterday confirmed that pressures are rising. Inflation rose to 0.3% year-over-year in June, up from 0.1% in May, mainly due to higher energy prices. Household energy prices--utilities--fell 4.9% year-over-year, up from a 5.7% decline in May, while deflation in petrol prices eased to -9.4%, up from -12.1% in May.
Data on Friday showed that German wage growth is firming. Nominal labour costs rose 2.5% year-overyear in Q3, accelerating from a revised 1.9% increase in Q2. The main driver was a strong rebound in gross earnings growth, which rebounded to 2.4% year-over-year from an oddly weak 1.2% in Q2.
Economic data in the German economy have been record-breaking in the past 12 months, and yesterday's preliminary full-year GDP report for 2017 was no exception.
Apart from a slew of economic data--see here and here--two important things happened in Germany last week.
Inflation in Germany rebounded last month, rising to plus 0.1% year-over-year in May, from minus 0.1% in April. We think the economy has escaped the claws of deflation, for now. Household energy prices fell 5.7% year-over-year in May, up from a 6.3% decline in April, and the rate will rise further. Base effects and higher oil prices point to a surge in energy inflation in the next three-to-six months.
Germany's nominal external surplus rebounded smartly over the summer, but real net trade looks set to be a drag on Q3 GDP growth, again. The seasonally adjusted trade surplus increased to €21.6B in August from a revised €19.3B in July.
The German trade surplus increased slightly in May, following weakness in the beginning of spring. The seasonally adjusted surplus rose to €20.3B in May, from €19.7B in April; it was lifted by a 1.4% month-to-month jump in exports, which offset a 1.2% rise imports.
Industrial production and trade data on Friday ended last week on a downbeat note, amid otherwise solid economic reports. In Germany, industrial output fell 0.3% month-to-month in November, pushing the year-over-year rate down to 0.1% from a revised 0.4% in October. The details, however, were better than the headline. Production was hit by a 3.3% plunge in capital goods output, offsetting gains in all other key sectors, and net revisions added 0.3% to the October data.
The German trade data on Friday completed a poor week for economic reports in the Eurozone's largest economy. The seasonally adjusted trade surplus fell to €22.1B in May, from €24.1B in April, mainly due to a 1.8% month-to-month fall in exports. Imports, on the other hand, were little changed.
The bad news in German manufacturing keeps coming thick and fast.
Yesterday's industrial production data in Germany were downbeat. Output fell 1.3% month-to-month in March, pushing the year-over-over rate down to 0.3%, from 2.0% in February. Production was held back by weakness in manufacturing and a plunge in construction, Meanwhile, energy output rebounded slightly following last month's fall. Over Q1 as a whole, though, the industrial sector performed strongly.
March data for retail sales and manufacturing have tempered our optimism for the advance Q1 GDP estimate in Germany next week. Industrial production fell 0.5% month-to-month in March, equivalent to a mere 0.1% increase year-over-year, mainly as a result of weakness in core manufacturing activities.
German inflation pressures are rising. Yesterday's final September CPI report showed that inflation rose to 0.7% year-over-year, from 0.4% in August, chiefly as a result of continued easing of deflation in energy prices.
Yesterday's final CPI report in Germany confirmed the initial estimate that inflation was unchanged at 0.4% year-over-year in August. Deflation in energy prices eased further, but the headline was pegged back by a small fall in the core rate to 1.2% year-over- year, from 1.3% in July.
Unemployment in the Eurozone fell to a 22-month low of 10.3% in January, from 10.4% in December, helped by a continued fall in Spain but underpinned by low unemployment in Germany.
Advance data suggest German inflation pressures eased towards the end of last year. Inflation fell to 0.3% year-over-year in December from 0.4% in November, likely due to a fall in food inflation--mean reversion in fruit and vegetables inflation--and a sharp fall in the annual price increase of clothing and shoes. State data indicate that deflation in household utilities persisted, but that inflation of fuel and transportation is slowly recovering. Assuming a stable oil price in coming months, base effects should push up energy price inflation in the first quarter, though it should then fall again slightly in the second quarter. Overall, though, we expect energy price inflation gradually to stabilise and recover this year.
We are wary of a downside surprise in today's German orders, due to weak advance data from the engineering organisation, VDMA. We think factory orders fell 0.5% month-to-month, pushing the year-over-year rate slightly lower to 4.5% in June from 4.7% in May. This is noticeably worse than the market expects, but the consensus forecast for a 0.3% rise implies a jump in the year-over-year rate, which is difficult to reconcile with leading indicators.
CPI data today in France and Germany will confirm that current inflation rates remain very low in the euro area. Inflation in Germany likely rose to 0.3% year-over-year from 0.0% in September, in line with the consensus and initial estimate. State data indicate that the rise was driven by surging fresh food prices and slightly higher services inflation, principally due to a jump in the volatile recreation and culture sector. Looking ahead, food prices will drop back, but energy inflation will rise rapidly as last year's plunge drops out of the year-over-year comparison, while upward core pressure is now emerging too.
The German inflation rate soared at the start of 2017, but it likely will fall in the next few months. Final February data yesterday showed that inflation rose to 2.2% in February, from 1.9% in January, consistent with the initial estimate. Since December, headline inflation in Germany, and in the EZ as a whole, has been lifted by two factors. Base effects from the 2016 crash in oil prices have pushed energy inflation higher, and a supply shock in fresh produce--due to heavy snowfall in southern Europe--has lifted food inflation.
German inflation eased in May, but the underlying upward pressure on the core is increasing. Yesterday's data showed that inflation fell to 1.5% year-over-year in May, from 2.0% in April, as the boost from the late Easter reversed. Inflation in leisure and entertainment services was driven down to +0.8%, from +3.3% in April, as a result of sharply lower inflation in package holidays and airfares.
Yesterday's final CPI estimate in Germany confirmed that inflation fell to a 15-month low of 1.4% year-over-year in February, down from 1.6% in January.
Yesterday's German factory orders report showed that manufacturing activity accelerated in August. New orders rose 1.0% month-to-month, after a 0.3% increase in July, pushing the year-over-year rate up to +2.1% from a revised -0.6%.
Yesterday's preliminary full-year GDP data in Germany tell a cautionary tale of the dangers in taking national accounts at face value. The headline data suggest real GDP growth rose to 1.7% in 2015, up slightly from 1.6% in 2014, but these data are not adjusted for calendar effects. The working-day adjusted measure buried in the press release instead indicates that growth slowed marginally to 1.5% from 1.6% in 2014.
Today's advance Q2 GDP report in Germany will add evidence that the EZ economy performed strongly in the first half of 2017. We can be pretty sure that the headline will be robust. The German statistical office reports a confidential number to Eurostat for the first estimate of EZ GDP--two weeks ahead of today's data--which was a solid 0.6%.
Advance data indicate German inflation rose to 0.4% year-over-year in November, up from 0.3% in October, lifted by higher food and energy price inflation. The upward trend in food prices won't last, but base effects in energy prices will persist, boosting headline inflation significantly in coming months. The details show that services inflation was stable at 1.2% last month, despite state data indicating a fall in volatile leisure and entertainment inflation, while net rent inflation was also stable, at 1.1%.
Yesterday's trade data added to the evidence that momentum in the German economy slowed sharply at the start of the year.
Demand in the German manufacturing sector stumbled at the end of Q4. Factory orders fell 0.7% month-to-month in December, but the details of the report were slightly more upbeat than the headline. The main hit came from a 2.5% fall in domestic orders, chiefly as a result of weakness in the intermediate goods sector.
German industrial output rebounded strongly at the beginning of the Q1. Production surged 3.3% month-to-month in January, pushing the year-over-year rate up to 2.2%, from a revised -1.2% in December
Yesterday's German factory orders data suggest that manufacturing remained weak in the beginning of Q1. New orders fell 0.1% month-to-month in January, though the year-over-year rate rose to 1.1% from a revised -2.2% in December. The small monthly decline was due to a fall in domestic orders; this offset an increase in export orders to other Eurozone economies.
German Q4 GDP data this week will give little comfort to investors searching for signs of a resilient economy in the face of increased market volatility. The consensus expects unchanged GDP growth of 0.3% quarter-on-quarter, consistent with solid and stable survey data. But downbeat industrial production and retail sales data point to notable downside risk.
The chaos in Greece was identified as the main culprit for yesterday's soft IFO report. The headline business climate index fell to 107.4 in July, down from 108.1 in May, driven by declines in respondents' views on the current economy and their expectations for the future. We expected a dip in the he adline IFO, but we were surprised by the fall in the manufacturing sub-index, given the firmer PMI earlier this week.
The composite PMI in the Eurozone continues to edge slightly lower, falling to 53.4 in May from 53.9 in April. A fall in the services index to 53.3, from 54.1 last month offset a modest increase in manufacturing to 52.3 from 52.0 in April.
Data on Friday showed that the EZ current account surplus fell to €25.3B in September, from a revised €29.2B in August. The trade and services surpluses were unchanged, but the income balance slipped after rising in the previous months.
The IFO did its part to alleviate the stock market gloom yesterday, with the business climate index rising slightly to 108.3 in August from 108.0 in July. The August reading doesn't reflect the panic in equities, though, and we need to wait until next month to gauge the real hit to business sentiment. The increase in the headline index was driven by businesses assessment of current output, with the key expectations index falling trivially to 102.2 from a revised 102.3 in July. This survey currently points to a stable trend in real GDP growth of about 0.4% quarter-on-quarter, consistent with our expectation of full year growth of about 1.5%.
The July Eurozone PMI survey echoed the message from consumer sentiment earlier of a mild dip in momentum going into Q3. The composite PMI in the euro area fell to 53.7, from 54.2 in June due mainly to a fall in the services index. Companies' own expectations for future business fell in the core, but the survey was conducted soon after the Greek referendum. Markit claims this didn't depress the data, but we are on alert for revisions to the headline and expectations next week, or a rebound next month.
Yesterday's IFO report reinforced the message from the PMIs that the Eurozone economy stumbled slightly at the beginning of the first quarter. The headline business climate index fell to an 11-month low of 107.3 in January, from a revised 108.6 in December, hit mainly by a drop in the expectations component. Intensified market volatility and worries over further weakness in the Chinese economy likely were the main drivers. Last week's dovish message from Mr. Draghi, however, came after the survey's cut-off date, leaving us cautiously optimistic for a rebound next month.
The uncertainty over the new U.S. administration's economic policies new is clouding the outlook for the Eurozone economy. The combination of loose fiscal policy and tight monetary policy in the U.S. should be positive for the euro area economy, in theory. It points to accelerating U.S. growth--at least in the near term--wider interest rate differentials and a stronger dollar. In a " traditional" global macroeconomic model, this policy mix would lead to a wider U.S. trade deficit, boosting Eurozone exports.
Macroeconomic data in the euro area were mixed in our absence.
Friday's industrial production headlines in the Eurozone were weak, but the details tell a more nuanced story.
Another day, another solid economic report in the Eurozone. Data yesterday showed that industrial production in France jumped 2.2% month-to-month in November, pushing the year-over-year rate up to +1.8%, from -1.8% in October. The 2.3% jump in manufacturing output was the key story, offsetting a 0.3% decline in construction activity. Production of food and beverages rebounded from weakness in October, and oil refining also accelerated.
All eyes in the Eurozone will be on the second estimate of Q4 GDP today, and the report likely will confirm that growth accelerated in Q4. We think real GDP rose 0.5% quarter-on-quarter, up from a 0.3% increase in Q3, in line with the first estimate. If this forecast is correct, the year-over-year rate will be unchanged at 1.8%. Risks to the headline, however, are tilted to the downside.
Today's Eurozone data will provide further details on what happened in Q4. Advance data suggest that industrial production rose a modest 0.1% month- to-month, lifting the year-over-year rate to 4.3% in December, from 3.9% in November.
Industrial sector activity in the euro area was broadly stable at the beginning of the third quarter, despite the headline dip in the July manufacturing PMI. The Eurozone index fell to 52.0 in July, from 52.8 in June, but if it holds at this level it will be unchanged in Q3 compared with the second quarter.
Real GDP in the Eurozone rose 0.4% quarter-on-quarter in Q1, in line with the consensus, but slightly below our expectation for a 0.5% increase. We don't get much detail from the country-specific advance estimates but all evidence indicates that the technical hit from net trade was much larger than we expected.
Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis' letter requesting a six-month loan extension has been interpreted widely as Syriza throwing in the towel. But we don't see this way. The best possible outcome for Greece is to be able to participate in the ECB's sovereign QE program, and to negotiate a new deal with the Troika; the request for an extension could very well achieve both.
Yesterday's second EZ Q2 GDP report was slightly more upbeat than the advance estimate.
Lending conditions in the EZ economy continued to improve in Q1, according to the ECB's bank lending survey. Business and consumer credit supply conditions eased, but mortgage lending became more difficult to come by as standards tightened sharply in Germany, France, and the Netherlands. Demand for new loans also rose, but the increase was due entirely to gains in the mortgage and consumer credit components.
Collapsing energy prices continue to weigh on the headline inflation rate in the Eurozone's largest economy. Final September CPI data in Germany confirmed that inflation fell to 0.0% year-over-year from 0.2%, due to a 9.3% plunge in energy prices -- down from a 7.6% fall in August--mainly a result of a collapse in petrol price inflation. This comfortably offset an increase in food inflation to 1.1% from 0.8%, due to surging vegetable and fruit prices.
The day of reckoning in Greece has been continuously postponed in the past three months, but government officials told national TV yesterday that the country cannot meet its IMF payment of €300M June 5th, without a deal with the EU. The urgency was echoed by the joint statement earlier this week by German Chancellor Merkel and French President Hollande that Greece has until the end of this month to reach a deal.
The Eurozone's external surplus remains solid, despite hitting a wall in August. The seasonally adjusted current account surplus fell to €17.7B in August from €25.6B in July, due to a €7B fall in the goods component. A 5.2% month-to-month collapse in German exports -- the biggest fall since 2009 -- was the key driver, but we expect a rebound next month. The 12-month trend in the Eurozone's external surplus continues to edge higher, rising to 3% of GDP up from 2.1% in August last year.
