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Manufacturing confidence in France remained resilient in the fourth quarter. The INSEE sentiment index rose to 103 in December from 102 in November, lifted by a jump in firms' own production expectations, and a small increase in the new orders-to-inventory ratio. We think production will increase in Q4, lifted by energy output, but the recent jump in the year-over-year rate is unlikely to be sustained, even if we factor in the marginal increase in new orders this month.
This is the final report before we dial down for our Christmas break, and we are happy to report that the economic calendar will be almost empty in our absence.
The outlook for the French economy is changing on a daily basis these days.
Last week's attacks in Barcelona--one of Spain's most popular tourist spots--struck at the heart of one of the economy's main growth engines.
The flow of Middle-Eastern refugees taking the treacherous journey towards Europe continues unabated. UNHCR estimates of arrivals through the Western Balkan route--mainly originating from Greece and Serbia--suggest the average daily number of refugees has been stable so far between October and November at about 11,000. These data are very unreliable, but they indicate that the onset of winter on the European continent--and the added risk to migrants with no shelter--will not deter people from attempting the trip to Europe.
London has been the U.K.'s growth star for the last two decades. Between 1997 and 2014, yearover-year growth in nominal Gross Value Added averaged 5.4% in London, greatly exceeding the 4% rate across the rest of the country. Surveys since the referendum, however, indicate that the capital is at the sharp end of the post-referendum downturn.
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.
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.
History is repeating itself in France. When the Republican Nicolas Sarkozy defeated the Socialist candidate Ségolène Royal in April 2007, consumer sentiment briefly soared to a six-year high, before plunging to an all-time low a year later.
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.
The violent protests in France claimed their first victims over the weekend, providing sombre evidence of the severity of the situation for the government.
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.
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.
One way or the other, the post-referendum lurch in sterling will make its recent gyrations pale by comparison. If the U.K. votes to remain in the E.U.--as we continue to expect--then sterling likely will jump up to about $1.48 immediately afterwards. As our first chart shows, the gap between sterling and the level implied by the current difference between overnight index swap rates in the U.S. and Britain is currently about $0.05.
Over the past six months, payroll growth has averaged exactly 150K. Over the previous six months, the average increase was 230K. And in the six months to August 2015--a fairer comparison, because the fourth quarter numbers enjoy very favorable seasonals, flattering the data--payroll growth averaged 197K.
December's meeting of the Monetary Policy Committee is likely to be a quiet affair in comparison to this month's pivotal ECB and Fed meetings. It's hard to see what news would have persuaded other members to join Ian McCafferty in voting to raise interest rates this month. The MPC might comment in the minutes to try to reverse the further fall in market interest rate expectations since its previous meeting, when it already thought they were too low. But the potency of any moderately hawkish guidance may be diluted by further strident comments from the Committee's doves.
Markets' inflation expectations have fallen in recent weeks, maintaining the trend seen over the previous 18 months. The fall in expectations for the next year or so is justified by the sharp fall in oil prices. But expectations for inflation further ahead have drifted down too, even though lower oil prices will have no effect on the annual comparison of prices beyond a year or so from now.
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