All Conjoncture

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    30 April 2020
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    Pressure on dollar liquidity created an urgent need for action from the US Federal Reserve (the Fed). Assuming its role as the global lender of last resort - the consequence of its position as the issuer of the international trade and reserve currency - the Fed reactivated the permanent or temporary swap agreements that it established with 14 other central banks in 2008. In order to extend the reach of its dollar supply, the Fed has also created a repo facility for the central banks of countries that do not have dollar swap agreements. The high fees charged, however, will limit take-up, depriving the markets of what could be a significant calming influence.
    In the coming decades, the European countries will be confronted with rising costs related to population ageing. Based on very optimistic assumptions, simulations carried out by the EU’s Economic Policy Committee suggest that these costs are manageable. Persons that enter the workforce now are unlikely to retire under the same conditions as those who retire at the moment. The transition to leaner public pension schemes calls for accompanying measures such as incentives to remain longer in the labour force and inducements to better prepare retirement. In particular, the authorities could inform employees regularly about their pension rights and encourage them to increase their retirement savings.
    11 March 2020
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    Depending on the source, estimates of the number of ‘cryptocurrencies’ vary between 1,600 and 3,000. These crypto-assets struggle to fulfil the three economic functions of money, and so cannot be considered as such. Although their fairly modest uptake currently limits their economic impact, increased use could create risks in the transmission of monetary policy, money creation and financial stability. Several central banks are looking at the introduction of a ‘central bank digital currency’ (CBDC) in response to these challenges. However, far from being simply a substitute for private cryptocurrencies, these CBDCs would carry specific risks in terms of financial stability, most notably that of a ‘digital bank run’. We believe that their possible introduction, and the associated details, will require meticulous analysis.
    An example of successful economic transition, Poland still enjoys fairly favourable prospects despite the expected slowing of growth against a background of less favourable international conditions. Over the medium to long term, there are factors that will weigh on potential growth and weaken a Polish economic model based on competitiveness and low labour costs. The first section of this article analyses the impact of institutions on productivity, which is a major determinant of the differences in standard of living between countries, as illustrated through the example of Poland. The second section examines the question of Poland’s estimated medium-term potential growth, after an analysis of its pathway since the 1990s.
    23 December 2019
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    For the first time since 2010, the five major Portuguese banks returned to profitability in 2018. The main factors behind this swing into profits were a faster decline in interest expense than in interest income, and tight control over operating expenses and the cost of risk. The widening of the net interest margin offset the decline in the outstanding amount of bank loans, increasing net interest income. Other things being equal, the decrease of the interest rates also contributed to the reduction in the cost of risk and the clean-up of bank balance sheets. Although the non-performing loan ratio and outstanding amount were halved, they remain at high levels. Recent trends on the profit and loss account of the major Portuguese banks show, amongst other things, how low interest rates are having a certain impact on a banking system that is primarily geared towards retail activities and variable-rate loans.
    Cities today concentrate more than half of the world population and more than 80% of global GDP. The underlying dynamics explaining their ever increasing importance are the result of a variety of positive externalities (thicker labor markets, knowledge spillovers, input sharing…) generating self-reinforcing effects. These rapid waves of urbanization have key implications for the production of goods and services, environmental quality and human development. The world is one of density spikes and disparities, driven by the unstoppable ascendance of metropolises. Greener and more inclusive cities should be promoted in order for them to remain livable. In this respect, public policies have an important role to play
    09 December 2019
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    The slowdown in economic activity in the Eurozone and inflation structurally below the target rate have raised the spectre of “Japanification”. This would mean effective growth running below potential, very low interest rates and negative inflation. In Japan, this combination of factors resulted from the bursting of the financial and real estate bubbles of the early 1990s. There is a range of factors that could cause “Japanification”. Faced with the challenges of an ageing population and slowing productivity gains, the Eurozone will need to focus its efforts on boosting its potential growth and its resilience to shocks. Short- and medium-term economic policy choices will therefore be crucial in limiting, as far as possible, the risk of “Japanification”.
    08 November 2019
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    The financial crisis of 2008 left its mark on the macroeconomic, regulatory and legal environments in the United Kingdom. It was followed by a long period of consolidation in the banking sector. Although the major British banks have managed to improve their performances recently, they are now faced with fresh challenges, starting with the uncertainty surrounding Brexit. For the banks, this uncertainty will not be resolved immediately by the conclusion of the Brexit as they will still need to adjust to the loss of their European passporting rights and potentially to address a contraction in demand in their domestic market.