The distortions in European fixed income markets have intensified following the initiation of the ECB's sovereign QE program. In the market for sovereigns, German eight-year bond yields are within a touching distance of falling below zero, and this week Switzerland became the first country ever to issue a 10-year bond with negative yields.
Inflation pressures are slowly, but surely, rising in the Eurozone. Advance data indicate that inflation in Germany rose to 0.7% year-over-year in May, up from 0.5% in April. Reduced drag from the non-core components is the main driver, with energy prices rebounding, and food prices now rising steadily at 1.4% year-over-year.
The headline 0.9% month-to-month increase in German factory orders--a 1.9% increase year-over-year-- is not enough to change the picture of an overall sluggish first quarter.
Construction data in the Eurozone usually don't attract much attention, but today's July report will provide encouraging news, compared with recent poor manufacturing data. We think construction output leapt 2.1% month-to-month, pushing the year-over-year rate up to 2.3%, from 0.7% in June. This strong start to the third quarter was due mainly to a jump in non-residential building activity in France and Germany.
Inflation data last week confirmed that the spectre of deflation is slowly but surely encroaching on the euro area. In Germany, inflation slipped to 0.6% year-over- year in November, from 0.8% in October, and in the Eurozone as a whole the he adline rate declined to 0.3%, from 0.4% in September.
Soft September data in Germany and Italy suggest that today's industrial production report in the Eurozone will be poor. Our first chart shows that data from the major EZ economies point to a 0.8% month-to- month fall in September.
Friday's industrial production reports in the Eurozone were sizzling. In Germany, headline output rose 1.2% month-to-month in May--after a downwardly-revised 0.7% rise in April--which pushed the year-over-year rate up to a six-year high of 4.9%.
Manufacturing orders in Germany recovered some ground in the middle of Q1, following the plunge at the beginning of the year. Factory orders rose 3.4% in February, pushing the year-over-year rate up to +4.6% from a revised 0.0% in January.
Industrial production data yesterday confirmed downside risks to today's GDP data in the Eurozone. Output fell 0.3% month-to-month in September, pushing the year-over-year rate down to 1.7% from a revised 2.2% in August. Weakness in Germany was the main culprit, amid stronger data in the other major economies. A GDP estimate based on available data for industrial production and retail sales point to a quarterly growth rate of 0.4% quarter-on-quarter, but we think growth was rather lower, just 0.2%, due to a drag from net trade.
Fears over a Eurozone banking crisis have compounded market volatility recently, and sent bank equities into a tailspin. Deutsche Bank has been the focus of the attention, probably due to its systemic importance and opaque balance sheet. DB's stock price is down a staggering 38% year-to-date, and earlier this week, the German finance minister had to assure markets that he has no worries about the bank's position.
Yesterday's IFO survey sent a clear signal that the German economy's engine is stuttering. The business climate index fell to a 14-month low of 105.7 in February from 107.3 in January, and the expectations index slumped to 98.8 from 102.3. The weakness was driven by weaker sentiment in manufacturing, which plunged at its fastest rate since November 2008.
Advance PMI data yesterday supported our suspicion that Q1 economic survey data will paint a picture of slowing growth in the Eurozone economy. The composite PMI in the Eurozone fell to a 13-month low of 52.7 in February from 53.6 in January, driven by declines in both the French and German advance data.
Germans head to the polls on Sunday to elect representatives for the national parliament. The media has tried to keep investors on alert for a surprise, but polls indicate clearly that Angela Merkel will continue as Chancellor.
Long term benchmark yields in the Eurozone almost fell to zero towards the end of the first quarter as investors were carried away in their celebration of QE. The counter-reaction to this move, though, was violent with 10-year yields surging from 0.2% to 0.9% in the space of two months from April to June, and we think a similar tantrum could be waiting in the wings for investors. We are particularly wary that upside surprises in inflation data--mainly in Germany--could push yields up sharply in the next few months.
Yesterday's ZEW investor sentiment in Germany shows showed no signs that uncertainty over the U.K. referendum is taking its toll on EZ investors. The expectations index surged to 19.2 in June, from 6.4 in May, the biggest month-to-month jump since January last year, when investors were eagerly expecting the ECB's QE announcement.
The Spanish economy has been living a quiet life recently, amid markets' focus on political risks in Italy and manufacturing slowdowns in Germany and France.
The construction sector in the Eurozone remains moribund. Output fell 0.4% month-to-month in September, pushing the year-over-year rate up to 1.8% from a revised 1.4% fall in August. Declines were recorded in France, Germany, and Italy, with a small increase in Spain. These data could, in theory, lead to revisions in the final Q3 Eurozone GDP data released December 8th, but we very much doubt they will move the needle. Our first chart shows the relationship between construction and GDP growth has broken down since the crisis.
New orders data released yesterday for Germany confirmed that weakness in the manufacturing sector remains a key challenge for the economy. Factory orders fell 2.4% month-on-month in November, equivalent to a 0.4% fall year-over-year.
The euro area's external surplus remained resilient toward the end of 2017, in the face of a stronger currency. The seasonally adjusted trade surplus rose to €22.5B in November, from €19.0B in October, lifted primarily by a jump in German exports.
Consumers' spending has staged an impressive recovery in the Eurozone, and remains the key driver of accelerating GDP growth. Outside Germany, however, households have struggled, and are still faced with tight credit conditions.
Mr. Macron will be in Berlin today with the message that France wants a strong Eurozone and a tight relationship with Germany. Friendly overtures between Paris and Berlin are good news for investors; they reduce political uncertainty while increasing the chance that the economic recovery will continue. But it is too early to get excited about closer fiscal coordination, let alone a common EZ fiscal policy and bond issuance.
German 10-year government bond yields jumped at the end of 2016, but have since been locked in a tight range around 0.4%, despite a steady inflow of strong economic data.
Normal service was resumed in the euro area with Friday's GDP reports pointing to solid growth in Germany amid weakness in Italy and France. Real GDP in the Eurozone grew 0.3% quarter-on-quarter in the final three months of last year, up from 0.2% in Q3.
The danse macabre between Greece and its creditors continued last week, increasing the risk of default and capital controls. Greek citizens don't want to leave the euro and Germany does not want a Grexit, two positions which should eventually form the basis for an agreement.
Friday's economic data added to the evidence that the German economy stumbled in July. The seasonally adjusted trade surplus slipped to €19.4B, from a revised €21.4B in June.
Investors face a busy EZ calendar today, but the second estimate of Q3 GDP, and the advance GDP data in Germany, likely will receive most attention. Yesterday's industrial production report in the Eurozone was soft, but it won't force a downward GDP revision, as we had feared.
Industrial production data yesterday indicate manufacturers in the Eurozone enjoyed a decent start to Q3, thanks to strength in Germany, Italy and Spain, which offset weakness in France. Production ex-construction rose 0.6% month-to-month in July, boosted in part by a 3% jump in energy output. If production is unchanged in August and September, output will rise 0.3% quarter-on-quarter in Q3, but this estimate is uncertain, and we look for an increase of about 0.4%-to-0.5%.
The Eurosystem's position on Greece, echoed by Mr. Draghi earlier this week, is that progress on a deal is up to the Syriza-led government. But recent comments by German officials have added to the speculation that a Grexit is getting closer.
EZ households' demand for new cars was off to a strong start in 2017. Car registrations in the euro area jumped 10.9% year-over-year in January, accelerating from a 2.1% rise in December. We have to discount the headline level of sales by about a fifth to account for dealers' own registrations. Even with this provision, though, the January report was solid. Growth rebounded in France and Germany, and a 27.1% surge in Dutch car registrations also lifted the headline. We think car registrations will rise about 1.5% quarter-onquarter in Q1, rebounding from a weak Q4. But this does not change the story of downside risks to private spending.
Today's March retail sales report will likely disappoint, despite the already- downbeat consensus forecast of a 0.7% month-to-month fall. We think sales fell 1.2%, equivalent to a 1.3% increase year-over-year, due mostly to the bigger-than-expected 2.3% plunge in German sales, reported too late to be incorporated in the Bloomberg consensus.
This is the final report before your Eurozone correspondent dials down for the summer, and heads for the beach. Advance Q2 GDP data next week is the key release while we are away, with the latest Bloomberg consensus--published July 20th--looking for a 0.4% increase quarter-on-quarter. Everything we look at suggests the consensus is right on this one, with risks tilted to the upside due to strong net exports in Germany.
Today's ZEW investor sentiment report in Germany will kick off a busy week for Eurozone economic survey data, which likely will be tainted by the U.K. referendum result. We think the headline ZEW expectations index fell to about five in July, from 19.2 in June, below the consensus forecast, 9.2. Our forecastis based on the experience from recent "unexpected" shocks to investors' sentiment.
The slew of EZ economic data on Friday supports our view that the economy ended 2016. The Commission's economic sentiment index jumped to 107.8 in December from a revised 106.6 in November. The headline strength was due to a big increase in "business climate indicator" and higher consumer sentiment. In individual countries, solid numbers for German construction and French services sentiment were the stand-out details.
Eurozone manufacturers had an underwhelming start to Q4. Data yesterday showed that production fell 0.1% month-to-month in October, pushing the year-over-year rate down to 0.6%, from a revised 1.3% in September. Output was constrained mostly by weakness in France and a big month-to-month fall in Ireland, which offset marginal gains in Germany and Spain.
Data today likely will show that the seasonally adjusted trade surplus in the Eurozone jumped to €23.0B in March, from €20.2B in February. The headline was boosted, though, by sharp month-to-month falls in German and French imports, partly due to the early Easter.
Net exports in the euro area likely rebounded in Q4. The headline EZ trade surplus rose to €22.7B in November from €19.7B in October. Exports jumped 3.3% month-to-month, primarily as a result of strong data in Germany and France, offsetting a 1.8% rise in imports. Over Q4 as a whole, we are confident that net exports gave a slight boost to eurozone GDP growth, adding 0.1 percentage points to quarter-on-quarter growth.
Reporting on German CPI data has been like watching paint dry in recent months, but that will change in the first half of the year.
Final German inflation data for May confirm that price pressures are gradually recovering in the Eurozone. Inflation rose to 0.7% in May, up from 0.5% in April, in line with the initial estimate. Headline inflation continues to move higher, a trend which will continue in the second half of the year as base effects push up energy inflation.
Industrial production in the Eurozone fell a disappointing 0.1% month-on-month in January, driven by low output in Italy and Germany, as well as a large drop in Finland. But December production was revised up to 0.3% month-to-month, from the initially estimated 0.0%.
Demands that Germany pay reparations from the Second World War, and the apparently deteriorating relationship between Messrs. Varoufakis and Schauble, have further complicated talks between the Eurogroup and Greece in recent weeks.
Advance inflation data on Friday added to the gloom on the Eurozone economy. Reports from Germany, France, and Spain all surprised to the downside, indicating the euro area as a whole slipped back into deflation in February. Inflation in Germany dipped to 0.0% year-over-year in February, from 0.5% in January, and France slid back into deflation as the CPI index fell 0.2%, down from a 0.2 increase last month.
The April IFO business sentiment survey increased the degree of uncertainty over the German economy, following stabilisation in the PMIs earlier this week.
Business surveys coming out of the Eurozone have been remarkably strong recently. The composite PMI for the Eurozone jumped to 56.7 in March--its highest level since April 2011--from 56.1 in February. Germany's IFO business climate index leaped to a 67-month high in March.
Yesterday's advance CPI data in Germany and Spain suggest that inflation in the Eurozone as a whole dipped slightly in February.
German data yesterday indicate that inflation pressures have, so far, been resilient in the face of the recent collapse in oil prices. Inflation rose to 0.5% year-over-year in January from 0.3% in December, partly due to base effects pushing up the year-over-year rate in energy prices, but core inflation rose too. The detailed state data indicate that almost all key components of the core index contributed positively, lead by leisure and recreation and healthcare.
Final data today will likely confirm that German inflation was unchanged at 0.2% year-over-year in August. The increased drag from falling energy prices was likely offset by higher food prices, mostly fresh vegetables. Core inflation was likely stable at 0.9% year-over-year, with a marginal rise in consumer services inflation offset by a fall in net rent. Rents could fall further this year due to the implementation of caps in major cities, but we s till only have little evidence on how individual states will implement the new legislation.
Friday's euro area inflation reported capped a difficult week for EZ bondholders, although most of the damage was done beforehand by the advance German data.
Eurozone PMI data yesterday presented investors with a confusing message. The composite index fell marginally to 52.9 in May, from 53.0 in April, despite separate data that showed that the composite PMIs rose in both Germany and France. Markit said that weakness outside the core was the key driver, but we have to wait for the final data to see the full story.
The EZ doom-and-gloom crew has come crawling out of the woodwork again this year. Earlier this month, Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz told a German newspaper that Italy and other euro area countries likely will leave the currency union soon.
Inflation in the Eurozone is under pressure from all angles, and data from France and Germany yesterday confirmed that the risk of outright deflation has risen significantly. In Germany, inflation fell to 0.6% yearover- year in November, and in France the CPI rose a paltry 0.3%.
A sluggish GDP headline, a further increase in inflation, and poor German manufacturing data were the primary euro area highlights in our absence.
Yesterday's IFO survey in Germany was a nasty downside surprise for markets. The business climate index slipped to 106.2 in August, from 108.3 in July, well below the consensus forecast for a modest rise. In addition, the expectations index slid ominously to 100.1, from a revised 102.1 in July.
The "timing of Easter" will feature prominently in our reports over the coming weeks, starting with yesterday's German inflation data. Inflation rose to 0.3% year-over-year in March, from 0.0% in February, in line with the initial estimate.
The two main national surveys--IFO and INSEE-- both beat consensus forecasts yesterday, supporting our story of that economic sentiment is holding up relatively well in the face increasing investor anxiety. In Germany, the main IFO business climate index rose marginally to 108.5 from a revised 108.4 in August, boosted by an increase in the expectations index to a six-month high of 103.3, up from 102.0 in August. The IFO expectations index points to real GDP growth rising 0.5%-to-0.6% quarter-on-quarter in Q3.
French industrial production data offered a bit of relief last week following a string of woeful German data, and news of monthly falls in Italian and Spanish manufacturing output. Industrial production jumped 1.6% month-to-month in August, but the headline was flattered by a 0.3% downward revision of the July data. The monthly jump pushed the year-over-year rate higher to 1.6%, from a revised 0.9% fall in July. All sectors performed strongly in August, but the key story was a hefty increase in transport equipment manufacturing, due to a 11.9% surge in vehicle production.
Emmanuel Macron's victory in France has lifted investors' hopes that the good times in the Eurozone economy and equity markets are here to stay. On the face of it, we share markets' optimism. Mr. Macron and his opposite number in Germany--our base case is that Ms. Merkel will remain Chancellor--will form a strong pro-EU axis in the core of the Eurozone.
Markets cheered soaring business surveys in the Eurozone earlier this week, and recent consumer sentiment data also have been cause for celebration. The advance GfK consumer confidence index in Germany rose to a record high of 10.4 in June, from 10.2 in May.
Data today will likely show that consumer sentiment in the Eurozone remains firm. In Germany, we expect a slight dip in the advance headline GFK confidence index to 9.8 in June, from an all-time high of 10.1 in May.
ECB board member Peter Praet fired the first shot across the markets' bow yesterday following this week's turmoil. Speaking to journalists in Germany, Mr. Praet noted "increased downside risk of achieving a sustainable inflation path towards 2%," and assured investors the current QE program is fully flexible, and can be readily adjusted in response to an adverse development in inflation expectations. We don't think, though, this is a pre -cursor for additional easing at next week's ECB meeting.
On the face of it, the 25 basis points increase in 10-year German yields this month is modest. But the sell-off has reminded levered investors that trading benchmark securities in the Eurozone is not a one-way street. When yields are close to zero, investors also use leverage to enhance returns, and this increases volatility when the market turns.
Survey and money supply data remain consistent with an improving Eurozone economy. Yesterday's EC sentiment index fell to 103.7 in April, from 103.9 in March, due to weakness in France and Germany, but it is consistent with GDP growth of about 0.4% quarter-on-quarter in Q2.
Today's Eurozone data schedule is very hectic, but attention likely will focus on advance Q2 GDP data. France, Austria and Spain will report advance data separately ahead of the EZ aggregate estimate, which is released 11.00 CET. This report will include a confidential number from Germany.
Renewed weakness in food and energy prices weighed on Eurozone inflation in July, but core inflation probably rose slightly. German inflation fell to 0.2% year-over-year in July, down from 0.3% in June. The hit came entirely from falling energy and food inflation, though, with the jump in services inflation suggesting rising core inflation.
Yesterday's advance data from Germany and Spain suggest that today's Eurozone inflation report will undershoot the consensus. In Germany, headline inflation slipped to 1.6% in March from 2.2% in February, and in Spain the headline rate plunged to 2.3% from 3.0%.
Consensus forecasts expect further gains in this week's key EZ business surveys, but the data will struggle to live up to expectations. The headline EZ PMIs, the IFO in Germany, and French manufacturing sentiment have increased almost uninterruptedly since August, and we think the consensus is getting ahead of itself expecting further gains. Our first chart shows that macroeconomic surprise indices in the euro area have jumped to levels which usually have been followed by mean-reversion.
Yesterday's advance inflation data in Germany fell short of forecasts--ours and the consensus--for a further increase. Inflation was unchanged at 0.8% year-over-year in November, but we think this pause will be temporary.
In a letter earlier this month, Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras warned German chancellor Angela Merkel that failure to disburse additional bailout funds would lead to an imminent cash crunch. Last week's meeting with EU leaders and the ECB yielded no progress, intensifying the risk that Greece will literally run out of money within weeks.
Leaders of the major Eurozone economies were in no mood to give concessions as they met with outgoing U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron this week for the first time since the referendum. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that she sees "no way back from the Brexit vote." This followed comments that the U.K. couldn't be expected to "cherry-pick" the EU rules that it would like to follow after a new deal.
Volatile commodity prices make this week's inflation data in Germany and the Eurozone a wild card. Crude oil in euro terms is down about 20% month-to-month in July, which will weigh on energy prices. In Germany, though, we think higher core inflation offset the hit from oil, pushing inflation slightly higher to 0.4% year-over-year in July from 0.3% in June.
German inflation surged in December, pointing to an upside surprise in today's advance EZ report. The headline inflation rate rose to a three-year high of 1.7% year-over-year in December, from 0.8% in November. This was the biggest increase in the year- over-year rate since 1993.
Inflation pressures in the Eurozone probably firmed slightly in August. Data yesterday showed that inflation in Germany and Spain rose by 0.1 percentage points to 1.8% and 1.6% year-over-year respectively, and we are also pencilling-in an increase in French inflation today, ahead of the aggregate EZ report.
Advance data from Germany and Spain indicate that Eurozone inflation rebounded in October. We think inflation rose to 0.2% year-over-year from -0.2%, and German data suggest the main boost will come from both core and food inflation. Inflation in Germany rose to 0.3% year-over-year from 0.0% in September, lifted by an increase in inflation of leisure and entertainment, hotels and durable goods. Food inflation also rose to 1.6% from 1.1% in September, due to surging prices for fresh fruit and vegetables.
Chief Eurozone Economist Claus Vistesen on the latest German consumer figures
German investor morale soars--too good to be true?
Germany's exporters just broke another record: The trade surplus for Europe's biggest economy is now at its highest on record.........Here's how Germany's recent export history looks, according to Pantheon Macroeconomics
Chief Eurozone Economist Claus Vistesen on German Industrial Production
The forecasts compiled by Bloomberg for today's June German factory orders data look too timid to us. The consensus is pencilling in a 0.5% month-to month rise, which would push the year-over-year rate down to -2.1%, from zero in May. But survey data point to an increase in year-over-year growth, which would require a large month-to-month rise due to base effects from last year.
Political uncertainty in the Eurozone is the story that won't die. Coalition talks in Germany collapsed yesterday when the centre-right FDP walked out of the negotiations.
Germany continues to draw fire for its ballooning trade surplus, but momentum in net exports is easing. The seasonally adjusted trade surplus dipped marginally to a three-month low of €19.7B in April, from €19.8B in March, as stronger imports offset a modest rise in exports. The German trade surplus averaged €19.9B in the first four months of 2017, about 10% lower than the cyclical peak, in the middle of 2016.
A closely watched indicator of the German economy has come in weaker than analysts had anticipated, dampening hopes for the country's revival
Chief Eurozone Economist Claus Vistesen discussing the German Zew in April
Eurozone bond traders of a bearish persuasion are finding it difficult to make their mark ahead of Italy's parliamentary elections next weekend.
Money supply data continue to support the continuation of cyclical recovery in the Eurozone. M3 growth accelerated to 4.0% year-over-year in February from a revised 3.7% in January. Revisions, however, mean that momentum in the beginning of the year was not as solid as we thought.
The strengthening EZ economy increasingly looks like the tide that lifts all boats. The Greek economy is still a laggard, but recent news hints at a brightening outlook. Last week, S&P affirmed the country's debt rating, but revised the outlook to "positive" from "stable."
Yesterday's advance PMI reports in the euro area signal that economic momentum slowed slightly at the start of Q4.
The landslide victory by anti-austerity party Syriza in Greece this weekend will increase uncertainty in coming months. The coalition between Syriza and the Independent Greeks will prove a tough negotiating partner for the EU as both parties are strongly in favor of pushing the Troika to significant concessions on any future bailout terms this year.
Evidence is mounting that the cyclical recovery in the Eurozone accelerated further in the first quarter. The Composite PMI in the euro area rose to 54.1 in March, up from 53.3 in February, taking the quarterly average to 53.3, its highest level since the second quarter of 2011. Combined with latest available retail sales and industrial production data, this is consistent with real GDP growth in the euro area accelerating to about 0.4-to-0.5% quarter-on quarter in the first quarter, from 0.3% in Q4.
The strengthening recovery in the euro area is proving to be a poisoned chalice for some of the region's most vulnerable banks. Earlier this month-- see our Monitor of June 8--Spain's Banco Populare was acquired by Banco Santander, and the bank's equity and junior credit holders were bailed-in as part of the deal.
Economic data in the Eurozone are sending an increasingly upbeat message on the economy. Yesterday saw a barrage of numbers, but the most startling of them was the continued acceleration in the money supply.
Yesterday's national business surveys provided an optimistic counterbalance to the underwhelming PMIs on Monday, although they all suggest that the euro area economy is in good form.
Monitoring bond markets in the Eurozone has been like watching paint dry this year. Yields across fixed income markets in the euro area were already low going into QE, but they have been absolutely crushed as asset purchases began in February.
Short-term interest rates in the Eurozone continue to imply that the ECB will lower rates further this year. Two-year yields have been stuck in a very tight range around -0.5% since March, indicating that investors expect the central bank again to reduce its deposit rate from its current level of -0.4%. This is not our base case, though, and we think that investors focused on deflation and a dovish ECB will be caught out by higher inflation.
The euro has so far defied the most bearish forecasters' predictions that it is on track for parity with the dollar. Currencies can disregard long-run parity conditions, however, for longer than most investors can hold positions.
Last month, the ECB set the scene for the majority of its key policy decisions over the next 12 months.
As expected, the ECB made no changes to its policy stance today. The refi and deposit rates were left at 0.00% and -0.4%, respectively, and the pace of purchases under QE was maintained at €30B per month.
It's always dangerous when risk assets rally strongly into an ECB meeting, but we doubt that investors have much to fear from today's session in Frankfurt. We think the central bank will leave its main refinancing and deposit rates at 0.00% and -0.4% respectively.
Friday's final CPI report in the Eurozone confirmed that inflation dipped marginally in January, by 0.1 percentage points, to 1.3%.
This remains a tumultuous time for EZ bond investors. The twists and turns of the French presidential election campaign continue to shove markets around. Marine Le Pen's steady rise in thepolls has pushed French yields higher this year.
The Eurozone PMIs stumbled at the end of Q2. The composite index slipped to a five-month low of 55.7 in June, from 56.8 in May, constrained by a fall in the services index. This offset a marginal rise in the manufacturing index to a new cyclical high. The dip in the headline does not alter the survey's upbeat short- term outlook for the economy.
Yesterday's ECB meeting was comfortably uneventful for markets.
PMI data in the Eurozone rebounded convincingly in October, as the composite index rose to a 10-month high of 53.7, from 52.6 in September. The gain fully reversed the weakness at the end of Q3.
We will be paying special attention today to the EC sentiment survey for Italy, where the headline index has climbed steadily so far this year. It was unchanged at an eight-year high of 106.1 in April, and even if it fell slightly in May--we expect a dip to 105.0--it still points to an upturn in economic growth.
Yesterday's inflation data in the major euro area economies force us to mark down slightly our prediction for today's headline EZ number.
Volatility in commodities and emerging markets has intensified since the beginning of July, with the stock market drama in China taking centre stage. The bubble in Chinese equities inflated without much ado elsewhere, and can probably deflate in isolation too. But the accelerating economic slowdown in EM is becoming an issue for policy makers in the Eurozone.
Last week's QE announcement has made Eurozone inflation prints less important for investors, but the market will still be watching for signs of a turning point in benchmark bond yields. The data are unlikely to challenge bond holders in the short run, however, as the Eurozone probably slipped deeper into deflation in January.
Mr. Draghi snubbed investors looking for hints on policy and the euro in his Jackson Hole address--see here--on Friday.
French consumer sentiment dipped slightly in June, but we see no major hit from ongoing labour market disputes. The headline index slipped to 97 in June, from 98 in May; this is a decent reading given the fourpoint jump last month. The headline was constrained by a big fall in consumers' "major purchasing intentions," but this partly was mean-reversion following a surge last month.
The presumption in markets is that the French presidential election is the last hurdle to be overcome in the EZ economy. As long as Marine Le Pen is kept out of l'Élysée, animal spirits will be released in the economy and financial markets. We concede that a Le Pen victory would result in chaos, at least in the short run. Bond spreads would widen, equities would crash and the euro would plummet. But we also suspect that such volatility would be short-lived, similar to the convulsions after Brexit.
Headline money supply growth in the Eurozone has averaged 5% year-over-year since the beginning of 2015; yesterday's October data did not change that story.
Money supply data today should provide further confirmation of a moderate upturn in the Eurozone credit cycle. We think broad money growth, M3, accelerated to 5.0% year-over-year in April, up from 4.6% in March.
We have to hand it to Italy's politicians. In an economy with a current account surplus of 3% of GDP, a nearly balanced net foreign asset position and with the majority of government debt held by domestic investors, the leading parties have managed to prompt markets to flatten the yield curve via a jump in shortterm interest rates.
Household sentiment in France continues to improve, consistent with tailwinds from low energy prices and accommodative monetary policy. INSEE's measure of consumer confidence rose to 94 in April, up from 93 in March, the highest since November 2010.
Money supply growth in the Eurozone firmed last month. Broad money--M3--rose 5.0% year-overyear in August, after a tepid 4.5% rise in July.
This is the final report before your scribe disappears into the Scottish Highlands for a few weeks, and we are leaving you with a Eurozone economy in fine form. The calendar will be relatively light in our absence and will tell us what we already know; namely that the euro area economy maintained its strong momentum in Q2.
Reports yesterday indicated that a deal has finally been struck between the European Commission and the Italian government to start dealing with bad loans in the banking system. The initial details suggest the government will be allowed to guarantee senior tranches on non-performing loans, supposedly making them easier to sell to private investors. In order to avoid burdening government finances as part of the sales--not allowed under the new banking union rules--the idea is to price the guarantees based on the credit risk of similar loans.
Yesterday's ECB meeting painted a picture of a central bank in wait-and-see mode. The main refinancing and deposit rates were kept at 0.00% and -0.4% respectively, and the marginal lending facility rate also was unchanged at 0.25%.
The headline in yesterday's EZ money supply report gave the illusion that monetary conditions are stable, but the details tell a different story. M3 growth accelerated marginally to 5.0% year-over-year in June, from 4.9%, but momentum in narrow money fell further. M1 growth slowed to 8.5% year-over-year, from 9.0% in May due to a fall in overnight deposits and currency in circulation.
okThe weekend's election result in Spain provided relief for investors anxiously looking for another "surprise." Exit polls on Sunday showed a big majority for the anti-establishment party Podemos, but in the end Spanish voters opted for safety. The incumbent Partido Popular, PP, was the election's big winner compared with the elections six months ago, gaining 15 seats.
Yesterday's money supply data in the Eurozone were solid across the board. Growth in headline M3 rose to 5.1% year-over-year in August, up from a 4.9% increase in July. A rebound in narrow money growth was the key driver of the gain, with seasonally- and calendar-adjusted M1 rising 8.9% year-over-year, up from July's 8.4%.
Last week's debt-relief agreement between Greece and its European creditors goes somewhat further than previous instances when the EU has kicked the can down the road.
Momentum in the euro area's money supply slowed last month. M3 growth dipped to 4.7% year-over-year in February, from a downwardly-revised 4.8% in January. The headline was mainly constrained by the broad money components. The stock of repurchase agreements slumped 24.3% year-over-year and growth in money market fund shares also slowed sharply.
Economic sentiment in the Eurozone's largest economy stayed solid at the start of the fourth quarter, despite subdued manufacturing and poor investor sentiment. The headline IFO business climate index fell slightly to 108.2 in October from 108.5 in September, due to a fall in the current assessment index. The expectations index rose, though, to 103.8 from 103.5 last month pointing to a resilient outlook for businesses and solid GDP growth in coming quarters.
The Eurozone's external surplus rebounded further over the summer.
The Eurozone economy is becoming increasingly service-oriented. The private services sector has contributed just over 50% of gross value added-- GVA -- in the past three years, up from 44% in the seven years before the crash of 2008.
The Eurozone's current account surplus extended its decline in May, falling to a nine-month low of €22.4B, from €29.6B in April.
Eurozone September CPI data this week will show that inflation pressures remain weak, appearing to support the ECB's focus on downside risks. We think Eurozone inflation--data released Wednesday-- rose slightly to 0.2% year-over-year in September from 0.1% in August, as core inflation edged higher, offsetting weak energy prices. Looking ahead, structural inflation pressures will keep inflation well below the central bank's 2% target for a considerable period.
The Eurozone has come under the spotlight for its growing external surplus, but domestic households have been doing the heavy lifting for GDP growth in this business cycle. During the last four quarters, consumers' spending has boosted year-over-year GDP growth by an average of 1.0 percentage points, in contrast to a 0.4pp drag from net exports.
Yesterday's data presented Eurozone investors with an unfamiliar sight; a big downside surprise in the survey data.
Economic sentiment data, which rebounded in March, continue to suggest slight downside risk to EZ GDP growth in Q1. The composite Eurozone PMI in March rose modestly to 53.7 from 53.0 in February, only partially erasing the weakness in recent months. The PMI dipped slightly over the quarter as a whole, although not enough to change the EZ GDP forecast in a statistically meaningful way.
The recovery in the French economy since the sovereign debt crisis has been lukewarm. Growth in domestic demand, excluding inventories, has averaged 0.4% quarter-on-quarter since 2012. This comp ares with 0.8%-to-1.1% in the two major business cycle upturns in the 1990s and from 2000s before the crisis.
Yesterday's barrage of economic data in the Eurozone added to the evidence that economic momentum is slowing.
The Eurozone's total external surplus hit the skids at the start of the year. Yesterday's report showed that the seasonally adjusted current account surplus plunged to a two-year low of €24.1B in January, from a revised €30.8B in December.
Yesterday's national surveys in the EZ confirmed the downbeat message from the PMIs and consumer sentiment data earlier this week.
The Eurogroup finally agreed on a four-month financing extension for Greece late Friday evening, conditional on Syriza presenting a satisfactory list of reforms later today. At the press conference, Eurogroup President Dijsselboem emphasized that commitments always come before money.
The euro area's record-high external surplus has prompted commentators to suggest that the zone has room to loosen fiscal policy to support growth, or at least relax the deficit reduction rules.
Financial markets and economic survey data have been sending a downbeat message on the Eurozone economy so far this year. The composite PMI has declined to a 12-month low, consumer sentiment has weakened, and national business surveys have also been poor.
Today's economic calendar in the Eurozone is filled to the rafters.
Investors looking for more QE and rate cuts will be disappointed by ECB inaction today. We think the Central Bank will keep its main interest rates unchanged, and also maintain the pace of asset purchases at €60B a month. We do, however, look for a slight change in language, hinting that QE is likely to continue beyond September next year.
Yesterday's barrage of French business sentiment data suggest that confidence in the industrial sector was a little stronger than expected in Q2.
We tend to keep a close eye on monetary policy initiatives in Japan, as the BOJ's fight to spur inflation in a rapidly ageing economy resembles the challenge faced by the ECB.
Mr. Draghi's pledge in 2012 to do "whatever it takes to preserve the euro," and QE have stymied sovereign debt risk in the euro area. At the same time, the EU's relaxed position over debt sustainability was highlighted earlier this year by the Commission's decision to give France two more years to get its deficit below 3% of GDP. But Moody's downgrade of the French government bond rating last week to Aa2 from Aa1 serves as a gentle reminder to investors of the underlying fundamentals.
Yesterday's ECB meeting provided no immediate relief to nervous investors. The central bank kept its main interest rates unchanged, and maintained the pace of QE purchases at €60B per month. Mr. Draghi compensated for the lack of action, however, by hinting heavily at further easing at its next meeting. The president emphasized that the ECB's policies will be "reviewed and reconsidered" in light of the March update to the staff projections. Mr. Draghi also admitted that inflation has been "weaker than expected" since the last meeting, and that downside risks have increased further. The central bank does not pre-commit, but we think it is a good bet that the ECB will do more in March.
Mr. Draghi gave one of his most dovish performances to date yesterday. The central bank kept its main interest rates and the pace of QE unchanged, but reiterated that risks to growth and inflation are tilted to the downside. The president noted further that the existing policies will be "reexamined" in December in light of updated staff projections. It is difficult to see how the downbeat assessment on the economy will change materially from now until December, indicating that further stimulus is likely.
French manufacturers recovered their optimism towards the end of Q3. The headline INSEE manufacturing sentiment index rose to 103 in September, from 101 in August, and the composite business confidence gauge also increased. A rebound in transport equipment firms' own production expectations was the key driver of the recovery.
PMI data yesterday provided some relief to anxious investors, despite a modest drop in the headline. The composite PMI in the Eurozone fell to 53.9 in September from 54.3 in August, driven by slight falls in both manufacturing and services. Assuming no major changes to the advance September reading--usually a fair bet--the PMI rose marginally in Q3, pointing to a continuation of the cyclical recovery.
Eurozone consumers' spending jumped in Q2, but we are pretty certain that a slowdown in retail sales constrained growth in Q3.
The PMIs are telling an increasingly upbeat story for the EZ economy in Q4. The composite PMI in the euro area rose to an 11-month high of 54.1 in November, from 53.3 in October. The uptick was driven by strong new business growth across all private sectors, and employment also increased in response to higher work backlogs.
Last week's advance PMI data suggest that economic activity in the Eurozone was stable at the beginning of Q2. The composite EZ PMI fell trivially to 53.0 in April, from 53.1 in March, because a dip in manufacturing offset a small rise in the services index.
Weakness in risk assets turned into panic yesterday with the Eurostoxx falling over 6%, taking the accumulated decline to 19% since the beginning of August, and volatility hitting a three-year high. Market crashes of this kind are usually followed by a period of violent ups and downs, and we expect volatile trading in coming weeks. Following an extended bull market in risk assets, the key question investors will be asking is whether the economic cycle is turning.
Our view that EZ survey data would take a step back in February was severely challenged by yesterday's PMI reports. The composite index in the Eurozone rose to 56.0 in February, from 54.4 in January, lifted by a jump in the services index and a small rise in the manufacturing index.
The Eurozone economy is in fine shape, according to the latest PMI data. The composite EZ PMI fell trivially to 54.3 in January, but remains strong. A marginal dip in the services index offset a small increase in the manufacturing PMI to a cyclical high of 55.1. These data tell a story of a strong private sector that continues to support GDP growth.
A downbeat French INSEE consumer sentiment report yesterday continued the run of poor survey data this week. The headline index fell to 95 in February from 97 in January, indicating downside risk f or Q1 consumers' spending. But we remain optimistic that private consumption will rebound solidly, following a 0.4% quarter-on-quarter fall in Q4.
Yesterday's PMI reports repeated the message of a firm cyclical Eurozone recovery, despite investors' angst over deflation and the underwhelming Q3 GDP data earlier this month. The composite index in the zone rose to a 54-month high of 54.4 in November from 53.9 in October, lifted by strong output and solid new business growth. Our first chart shows the rise in the PMI points to slight upside risks in Q4 to the four quarter trend in real GDP growth of 0.4% per quarter.
Yesterday's data in the Eurozone did little to calm investors' nerves amid rising political uncertainty in Italy and tremors in emerging markets.
The initial "official estimate" of the French presidential election--released 20.00 CET--suggest that the runoff will be between the centre-right Emmanuel Macron and Front National's Marine Le Pen. This is consistent with opinion polls. The average of five early estimates also suggests that Mr. Macron won the vote with 23.1% of the vote against Mrs. Le Pen's 22.5%.
The preliminary April PMIs point to a continuation of the cyclical bounce, despite falling slightly from last month. The composite PMI in the Eurozone fell to 53.5 in April, down from 54.0 in March.
The MPC must be very disappointed by the impact of its £60B government bond purchase programme. Gilt yields initially fell, but they now have returned to the levels seen shortly before the MPC's August meeting, when the purchases were announced.
Eurozone investors will be drawing a sigh of relief after yesterday's PMI data. The alarming plunge in February and March made way for stabilisation, with the composite PMI in the euro area unchanged at 55.2 in April.
Eurozone investors are fixed on Mr. Draghi's speaking schedule this week, looking for hints of the ECB's future policy path.
The PMI survey yesterday painted a more upbeat picture on the Eurozone economy than we expected. The composite index rose to 54.1 in June from 53.6 in May, taking the quarterly average to its highest level since Q2 2011.
Eurozone consumer confidence remained at its low for the year at the start of Q3.
Yesterday's advance EZ PMI data were virtually unchanged from previous months, yet again. The composite PMI rose trivially to 53.3 in August from 53.2 in July; this means that the index has been almost stable since February. The headline was lifted by a small increase in services, which offset a slight decline in manufacturing.
Yesterday's first batch of Q3 survey data in the Eurozone suggest that economic growth eased further, albeit it slightly, at the start of the quarter.
Yesterday's economic reports in the Eurozone will rekindle the debate on hard versus soft data. The final composite PMI rose to 56.7 in September, from 55.7 in August, in line with the first estimate.
Would the U.K. inevitably leave the E.U. if a majority of the electorate voted for Brexit on June 23? Repeatedly, the Government has quelled speculation that it will call for a second referendum on an improved package of E.U. reforms after a Brexit vote on June 23. But unsuccessful referendums have been followed up with second plebiscites elsewhere in Europe.
The recent deal between Greece and the EU shows that the appetite for a repeat of last year's chaos is low. But investors' attention has turned to whether Portugal is waiting in the wings to reignite the sovereign debt crisis. Complacency is dangerous, but economic data suggest that a Portuguese shock to the Eurozone economy and financial markets is unlikely this year.
Eurozone consumers had a slow start to the second quarter. Retail sales increased a modest 0.1% month- to-month in April, but the March headline was revised up by 0.3 percentage points, and the year-over-year rate increased by 0.2pp to 1.7% due to base effects.
Yesterday's final May PMI data in the Eurozone confirmed the strength of the cyclical upturn. The composite PMI was unchanged at 56.8, in line with the initial estimate.
Mr. Draghi was in a slightly more bullish mood yesterday, noting that the significant easing of financial conditions in recent months and improving sentiment show that monetary policy "has worked". Economic risks are tilted to the downside, according to the president, but they have also "diminished".
Survey data continue to suggest that GDP growth will accelerate in Q1. The final PMI reports on Friday showed that the headline EZ composite index rose to 56.0 in February, from 54.4 in January, in line with the first estimate.
Yesterday's detailed EZ GDP report showed that real output rose 0.3% quarter-on-quarter in Q3, the same pace as in Q2. The year-over-over rate rose marginally to 1.7% from 1.6%, trivially higher than the first estimate, 1.6%. The details showed that consumers' spending and public consumption were the key drivers of growth in Q3, offsetting a slowdown in net trade.
EZ consumers' spending slowed at the start of Q3. Retail sales slipped 0.3% month-to-month in July, pushing the year-over-year rate down to 2.6% from an upwardly revised 3.3% in June.
The results of Sunday's parliamentary elections in Italy carry two key messages.
Yesterday's economic data point to a sea of calm in the Eurozone economy. The composite PMI was unchanged at 53.1 in June, a slight upward revision from the initial estimate, 52.8. The index suggests real GDP growth was stable at 1.5%-to-1.6% year-overyear in Q2, though the quarter-on-quarter rate likely slowed markedly, following the jump in Q1.
It's probably happening a decade too late, but the EU is now moving in leaps and bounds to restructure the continent's weakest banks. Yesterday, the Monte dei Paschi saga reached an interim conclusion when the Commission agreed to allow the Italian government to take a 70% stake in the ailing lender.
Consumers' spending in the Eurozone stalled at the start of Q4. Retail sales slid 1.1% month-to-month in October, pushing the year-over-year rate down to a four-year low of 0.4%, from an upwardly-revised 4.0% jump in September.
Consumers' spending in the Eurozone slowed in the second half of 2017, providing a favourable base for growth in H1 2018.
Readers have asked us about the availability of flow-of-funds data in the Eurozone similar to the detailed U.S. reports. The ECB's sector accounts come close and cover a lot of ground, but are also released with a lag. We can't cover all sectors in one Monitor, but the investment data for non-financial firms, excluding construction, suggest that investment growth slowed last year.
The final EZ PMI data for November yesterday confirmed that the composite index in the Eurozone rose to an 11-month high of 53.9, from 53.3 in October. The key driver was an improvement in services, boosted by stronger data in all the major economies. Manufacturing activity also improved, though, and the details showed that new business growth was robust in both sectors.
The decision by the ECB to remove the waiver for including Greek government bonds in standard refinancing operations changes little in the short run, as the banking system in Greece still has full access to the ELA. It does put additional pressure on Syriza, though, to abandon the position that it will exit the bailout on February the 28th, effectively pushing the economy into the abyss.
Inflation in the Eurozone is on the rise but, as we explained in yesterday's Monitor it is unlikely to prompt the ECB further to reduce the pace of QE in the short run. The central bank has signalled a shift in focus towards core inflation, at a still-low 0.9% well below the 2% target. But the core rate also is a lagging indicator, and we think it will creep higher in 2017.
Real M1 growth is slowing, and financial conditions are beginning to tighten in the Eurozone, but shortleading indicators continue to signal firm momentum in the economy.
Consumers' spending in the euro area weakened at the end of Q4, but we think households will continue to boost GDP growth in the first quarter. Data on Friday showed that retail sales fell 0.3% month-to-month in December, pushing the year-over-year rate down to 1.1%, from a revised 2.8% in November.
The sell-off in bonds and equities continued yesterday, but the reaction bears no resemblance, so far, to the sovereign debt crises in 2012 and 2010. The first evidence from sentiment data in July also points to surprising stability. The headline Sentix index rose to 18.5, up slightly from 17.1 in June, but the expectations index fell marginally, to 22.3 from 22.5.
This week's uproar over the ECB's purchases of Italian debt in May--or lack thereof--shows that monetary policy in the euro is never far removed from the political sphere.
The two major EZ economic reports released while we were away conformed to the consensus. Advance data suggest that real GDP in the euro area rose 0.3% quarter-on-quarter in Q3, the same pace as in Q2, and the year-over-year rate was similarly unchanged at 1.6%.
Economic survey data this week will give the first clear evidence on whether recent market volatility has dented Eurozone confidence. The key business and consumer surveys dipped in January, and we now expect further declines, starting with today's PMI data. We think the composite index fell slightly to 53.0 in February from 53.6 in January.
Mr. Macron's victory in France answers two questions for markets, at least in the short run. Firstly, France will stay in the Eurozone, and Mr. Macron will not call a referendum on EU membership. Mr. Macron has come to power with a mandate to strengthen economic integration and co-operation between Eurozone economies.
Friday's final EZ inflation report of 2017 sent a dovish signal to bond markets.
Deflation officially arrived in the Eurozone yesterday as a 6.3% plunge in energy prices pushed the overall rate of inflation to -0.2% year-over-year in December, down sharply from 0.3% in November.
Final Q2 GDP data yesterday indicate the euro area economy was stronger than initially estimated in the first half of the year. Real GDP rose 0.4% quarter-on-quarter in Q2, slightly higher than the initial estimate of 0.3, following an upwardly revised 0.5% increase in Q1. Upward revisions to GDP in Italy were the key driver of the more upbeat growth picture. The revisions mean that annualised Eurozone growth is now estimated at 1.8% in the first six months of the year, up from the previous 1.4%, consistent with the bullish message from real M1 growth and the composite PMI.
Yesterday's detailed Q3 GDP data in the Eurozone confirmed that the economy has gone from strength to strength this year.
A plunge in imports saved the EZ economy from a contraction in second quarter GDP. Yesterday's final data showed that real GDP growth rose 0.3% quarter- on-quarter, slowing from a 0.5% jump in Q1. A 0.4 percentage points boost from net exports was the key driving force.
The ECB made no major policy changes yesterday, but tweaked its communication. The key refinancing and deposit rates were kept at 0.00% and -0.4%, respectively, and the pace of QE was maintained at €30B per month.
The ECB will keep all its policy parameters unchanged today. The refi and deposit rates will be maintained at 0.00% and -0.4%, respectively, and the pace of QE will stay at €60B per month, running until the end of the year.
The Italian economy slowed at the end 2017, and it continues to underperform other major EZ economies. Real GDP rose 0.2% quarter-on-quarter in Q4, a bit slower than the 0.3% gain in Q3, pushing full-year growth up to a modest 1.0%. This compares poorly, though, with growth of 1.6% in the euro area as a whole.
Bond market volatility and political turmoil in Greece have been the key drivers of an abysmal second quarter for Eurozone equities. Recent panic in Chinese markets has further increased the pressure, adding to the wall of worry for investors. A correction in stocks is not alarming, though, following the surge in Q1 from the lows in October. The total return-- year-to-date in euros--for the benchmark MSCI EU ex-UK index remains a respectable 11.4%.
Recent polls in the U.K. have reminded markets that the vote is too close to call at this point, but investors in the Eurozone appear unfazed, so far. The headline Sentix index rose to 9.9 in June, from 6.2 in May, lifted by the expectations index, which increased to a six-month high of 10.0 from 5.5 in May.
Yesterday's ECB meeting left investors with a lot of thinking to do. The central bank kept its key interest rate unchanged, but extended and tweaked its asset purchase program. QE was extended until December 2017, but the monthly pace of purchases will be reduced by €20B per month to €60B starting April next year.
Markets are looking for the ECB to extend QE today, and we think they will get their way. We expect the central bank to prolong the program by six months, to September 2017, and to maintain the pace of monthly purchases at €80B per month.
The third estimate of euro area growth in the first quarter provides clear evidence that measuring GDP is not an exact science. Real GDP rose 0.6% quarter-on-quarter in Q1, accelerating from 0.4% in Q4. This latest estimate is higher than the previous estimate, 0.5%, but in line with the first calculation. Eurostat and all the large Eurozone economies now provide early estimates of GDP, before data for the full quarter is available.
We are surprised by the EU's reaction to Mr. Trump's announcement that the U.S. will impose tariffs on steel and aluminium.
The ECB made no changes to its policy stance yesterday. The central bank left its refinancing and deposit rates at 0.00% and -0.4%, respectively, and maintained the pace of QE at €60B per month. The program will run until December "or beyond, if necessary."
Evidence of slowing growth in Eurozone consumers' spending continues to mount. Retail sales in the euro area fell 0.5% month-to-month in March, pushing the year-over-rate down to 2.1% from a revised 2.7% in February. The headline likely was depressed by the early Easter. March had one trading day less than February, which was not picked up the seasonals.
This weekend will bring closure to an extraordinary presidential election campaign in France. The polls correctly predicted the first result, and assuming they are right in the second round too, Mr. Macron will comfortably beat Ms. Le Pen.
Fiscal stimulus, partly financed by a border adjustment tax, and Fed rate hikes, were supposed to be a powerful cocktail driving a stronger dollar in 2017. But so far only the Fed has delivered--we expect another rate hike next month--while Mr. Trump has disappointed in the White House.
Eurozone politicians are likely scrambling for a last gasp return to negotiations before the Greek bailout program ends at the end of today. But progress will likely be limited until we have the result of the planned Greek referendum on Sunday. Voters will be asked essentially on whether they agree with the proposal presented by the institutions. The government will campaign for a "no," but a "yes" looks more likely, based on polls that Greeks want to stay in the Eurozone.
Advance country data indicate that headline EZ inflation fell slightly in June; we think the rate dipped to 1.3% year-over-year, from 1.4% in May.
Money supply data in the euro area are sending an increasingly upbeat signal on the economy. The increase in narrow money growth is the key variable here, now pointing to a noticeable acceleration in GDP growth later this year. Allowing for the usual lags between upturns in M1 and the economy, we should start to see this in the second and third quarter.
Today's data likely will show that inflation in the Eurozone rebounded in November.
Today's advance CPI data will show that EZ inflation pressures rose further at the end of Q3. The headline number likely will exceed the consensus. We think inflation rose to 0.5% year-over-year in September from 0.2% in August, slightly higher than the 0.4% consensus.
Today's Sentix survey of Eurozone investor sentiment likely will remain downbeat. We think the headline index rose only trivially, to 6.0 in April from 5.5 in March, and that the expectations index was unchanged at 2.8. Weakness in equities due to global growth fears and negative earnings revisions likely is the key driver of below-par investor sentiment.
Many investors probably glossed over yesterday's barrage of data in the Eurozone, for fear of being caught out by another swoon in Italian bond yields. Don't worry, we are here to help.
Today will be an incredibly busy day for EZ investors with no fewer than eight major economic reports. Overall, we think the data will tell a story of a stable business cycle upturn and rising inflation. Markets will focus on advance Q4 GDP data in France and in the euro area as a whole. Our mo dels, and survey data, indicate that the EZ economy strengthened at the end of 2016, and we expect the headline data to beat the consensus.
Money supply data in the euro point to a cyclical peak in GDP growth this year. Headline M3 growth fell to 4.8% year-over-year in July, from 5.0% in June, chiefly due to a slowdown in narrow money. M1 growth declined to 8.4%, from 8.7%, as a result of weaker momentum in overnight deposits and currency in circulation.
While we were enjoying a rare sunny bank holiday in the U.K., data showed that Eurozone money supply growth slowed at the start of Q3. Broad money growth--M3--fell to a 10-month low of 4.5% year-over- year in July, from 5.0% in August.
Last week's EU summit was an exercise in political pragmatism rather than the bold step forward on reforms that investors had been hoping for.
The Eurozone manufacturing sector finished 2017 on a strong note. The headline PMI increased to a cyclical high of 60.6 in December, from 60.1 in November, in line with the initial estimate.
Retail sales data later today will give us the first hard data from the fourth quarter, and the story should be altogether more positive than the still downbeat message from the manufacturing sector.
On the face of it, the outperformance of gilts compared to government bonds in other developed countries this year suggests that Brexit would be a boon for the gilt market. In the event of an exit, however, we think that the detrimental impact of higher gilt issuance, rising risk premia and weaker overseas demand would overwhelm the beneficial influence of stronger domestic demand for safe-haven assets, pushing gilt yields higher.
Yesterday's advance Q1 GDP data in the EZ confirmed that growth slowed at the start of the year.
Manufacturing in the Eurozone remained a strong driver of GDP growth in the third quarter. The headline EZ manufacturing PMI rose to 58.1 in September, from 57.4 in August, only a tenth below the initial estimate 58.2.
Survey data signal that Eurozone manufacturing retained momentum at the start of Q4. Yesterday's final PMI reports showed that the EZ manufacturing index rose to 58.5 in October from 58.1 in September, trivially below the first estimate.
Mixed comments last week by members of the governing council raised doubts over the ECB's resolve to add further stimulus next month. But the message from senior figures and Mr. Draghi remains that the Central Bank intends to "re-assess" its monetary policy tools in December. Our main reading of last month's meeting is that Mr. Draghi effectively pre-committed to further easing. This raises downside risks in the event of no action, but the President normally doesn't disappoint the market in these instances.
Economic data in the Eurozone continue to come in soft. Yesterday's final manufacturing PMIs confirmed that the euro area index slipped to an eight-month low of 56.6 in March, from 58.6 in February.
On all accounts, the ECB announced a significant addition to its stimulus program yesterday. The central bank cut the deposit rate by 0.1%, to -0.3%, and extended the duration of QE until March 2017. The ECB also increased the scope of eligible assets to include regional and local government debt; decided to re-invest principal bond payments; and affirmed its commitment to long-term refinancing operations in the financial sector for as long as necessary. The measures were not agreed upon unanimously, but the majority was, according to Mr. Draghi, "very large".
This week's detailed Q3 GDP data will confirm that the euro area economy is going from strength to strength.
The divergence between talk and action is steadily widening into a chasm at the ECB. Mr. Draghi continued to strike a dovish tone yesterday reiterating the elevated worries over low inflation and the unanimous commitment to provide further stimulus if needed.
Data yesterday showed that consumers in the euro area increased their spending in February, following recent weakness. Retail sales rose 0.7% month-to-month in February, reversing the cumulative 0.4% decline since November. The year-over-year rate was pushed higher to 1.8% from an upwardly revised 1.5% in January.
Yesterday's retail sales report indicates that preliminary Eurozone Q4 GDP data next week are likely to paint an upbeat picture of the economy. Sales rose 0.3% month-to-month in December, equivalent to 2.8% year-over-year. An upward revision to November data means that turnover increased 0.8% quarter-on- quarter, the best since the first quarter of 2005.
The prospect of a Greek parliamentary election on January 25th, following Prime Minister Samaras' failure to secure support for his presidential candidate, weighed on Eurozone assets over the holidays. The looming political chaos in Greece will increase market volatility in the first quarter, but it is too early to panic.
It will take months, and perhaps years, before markets have any clarity on the U.K.'s new relationship with the EU. In the U.K., the main parties remain shell-shocked. Both leading candidates for the Tory leadership, and, hence, the post of Prime Minister, have said that they would wait before triggering Article 50.
Headline Eurozone PMI data have declined steadily since the beginning of the year, but the June numbers stopped the rot.
Yesterday's final PMI data added to the evidence that the EZ economy was firing on all cylinders at the end of last year. The composite PMI in the euro area rose to an 11-year high of 58.5 in December, from 57.5 in November, in line with the initial estimate.
Corporate bonds will not be included in the ECB's monthly QE purchases until the end of Q2, but markets are already preparing. The sale of non-financial corporate debt jumped to €49.4B in March, from about €25B in February, within touching distance of the record set in Q1 last year.
Eurozone manufacturing boosted GDP growth in the first half of the year, and survey data suggest that momentum will be maintained in Q3.
Data yesterday showed that Momentum in the EZ retail sector stumbled through middle of Q2.
In trade-weighted terms, sterling finished 2017 just 1% higher than at the start of the year, reversing little of 2016's 14% drop.
The upside to manufacturing survey data in the Eurozone appears endless.
Mr. Draghi struck a dovish tone yesterday, despite the new ECB staff projections upgrading the inflation forecast this year to an average of 0.3%, up from the zero predicted in March. The president reiterated that the central bank's expectation of a gradual improvement in inflation and real GDP growth is conditional on the full implementation of QE.
The Eurozone enjoyed a strong start to 2017. Yesterday's advance data showed that real GDP rose 0.5% quarter-on-quarter in Q1, a similar pace to Q4, which was revised up by 0.1 percentage points. The year-over-year rate dipped to 1.7%, from an upwardly revised 1.8% in Q4.
Global monetary policy divergence has returned with a vengeance. In the U.S., despite recent soft CPI data, a resolute Fed has prompted markets to reprice rates across the curve.
Final October PMI data today will confirm the Eurozone's recovery remains on track. We think the composite PMI rose to 54.0 from 53.6 in September, in line with the consensus and initial estimate. Data on Monday showed that manufacturing performed better than expected in October, and the composite index likely will enjoy a further boost from solid services. The PMIs currently point to a trend in GDP growth of 0.4%-to-0.5% quarter-on-quarter, the strongest performance since the last recession.
Eurozone manufacturing selling prices remain under pressure from deflationary headwinds. The PPI index, ex-construction, in the euro area fell 4.2% year-over-year in March, matching February's drop. Weakness in oil prices continues to drive the headline.
The economic data in the Eurozone were mixed while we were away.
Investors in euro-denominated corporate debt will be listening closely to Mr. Draghi this week for hints on how the ECB intends to balance QE between public and private debt next year.
Investors are busily fitting narratives to the sudden reversal in global bond markets. We think a correction was long overdue, but a combination of three factors provides a plausible rationale for the rout, from an EZ perspective.
The collapse in gilt yields last week--including a drop to a record low at the 10-year maturity--appears to be an ominous sign for the economic outlook. For now, though, the yield curve signals a further easing of GDP growth, rather than a spiral into recession. Low liquidity also means modest changes in demand are generating large movements in yields, undermining gilts' usefulness as a leading indicator.
It is by now a familiar story that the Eurozone has become a supplier of liquidity to the global economy in the wake of the sovereign debt crisis.
Investors in the euro area have mostly been focused on downside risks this year, and the spectre of Turkey spinning out of control has done little to change that.
Bond investors in the Eurozone are licking their wounds following a 40 basis point backup in 10-year yields since the end of last month. Nothing goes up in a straight line, but we doubt that inflation data will provide much comfort for bond markets in the short term.
Eurozone GDP data last Friday suggest the cyclical recovery continued at the end of last year. Real GDP in euro area rose 0.3% quarter-on-quarter in Q4, the same as in Q3, lifted by growth in all the major economies. This was in line with the consensus forecast, but noticeably higher than implied by monthly industrial production and retail sales data.
Manufacturing in the Eurozone had a slow start to the third quarter. Industrial production rose only 0.1% month-to-month in July, though the year-over-year rate was pushed up to 3.2% from a revised 2.8% in June.
The EU and Greece finally managed to agree on the framework for a third bailout yesterday, conditional on ratification in the Greek and EU parliaments this week. Mr. Tsipras' capitulation to EU demands will increase tensions within Syriza, but we expect the opposition comfortably to offset any government dissenters in this week's vote.
Manufacturing in the Eurozone rebounded midway through the second quarter.
Yesterday's data showed that industrial production in the Eurozone accelerated at the end of spring. Output, ex-construction, jumped 1.3% month-to-month in May, much better than the downwardly-revised 0.3% rise in April; the rise pushed the year-over-year rate up to a six-year high of 4.0%.
One of the main conclusions we drew from last week's ECB meeting was that the QE program is here to stay for a while. If the economy improves, the central bank could reduce the pace of purchases further. But we struggle to come up with a forecast for growth and inflation next year that would allow the ECB to signal that QE is coming to an end.
China faces three possible macro outcomes over the next few years. First, the economy could pull off an active transition to consumer-led growth. Second, it could gradually slide into Japan-style growth and inflation, with government debt spiralling up. Third, it could face a full blown debt crisis, where the authorities lose control and China drags the global economy down too
It would take nothing short of a catastrophe in coming months for the ECB to alter its plan to end QE via a three-month taper between September and December.
Today's industrial production data will confirm that EZ manufacturing suffered a slow start to Q4. Advance country data signal a 0.2% month-to-month fall in October, slightly worse than the consensus, 0.0%.
GDP data today will probably show that the Eurozone economy accelerated to 0.3% quarter-on-quarter in Q4, up from 0.2% a quarter earlier. Industrial production came in disappointingly at 0.0% month-to-month in December, but this is not enough to change our forecast in the light of solid data on household spending.
The euro area economy continues to defy rising political uncertainty. Data yesterday showed that industrial production, ex-construction, in the Eurozone jumped 1.5% month-to-month in November, pushing the year-over-year rate up to 3.2% from a revised 0.8% in October. Output rose in all the major economies, but the headline was flattered by a 16.3% month-to-month leap in Ireland. This was due to a production jump in Ireland's "modern sector" which includes the country's large multinational technology sector.
Investors in Eurozone banks continue to face uncertain times, despite the ECB's best efforts to prop up the economy and financial markets via QE. The latest hit to confidence comes from the bail-in of selected senior debt in Portugal's Banco Espirito Santo. When the troubled lender was restructured in mid-2014, the equity and junior debt were left in a "bad" bank--and were virtually wiped out--while the deposits and senior debt went into the "good" bank Novo Banco. Senior debt holders expecting to recoup their money, however, were startled earlier this month by the decision to "re-assign" five selected bonds with total face value of €2B from Novo Banco to the bad bank, in effect wiping out the investors.
The Eurozone economy was resilient at the end of last year, but yesterday's reports indicated that growth was less buoyant than markets expected. Real GDP in the euro area rose 0.4% quarter-on-quarter in Q4, the same pace as in Q3, but slightly less than the initial estimate 0.5%.
Yesterday's second estimate of Q4 Eurozone GDP confirmed the upbeat story from the advance report, despite the dip in headline growth.
Yesterday's data on EZ car sales added to the evidence that consumers' spending is slowing. We now reckon sales will rise by 1% quarter-on-quarter in the third quarter, after gains averaging 2.6% in the first half of the year.
We are sticking to our view that the Eurozone's trade surplus will fall in the next six months, despite yesterday's upbeat report. The seasonally adjusted trade surplus leapt to a record high of €25.0B in September from revised €21.0B in August, lifted by an increase in exports and a decline in imports.
The second round of EZ GDP data on Friday confirmed the resilience of cyclical upturn. Real GDP in the euro area rose 0.5% quarter-on-quarter in Q1, up from 0.3% in Q4, and the fastest pace since the first quarter of last year. But the headline was slightly lower than the initial estimate, 0.6%, and consistent with our forecast before Friday's data.
The cyclical upturn in the euro area's economy is going from strength to strength. Yesterday's second Q2 GDP estimate confirmed growth at 0.6% quarter- on-quarter, marginally stronger than the 0.5% rise in the first quarter.
The Eurozone's trade surplus remained subdued at the end of the second quarter; it dipped to €16.7B in June from €16.9B in May.
Eurozone inflation continued its slow rebound last month. Final CPI data showed that inflation rose marginally to 0.2% in November from 0.1% in October, a bit higher than the initial estimate of 0.1%. The upward revision was due to marginally higher services inflation at 1.2%, compared to the initial 1.1% estimate. Non-energy goods inflation eased slightly to 0.5% from 0.6% last month. We have received push-back on our call for higher inflation next year, but core inflation is a lagging indicator, and it can rise independently of the story told by GDP or survey data. Core inflation tends to peak during recessions, and only starts falling later as prices are adjusted downwards, with a lag, to the cyclical downturn.
With Russia and some other emerging economies now in full panic mode, the financial market story is sharply divided between two narratives. Either the plunge in global energy prices acts as positive catalyst by boosting real incomes and allowing most central banks to run easier monetary policy or it is a sign that risk assets are about to hit a deflationary wall.
Inflation pressures in France eased in February, in contrast to the story in the rest of the EZ. Yesterday's report confirmed the initial estimate that inflation fell to 1.2% year-over-year in February, from 1.3% in January. The headline was hit by a crash in the core rate to a two-year low of 0.2%, from 0.7% in January.
The Eurozone labour market is slowly healing following two severe recessions since 2008. Unemployment fell to a two-year low of 10.3% in January, and yesterday's quarterly labour force survey was upbeat. Fourth quarter employment rose 1.2% year-over-year, up from 1.1% in Q3, pushing total EZ employment to a new post-crisis high of 152 million.
Yesterday's State of the Union address by EC president Jean-Claude Juncker commanded more attention than usual, but contained little news on the key talking points for investors.
Yesterday's second batch of Q3 GDP data in the euro area provided further evidence of a strong and stable cyclical upturn in the economy.
On a headline level, the ECB conformed to expectations yesterday.
Yesterday's euro area PMI data continue to tell a story of a firm business cycle upturn. The composite PMI was unchanged at 53.9 in December; an increase in the manufacturing index offset a decline in the services PMI.
Sentiment in the French business sector ended this year on a high. The headline manufacturing index fell slightly to 112 in December, from an upwardly-revised 113 in November, but the aggregate sentiment gauge edged higher to a new cycle high of 112.
Last week's packed political agenda in Europe confirmed that political relations between the U.S. and the major Eurozone economies remain difficult.
The French labour market improved much more than we expected in Q4. The headline unemployment rate plunged to 8.9%, from a downwardly-revised 9.6% in Q3.
The debate about the ECB's policy trajectory is bifurcated at the moment. Markets are increasingly convinced that a rapidly strengthening economy will force the central bank to make a hawkish adjustment in its stance.
Today's Q4 GDP report in the Eurozone likely will show that growth slowed again at the end of last year. We think GDP growth dipped to 0.2% quarter-on-quarter in Q4, down from 0.3% in Q3, and risks to our forecast are firmly tilted to the downside. The initial release does not contain details, but we think a slowdown in consumers' spending and a drag from net exports were the main drivers of the softening.
Increased volatility has given equity investors a torrid start to the year, but economic reports have been strong, and yesterday's PMIs were no exception. The composite index in the Eurozone rose marginally to 54.3 in December from 54.2 in November, slightly higher than the initial estimate of 54.0. This is consistent with a continuing cyclical recovery, and real GDP growth of 0.4%-to-0.5% in Q4, modestly higher than the 0.3% rise in the third quarter.
Disappointing inflation data remain a critical dark spot in the context of otherwise solid evidence of a firming cyclical recovery. Advance data indicate that inflation was unchanged at a mere 0.2% year-over-year in December, with falling food inflation and a dip in services inflation offsetting easing deflation in energy prices. Headline inflation likely will be volatile in coming months. Base effects will push up the year-over-year rate in energy price inflation further in Q1, but we are wary that continued declines in food inflation could offset this effect.
Yesterday's EZ producer price data showed that deflationary pressures in the manufacturing sector are fading. The headline PPI index fell 0.2% month- to-month in August, pushing the year-over-year up to -2.1%, from a revised -2.6% July.
Even though Greece managed to avert default yesterday by paying €200M in interest to the IMF, our assumption is that the country remains on the brink of running out of money. Our view is supported by the government's decision to expropriate local authority funds, and reports that the government's domestic liabilities, excluding wages and pensions, are not being met.
The relatively upbeat message from a plethora of Eurozone data this week remains firmly sidelined by chaos in equity and credit markets. EZ Equities struggled towards the end of last year in the aftermath of the disappointing ECB stimulus package, and now, renewed weakness in oil prices and further Chinese currency devaluation have added pressure, by refocusing attention on already weak areas in the global economy.
Headline inflation in the Eurozone eased at the start of the year, but leading indicators suggest that the dip will be short-lived.
Yesterday was a good day for headline EZ economic data. GDP growth accelerated, inflation rose and unemployment fell further. Advance Q4 data showed that real GDP in the Eurozone rose 0.5% quarter-on-quarter in Q4, marginally faster than the upwardly revised 0.4% in Q3. Full-year growth in 2016 slowed slightly to 1.7% from 2.0% in 2015.
Friday's data deluge suggests that EZ economic growth slowed less than we expected in the second quarter. The advance estimate indicates that real GDP in the euro area rose 0.3% quarter-on-quarter in Q2, down from a 0.6% jump in the first quarter. This was in line with the consensus, but it likely doesn't tell the whole story.
Advance data indicate that Q1 annualized GDP growth in the U.S. was a trivial 0.2%. And in the U.K., annualized growth is estimated to have slowed to 1.2%, from 2.4% in Q4.
Yesterday's survey data tell a story of resilient manufacturing in the Eurozone. The headline EZ PMI rose to 52.6 in September, from 51.7 in August, lifted by a rise in new orders to a three-month high.
Inflation data in the Eurozone came in broadly as we expected. Weakness in food and energy prices dampened the headline, but core inflation rose. Inflation was unchanged at 0.2% year-over-year in July, with core inflation rising to 1.0% year-over-year, a 15-month high, up from 0.8% in June.
Economic theory tells us that government spending should be counter-cyclical, but recent experience in the Eurozone tells a slightly different story. The contribution to GDP growth from government spending rose during the boom from 2004 to 2007, and remained expansionary as the economy fell off the cliff in 2008. As the economy slowed again following the initial recovery, the sovereign debt crisis hit, driving a severe pro-cyclical fiscal hit to the economy.
Data this week clearly hint at a cyclical trough in Eurozone inflation in the first quarter. The advance estimate for April shows year-over-year inflation rising slightly to zero, up from -0.1% in March.
Data yesterday showed that the downward trend in Eurozone unemployment continued towards the end of last year. The unemployment rate fell to 10.4% in December from 10.5% in November, extending an almost uninterrupted decline which began in the first quarter of 2013.
The European financial sector was in the news again on Friday, propelled by further weakness in Deutsche Bank's share price. In our Monitor of September 27, we said that worries of a European "Lehman Moment" were overblown.
Yesterday's final February PMI data were slightly stronger than expected, due to upbeat services data. The composite PMI in the Eurozone fell to 53.0, a bit above the initial 52.7 estimate, from 53.6 in January. The PMI likely will dip slightly in Q1 on average, compared to Q4, but it continues to indicate stable GDP growth of about 0.3%-to-0.4% quarter-on-quarter.
Data released over the holidays suggest that money supply dynamics in the Eurozone remain solid, but also that growth is no longer accelerating. M3 growth slipped to 5.1% year-over-year in November from 5.3% in October, partly due to a sharp monthly fall in the stock of repurchase agreements. Momentum in narrow money, however, also dipped. M1 growth slowed to 11.2% year-over-year from 11.8% in October, mainly due to a modest fall in overnight deposit growth.
Eurozone inflation eased slightly to 0.2% year-over- year in June, down from 0.3% in May, according to the advance data but we continue to think that the trend has turned up. A 5.1% fall in energy prices, accelerating from a 4.8% in May, was partly to blame for the fall in June. But the key driver was the sharp drop in services inflation to 1.0% from 1.3% in May, likely due to volatility in package holiday prices.
The Eurozone escaped deflation last month, and we doubt it will return in this business cycle. Inflation rose to 0.1% year-over-year in June, up from -0.1% in May; it was lifted chiefly by the gradual recovery in oil and other global commodity prices. Energy prices fell 6.5% in June, up from a 8.4% fall in May, and we think the recovery will accelerate in coming months.
An upbeat third quarter for GDP growth in France and slightly better sentiment data have offered at least some hope that the economy could stage a comeback into year-end. But yesterday's disappointing industrial production data poured cold water on that idea.
The euro has been one of the main "beneficiaries" of the pound's relentless decline, which took on ridiculous dimensions as the GBP crashed almost 10% in the early hours of Friday. EURGBP briefly touched 0.94, before settling at 0.9, up just shy of 30% since November.
Another weekend, another summit, but the sense of urgency is acute this time. Greece, and the rest of the world, will likely have to prepare for Grexit if Mr. Tsipras' final proposal is rebuffed by the EU. We expect a deal, with Greece to remain in the Eurozone, but visibility is limited and uncertainty is high.
The 16-page document--see here--detailing the agreement allowing the EU and the U.K. to move forward in the Brexit negotiations is predictably tedious.
The ECB atoned for its "mistake" in December yesterday by delivering a new easing package that significantly beat markets' expectations. The central bank cut its main refi and marginal lending facility rates by 0.05 percentage points, to 0.00% and 0.25% respectively.
Today's industrial production data in the Eurozone will extend the run of soft headlines at the start of the year.
Two years ago markets believed that the institutional setup of the Eurozone would be a straitjacket on the ECB, preventing QE. Aggressive policy actions since then have proven this hypothesis wrong. But inflation remains low and sentiment data weakened ominously in the first quarter.
It has been mostly doom and gloom for euro area investors in equities and credit this year.
The U.K. is one of the smallest winners among advanced economies from the precipitous decline in oil prices. British oil production still fulfils about 55% of the U.K.'s demand, even though it has declined by two-thirds since its 1999 peak. Oil consumption therefore exceeds production by a much smaller margin in the U.K. than in most other European countries. As a result, the boost to the U.K. economy from the $10 decline in oil prices over the last month isn't much to write home about.
The Eurozone's TARGET2 system is a clearing mechanism for the real-time settling of large payments between European financial intermediaries. It's an important piece of financial architecture, ensuring the smooth flow of transactions. But we struggle to see these flows containing much information for the economy.
Money supply data in the euro area disappointed yesterday. Growth in M3 fell to 4.6% year-over-year in April, from 5.0% in March, due to an accelerated fall in the pace of narrow money growth. M1 rose 9.7% year-over-year, down from 10.1% in March. It was hit by lower growth in both overnight deposits and currency in circulation.
Yesterday's advance EZ CPI report bolstered the ECB doves' case for only marginal adjustments to the language on forward guidance at next week's meeting. Inflation in the euro area fell to 1.4% in May, from 1.9% in April, constrained by almost all the key components.
House purchase mortgage approvals by the main street banks jumped to 40.1K in January, from 36.1K in December, fully reversing the 4K fall of the previous two months, according to trade body U.K. Finance.
Yesterday was a nearly perfect day for investors in the Eurozone. The Q3 GDP data were robust, unemployment fell, and core inflation dipped slightly, vindicating markets' dovish outlook for the ECB.
Yesterday's aggregate economic data for the euro area showed that inflation rose slightly in August. The headline rate rose to a four-month high of 1.5% in August from 1.3% in July. The rate was lifted mainly by energy inflation, rising to 4.6% from 2.2% in July, but we think the rebound will be short-lived.
Collapsing oil prices continue to weigh on inflation pressures in Eurozone. Inflation was unchanged at a minimal 0.2% year-over-year in August, largely due to an accelerated fall in energy prices, which plunged 7.1%, down from a 5.6% drop in July. Base effects will offer support for year-over-year changes in energy prices starting in Q4, but our fir st chart show downside risks loom in the short run.
Consumers' demand for cars slowed in the Eurozone at the end of the second quarter. New car registrations in the euro area rose 3.0% year-over-year in June, slowing dramatically from a 10.3% rise in May.
Increasingly, we are hearing equity strategists argue that investors should rebalance their portfolios toward EZ equities. On the surface, this looks like sound advice. Commodity prices have exited their depression, factory gate inflation pressures are rising, and global manufacturing output is picking up. These factors tell a bullish story for margins and earnings at large cap industrial and materials equities in the euro area.
The EZ's current account surplus is solid as ever, despite falling slightly in February to €35.1B, from an upwardly-revised €39.0B in January.
Final inflation for February in the Eurozone likely will be confirmed today at -0.3% year-over-year, up from -0.6% in January. This bounce was mainly driven by a reduced drag from falling oil and food prices, but it is too early to call a trough in headline inflation.
Yesterday's surprising decline in the Eurozone unemployment rate adds further evidence to the story of a slowly healing economy. The rate of joblessness fell to 10.9% in July from 11.1% in June, the lowest since the beginning of 2012, mainly driven by a 0.5 percentage point fall in Italy, and improvement in Spain, where unemployment fell 0.2 pp to 22.2%.
Construction in the euro area stumbled at the end of last year. Output fell 0.2% month-to-month in December, but the year-over-year rose to 2.4%, from a revised 1.6% in November.
Final inflation data yesterday confirmed Eurozone inflation pressures are still low. Inflation rose to 0.2% year-over-year in December from 0.1% in November, lifted by easing deflation in energy prices. Base effects likely will lift energy price inflation in January and February, but the year-over-year rate will dip in Q2, if the oil price remains depressed. Food inflation fell in December due to a decline in unprocessed food prices, and we see further downside in Q1. Core inflation was unchanged, with the key surprise that services inflation fell to 1.1% from 1.2% in November. We think this dip will be temporary, however, and our first chart shows that risks to services inflation are tilted to the upside.
We continue to see signs of a strengthening upturn in Eurozone construction. Output in construction rose 0.3% month-to-month in April, pushing the year-over-year rate down to 3.2%, from an upwardly revised 3.8% in March.
Yesterday's EZ construction data confirmed that capex in the building sector plunged in the second quarter. Construction output fell 0.5% month-to-month in May, pushing the year-over-year rate up trivially to -0.8%, from a revised -1.0% in April. Our forecast for construction investment in Q2 is not pretty, even after including our assumption that production rebounded by 0.5% month-to-month in June.
The ECB conformed to expectations today. The main refi rate was left unchanged at 0.00%, and the deposit and marginal lending facility rates also were unchanged, at -0.4% and 0.25% respectively. Similarly, the ECB stuck with the changes to QE made in December. Purchases of €80B per month will continue until March, after which the pace will be reduced to €60B per month and continue until December.
Friday's inflation data in the Eurozone added a dovish twist to the story ahead of the key ECB meeting later this month.
The Eurozone limped out of headline deflation in October, with inflation rising to 0.0% from -0.1% in September, helped by higher core and food inflation. Energy prices fell 8.7% year-over-year, up trivially after a 8.9% drop in September, but base effects will push up the year-over-rate significantly in coming months. Core inflation edged higher to 1.0% from 0.9% in September, due to 0.1 percentage point increases in both non-energy goods and services inflation.
We struggle to find much wrong with the near-term outlook for Eurozone manufacturing. The headline PMI fell marginally to 59.6 in January, from 60.6 in December, but it continues to signal robust growth at the start of the year.
The ECB moved ahead of the curve this month with its QE program of €60B per month, starting in March. But still-abysmal inflation data will prompt journalists to ask Mr. Draghi, at the next ECB meeting, about the conditions under which the central bank plans to do more.
Opinion polls suggest that the Italian population will reject Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's constitutional reform on Sunday. Undecided voters could still swing it in favour of Mr. Renzi, but the "No" votes have led the "Yes" votes by a steady margin of about 52% to 48% since October.
The economic calendar in the euro area was relatively quiet over Christmas, and broadly conformed to our expectations.
Inflation in the Eurozone increased slightly last month, and probably will rise a bit more in coming months.
The French presidential election campaign remains chaotic. Republican candidate François Fillon had to defend himself again yesterday as investigations into his potential misuse of public funds deepened. Mr. Fillon and his wife have now been summoned to court to explain themselves. Markets expected Mr. Fillon to resign as the Republican front-runner. Instead, he used his unscheduled media address to defiantly declare that he is staying in the race.
The PMI survey points to a slow, but steady improvement, in Eurozone manufacturing. The gauge rose marginally to 52.5 in June, up from 52.2 in May. This pushed the quarterly average in Q2 to 52.2, up from 51.1 in Q1. The survey is also telling a story of broad-based manufacturing strength in the two major peripheral economies, despite declines in June.
We repeatedly have highlighted Japanese banks' foreign activities as source of rising risk for Japan and the global financial system.
Under normal circumstances, we would have no hesitation calling for substantially higher long Treasury yields and a lower earnings multiple as the Fed raises rates. History tells us that you fight the Fed at your peril, as our first two charts show.
Labour costs growth accelerated modestly last year in the Eurozone. Data on Friday showed that Q4 nominal labour costs in the Eurozone rose 1.3% year-over-year, slightly higher than the 1.1% increase in Q3. The modest acceleration was mainly due to a rise in "non-business" labour costs, which rose 1.6% year-over-year, up from a 0.9% increase in Q3.
Last week's ECB meeting--see here--made it clear that the central bank does not intend to jump the gun on rate hikes next year, even as QE is scheduled to end in Q4 2018.
The Eurozone's current account surplus plunged to €18.0B in May from €24.0B, the biggest monthly fall since July 2013, but an upward revision to the April data makes the headline look worse than it is. These numbers are volatile, even after seasonal adjustments, and revisions have been larger than normal this year, so we need to smooth the data to get the true story.
One of the key characteristics of this euro area business cycle has been near-zero inflation due to structurally weak domestic demand and depressed prices for globally traded goods and commodities. This has supported real incomes, despite sluggish nominal wage growth.
Global current account imbalances are back on the agenda. In the U.S., economic policies threaten to blow out the twin deficit, while external surpluses in the euro area and Asia are rising.
Financial markets in the Eurozone will be pushed around by global events today. The Bank of Japan kicks off the party in the early hours CET, and the spectrum of investors' expectations is wide.
In our Monitor May 15 we described the initial government program in Italy, drafted by the leadership of the Five-Star Movement and the League parties, as a "macroeconomic fairytale."
Investor sentiment in the Eurozone showed further signs of recovery yesterday. The ZEW expectations index rose strongly to 48.4 in January from 34.9 in December, and the leap since the trough in October ranks among the strongest rebounds ever recorded in the index.
The Eurozone's external surplus is on track for a record-breaking year in 2016. Data yesterday showed that the current account surplus rose to €28.4B in October, from €27.7B in September. The trade surplus in goods fell, but this drag was offset by a higher services and income surplus, and a lower current transfers deficit.
The external surplus in the EZ economy slipped in July. The seasonally-adjusted current account surplus dropped to €21.0B, from a revised €29.5B in June, hit by an increase in the current transfers deficit, and a falling trade surplus. The recent increase in the transfers deficit partly is due to the migrant deal with Turkey, and we expect it to remain elevated.
Our new Chief U.K. economist, Samuel Tombs, initiated his coverage yesterday with a sombre, non-consensus, message on the economy. Headwinds from fiscal tightening and net trade will weigh on GDP growth next year, but the BoE will likely have to look through such cyclical weakness, and hike as inflation creeps higher. An intensified drag from net trade in the U.K. will, other things equal, benefit the Eurozone. But a slowdown in U.K. GDP growth still poses a notable risk to euro area headline export growth, especially in the latter part of next year.
Mr. Draghi's speech to the European Banking Congress on Friday--see here--was a timely reminder to markets that the ECB is in no hurry to make any changes to its policy setting.
Construction in the Eurozone had a decent start in the third quarter. Output rose 0.5% month-to- month in July, pushing the year-over-year rate down to 1.9% from 2.8% in June.
The construction sector remains a stand-out performer in the Eurozone economy, despite stumbling at the end of Q2.
Greece's exit from eight years of near constant bail-out programs raises as many questions as it answers.
We have been asked several times in recent days whether a pick-up in stockbuilding, as part of businesses' contingency planning for a no-deal Brexit, could cause the economy to gather some pace in the run-up to Britain's scheduled departure from the EU in March 2019.
The PMI survey continues to send a downbeat message on growth in the euro area despite signs of improvement in other sentiment data: The final manufacturing PMI in the Eurozone fell to 50.1 in November from 50.6 in October.
Markets tend to ignore Eurozone construction data, but we suspect today's report will be an exception to that rule. Our first chart shows that we're forecasting a 8.5% month-to-month leap in February EZ construction output, and we also expect an upward revision to January's numbers.
The Eurozone inflation data have been relatively calm in the past six months. The headline rate has been stable at about 1.5%, and the core rate has fluctuated closely around 1%.
Investors have endured a severe test of their resolve in the last few months. Global equity markets have sunk more than 10%, eclipsing the previous low in September, and credit spreads have widened. The bears have predictably pounced and, as if the torrid price action hasn't been enough, media headlines have been littered with advice to "sell everything" and warnings of a 75% fall in U.S. and global equities. When "price is news" we recognise that views from well-meaning economists--often using lagging and revised economic data to describe the world--are of little value.
Fourth quarter construction activity in the Eurozone was much better than in Q3, despite a dip in December. Output fell 0.6% month-to-month in the final month of the year, pushing the year-over-year rate down to -0.4% from a revised 0.3% in November.
Momentum in the EZ auto sector rebounded at the end of the second quarter.
Growth in new EZ car registrations slowed last month, but the data continue to tell a story of strong consumer demand for new cars. New registrations in the euro area rose 6.9% y/y in June, down from a 16.9% jump in May, mainly due to slowing growth in France. New registrations in the euro area's second largest economy rose a mere 0.8% year-over-year, after a 22% surge in May.
Barring a disaster, the four-year cyclical upturn in the euro area will continue in the coming quarters. Inflation is a lagging indicator and therefore should rise, and investors should be adjusting their mindset to higher interest rates. But the reality today looks very different. Final inflation data confirmed that the Eurozone inflation slipped to -0.2% year-over-year in February, from 0.2% in January.
Friday's data in the Eurozone confirmed that inflation rose sharply last month. Headline inflation increased to 1.9%, from 1.2% in April, and core inflation also rose, by 0.4 percentage points to 1.1%.
We remain confident that a deal with Greece will be made, and that the country will stay in the euro area. But the need for both parties to avoid losing face domestically is still complicating the negotiations. Most importantly, Greece is no longer pledging an unconditional exit from the bailout program.
The euro area's external surplus dipped at the start of Q4.
The winds of global politics are changing, and the major Eurozone countries could be forced to take heed. Donald Trump's foreign policy position remains highly uncertain. Our Chief Economist, Ian Shepherdson, expects the U.S. to increase defence spending next year; see the U.S. Monitor of October 20.
Yesterday's economic reports confirmed that the Eurozone economy had a strong start to 2017. Real GDP rose 0.5% quarter-on-quarter in Q1, similar to the pace in Q4, and consistent with the first estimate. The year-over-year rate fell marginally to 1.7%, from 1.8% in Q4, mainly due to base effects.
Centrist politicians and markets breathed a sigh of relief yesterday as the results of the Dutch parliamentary elections rolled in. The incumbent conservatives, led by PM Mark Rutte, lost ground but emerged as parliament's biggest party with 33 seats out of the total 150.
Growth in Eurozone car sales slowed slightly at the end of the first quarter. New car registrations in the euro area rose 5.8% year-over-year in March, down from a 14.4% increase in February. But the 12-month average level of new registrations jumped to new cyclical highs of 440,000 and 252,000 in the core and periphery respectively.
Today's economic data will add to the evidence that construction in the Eurozone slowed in the first quarter.
Spain heads to the polls on Sunday, but unlike the chaos that descended on Europe following Greece's elections earlier this year, we expect a market-friendly outcome. The key political story likely will be the end of the two-party system, as polls indicate neither of the two largest mainstream parties--Partido Popular and PSOE--will be able to form a majority. Markets' fears have been that the fall of the established parties would allow anti-austerity party, Podemos, to lead a confrontation with the EU, but this looks very unlikely.
Inflation data are known to defy economists' forecasts, but it should in principle b e straightforward to predict the cyclical path of EZ core inflation. It is the longest lagging indicator in the economy, and leading indicators currently signal that core inflation pressures are rising.
Historical evidence suggests that we should be worried about the relative weakness in the Eurozone's manufacturing sector. Industrial production ex-construction has historically been a key indicator of the business cycle, despite accounting for a comparatively modest 19% of total value-added in the euro area. In all three previous major downturns, underperformance in the manufacturing sector sounded the alarm six-to-nine months in advance that the economy was about to slip into recession.
We have argued consistently since oil prices first began to fall that U.S. consumers would spend most of their windfall, so real spending would accelerate even as nominal retail sales growth was dragged down by the drop in the price of gas and other imported goods. At the same time, we argued that capital spending in the oil business would collapse, and that exports would struggle in the face of the stronger dollar.
Due to a technical quirk, Eurostat was not able to publish seasonally adjusted January trade numbers yesterday, so the report is of limited use. The unadjusted trade surplus in the Eurozone plunged to €7.9B in January, from €24.3B in December, driven in part by a collapse in Italy's surplus.
Today's construction data in the Eurozone will inject a dose of optimism amid the series of poor economic reports at the start of Q2.
Demand for new cars in the Eurozone rebounded last month. New car registrations jumped 10.3% year-over-year in May, reversing the 5.1% decline in April. The headline was boosted by solid growth in all the major economies.
The construction sector in the Eurozone probably stumbled in March. Advance data for the major economies suggest that output fell 1.2% month-to-month, pushing the year-over-year rate down to 1.6% from 2.4% in February.
The upturn in the Eurozone construction sector likely paused in Q3. Yesterday's August report showed that output fell 0.2% month-to-month, pushing the year-over-year rate down to +1.6%, from a revised +2.8% in July.
Growth in EZ car sales slowed further at the beginning of Q4. New registrations in the euro area fell 1.2% year-over-year in October, down from a 7.2% increase in September.
For the record, we think the Fed should raise rates in December, given the long lags in monetary policy and the clear strength in the economy, especially the labor market, evident in the pre-hurricane data.
Yesterday's ECB bank lending survey suggests that credit conditions remain favourable for the EZ economy. Credit standards eased slightly for business and mortgage lending and were unchanged for consumer credit.
Friday's data confirmed that inflation in the Eurozone slipped to a 14-month low of 1.1%, from 1.3% in January, 0.1 percentage points below the first estimate.
The ECB won't make any major changes to its policy stance today. We think the central bank will keep its main refinancing rate unchanged at 0.00%, and that it will maintain its deposit and marginal lending facility rate at -0.4% and 0.25%, respectively. The central bank also will keep the pace of QE unchanged at €80B per month until March, and at €60B hereafter until December. This is the first ECB meeting for some time in which Mr. Draghi will be able to report significantly higher inflation in the euro area.
Economic news in Europe continues to take a back-seat to volatility in politics. Yesterday's announcement by U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May that she is seeking a snap general election on June 8th cast further doubt over what exactly Brexit will look like.
The Treasury waded in to the Brexit debate yesterday with a 200-page report concluding that U.K. GDP would be 6.2% lower in 2030 than otherwise if Britain left the E.U. and entered into a bilateral trade deal similar to the one recently agreed by Canada. All long-term economic projections should come with health warnings, and the Treasury's precise numbers should be taken with a pinch of salt.
Construction data released yesterday provided further evidence that the Eurozone economy had a decent start to the fourth quarter. Output rose 1.3% month-on-month in October, equivalent to a 1.4% year-over-year increase.
Inflation pressures in the Eurozone nudged higher last month. Friday's final CPI report showed that inflation rose to 0.6% year-over-year in November, from 0.5% in October, in line with the initial estimate. The food, alcohol and tobacco component was the key driver of the increase.
Talks between the EU and the U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron are expected to culminate with a deal today, but we doubt this week's summit will be the final word. A detailed re-negotiation of the U.K.'s relationship with the EU is the last thing the large continental economies need at the moment.
Yesterday's final CPI report in the Eurozone confirmed that headline inflation was unchanged at 1.5% in September.
The Eurozone's external surplus weakened at the start of Q3.
Yesterday's final EZ PMIs imply that growth in manufacturing slowed marginally in August. The PMI fell to 51.7, from 52.0 in July, trivially below the initial estimate, 51.8. Output and new orders growth declined, pushing down the pace of new job growth. But we think the hard data for industrial production in Q3 as a whole will be decent.
Germany's consumer price index fell 0.3% month-over-month in January. It's the first time the inflation rate went negative since September 2009. "Deflation has arrived," Pantheon Macroeconomics' Claus Vistesen said
The EZ government bond market has been in a holding pattern for most of 2017. The euro area 10- year yield--German and French benchmark--is little changed from a year ago, though it is at the lower end of its range.
Data today likely will show that manufacturing in the Eurozone was off to a strong start to the second quarter. Advance country data suggest that industrial production jumped 1.1% month-to-month in April, pushing the year-over-year rate up to 1.9% from 0.1% in March. The rise in output was driven mainly by Germany and France, but decent month-to-month gains in Ireland, Portugal and Greece also helped.
Friday's detailed October CPI report in Germany confirmed that inflation pressures are steadily rising. Inflation rose to 0.8% year-over-year in October, from 0.7% in September, lifted mostly by a continuing increase in energy prices.
Industrial production in the Eurozone was probably unchanged in January equivalent to a 0.2% fall year-over-year. This is slightly below the consensus for a 0.2% rise month-to-month, mainly due to the downside surprises in m/m data in Italy and Germany released previously.
Eurozone manufacturing probably stalled at the start of the second quarter. We think industrial production rose a mere 0.1% month-to-month in April, lower than the 0.4% consensus forecast, and equivalent to a 0.8% increase year-over-year. Output ex-construction was up 0.8% in Germany, but this is likely to be offset by declines in France and Italy, and a hefty 3.2% fall in Greece.
Workers in the euro area remain scarred by the zone's repeated crises, but the strengthening cyclical recovery is slowly starting to spread to the labour market. The unemployment rate fell to a three-year low of 10.9% in July, and employment has edged higher after hitting a low in the middle of 2013. Germany's outperformance is a key story, with employment increasing uninterruptedly since 2009, and the unemployment rate declining to an all-time low of 6.4%. Among the other major economies, the unemployment rate in Spain and Italy remains higher than in France. But employment in Spain has outperformed in the cyclical recovery since 2013.
Last week's consumption releases were the first data from the real economy in the second quarter. In Germany, retail sales jumped 1.7% month-to-month in April, equivalent to a 1.0% rise year-over-year, an impressive start to the quarter. But our first chart shows that this still points to a moderate slowdown in Q2, consistent with mean-reversion following rapid gains in Q4 and Q1.
Yesterday's manufacturing data in France were in stark contrast to last week's upbeat German numbers.
Manufacturing data for the euro area's major economies point to renewed downside risks for GDP growth, despite the likely tailwind to consumption from low oil prices. November industrial production fell 0.1% and 0.3% month-to-month in Germany and France respectively, indicating that the manufacturing sector remains under pressure.
It's hard for a central bank presiding over an ageing economy to achieve a core inflation target of close to 2%. In yesterday's Monitor, we showed that German core inflation has averaged a modest 1.3% in this business cycle, despite solid GDP growth. The picture isn't much better for the ECB if we look at France.
Political risks have been making an unwelcome comeback in the Eurozone in the past month. In Germany, last month's parliamentary elections--see here--has left Mrs. Merkel with a tricky coalition- building exercise.
All the evidence indicates that growth in Eurozone consumers' spending is slowing. We think data today will show that the advance GfK consumer sentiment index in Germany was unchanged at 9.5 in April, but the headline index does not correlate well with spending. The "business expectations" index is better, and while it likely will increase slightly, our first chart shows that it continues to signal a slowdown in consumers' spending growth.
Friday's July PMI reports presented investors with a rather confusing story. The composite PMI in the Eurozone fell trivially to 52.9 in July, from 53.1 in June, despite rising PMIs in Germany and France. The final data on 3 August will give the full story, but Markit noted that private sector growth outside the core slowed to its weakest pace since December 2014.
Advance inflation data from Germany and Spain yesterday indicate that the Eurozone slipped back into deflation in September. German inflation fell to 0.0% in September from 0.2% in August, and deflation intensified in Spain as inflation fell to -0.9% from -0.4% last month. This likely pushed the advance Eurozone estimate--released today--below zero. We think inflation fell to -0.1% in September, down from +0.1% in August. The fall will be due mainly to falling energy prices, and we continue to think that the underlying trend in inflation is stabilising, or even turning up.
Core inflation--a long lagging indicator in the euro area-- will rise next year, in response to surging consumers' spending. Our first chart shows that services inflation likely will be a key theme in this story. Even allowing for a structural drag on inflation due to high unemployment outside Germany, cyclical risks to services inflation are tilted firmly to the upside.
The two polls suggesting the U.K. would remain in the EU yesterday proved to be a noose for investors to hang themselves with, as the results pointed to a vote for Brexit. Markets already are in disarray, and the direction is as we expected and feared. EUR/GBP is up 7%, and the DAX 30 in Germany is indicated by futures to plunge a hefty 7%-to-8% at the open. Bund yields will collapse too, and all eyes will be on the spread between Germany and the rest of the periphery.
The current account surplus in the Eurozone is well on its way to stabilising above 3% of GDP this year. The seasonally adjusted surplus rose to €29.4B in September from a revised €18.7B in August, lifted by a higher trade surplus, thanks to rebounding German exports. The services balance was unchanged at €4.5B in September, while the primary income balance edged higher to €4.8B from €4.0B. The improving external balance has been driven mostly by a surging trade surplus with the U.S. and the U.K., as our first chart shows.
Just how weak would the manufacturing sector have to be in order to persuade the Fed to hold fire this fall, assuming the labor market numbers continue to improve steadily? The question is germane in the wake of the startlingly terrible August Empire State manufacturing survey, which suggested that conditions for manufacturers in New York are deteriorating at the fastest rate since June 2009.
Solid trade data for April indicate a strong start to Q2 for the Eurozone's external balance, though a €3.2B fall in German net factor income will weigh on the primary income number.
We think the EZ construction industry stuttered in August, following a strong start to Q3. Advance data from Germany, France and Spain suggest that output fell 1.4% month-to-month, pushing the year-over- year rate down to 1.8%, from a revised 3.1% in July.
Growth in new EZ car sales remained brisk last month, growth slowed in Q3. New registrations rose 9.4% year-over-year in September, marginally lower than the 9.6% increase in August. Growth in France fell most, sliding to 2.5% from 6.7% in August, but sales in Germany picked up to 9.4%, from 8.3%.
Claus Vistesen has several years' experience in the independent macro research space, as a freelancer, consultant and, latterly, as Head of Research of Variant Perception, Inc. He holds Master's degrees in economics and finance from the Copenhagen Business School and the University of Hull.
Payroll growth rebounded to 223K in May, after two sub-200K readings, and we're expecting today's June ADP report to signal that labor demand remains strong.
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