    27 September 2019
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    Private consumption has played a greater role in the Chinese economy in recent years, but this growth engine remains fragile. At a time when the export sector is hurt by US protectionist measures and weak global demand, China is seeking other solid sources of growth. Yet private consumption growth is slowing and is likely to be disappointing in the short and medium terms. A catching-up dynamic should continue, supported by urbanization, an ageing population and action of the government, which strives to reduce income inequality, improve housing affordability and further strengthen the social protection system. owever, these structural changes will take time. Moreover, although certain sectors show potential for major productivity gains, wage growth is likely to be hampered by the troubles of the industry, where production growth is slowed and the move upmarket is hampered by rivalries with the United States. Lastly, household debt has swelled rapidly in recent years and could now start to place a damper on consumption.
    Job polarization describes the structural deformation of the job market in which the share of jobs increases at the top and bottom of the skills ladder and decreases for middling jobs. In theory, job polarization is U shaped. Empirical data easily shows a decline in the share of jobs in the middle distribution (the bottom of the U), as well as an increase in the most skilled jobs (right side of the U). This J-shaped semi-polarization is symptomatic of an “upgrading” effect, i.e. the overall rise in the level of education and skills attainment. The left side of the U, in contrast, which represents the increase in the share of low-skilled jobs, is often less developed and sometimes non-existent. In France, job polarization is more or less apparent depending on the study. There are several explanations for job polarization. Technological progress seems to be the dominant explanation although other factors also come into play including globalisation and a series of institutional and structural factors, such as job market regulation, expansion of the service sector and an aging population.
    16 July 2019
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    The sub-Saharan Africa’s largest economy is having hard time to recover. External rebalancing has showed some progress. But imports remain well below pre-crisis levels. In addition, the rebuilding of FX reserves is being accompanied by increased financial vulnerability, which puts pressure on monetary policy as the authorities give the priority to exchange rate stability. Weak public finances are an additional constraint. In the short term, and despite its strong potential, the economy is expected to grow more slowly than the population. As well as improving macroeconomic stability, the authorities will have to address the deep-seated factors that are holding back the economy as a whole.
    22 May 2019
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    For most observers, the European elections are seen above all as a kind of political health report that is conducted simultaneously in all of the EU member countries. In this article, we will describe the main tendencies highlighted in the most recent polls and we will explore some of the possible consequences of these elections on the balance of power in Brussels and on the events that will follow thereafter.
    30 April 2019
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    The economic convergence of member states lies at the heart of thjavascript:void('Automatique')e initial project to create the eurozone, but it has followed a jagged path over the past twenty years. Convergence is a multifaceted concept that covers not only the criteria stipulated in the Maastricht Treaty but also growth dynamics and income dispersion. In the period before the Great Financial Crisis, nominal convergence was relatively complete, but progress towards real convergence was much more mixed. There are several major obstacles to a sustainable convergence within the European Monetary Union, including the lack of eurozone’s optimality, possibility of currency devaluations and macroeconomic stabilisation mechanisms.
    Through economic consolidation measures implemented since 2016, Egypt has corrected its macroeconomic imbalances and regained the confidence of international investors. Foreign currency liquidity has returned to satisfying levels, the public account deficit is narrowing, although debt service is maintaining the fiscal deficit at a high level. Inflation is still relatively high but easing. Economic prospects are favourable. So far, the macroeconomic recovery has failed to trigger new momentum capable of accelerating growth and creating jobs. The weight of public sector and a large informal sector reduce the economy’s responsiveness to positive macroeconomic signals. Structural reforms are necessary to preserve the achievements of ongoing reforms.
    04 April 2019
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    Brexit started as a surprise, with the majority Leave vote in the UK referendum on June 23, 2016. In the financial sphere, more specifically, Brexit implies a loss of European passporting rights for the UK and thus less integration between the European Union and the leading financial centre of London. The trade in financial services between the two zones will now have to meet the requirements of two separate sets of regulatory and supervisory authorities, rather than just the requirements of a single regulatory framework as at present. At the very least, this will hold operational uncertainty for some time to come. This edition of Conjoncture aims to sketch out the main lines of the changes to the regulatory framework that financial institutions will have to address because of Brexit, and to identify the main challenges.
    Narendra Modi’s term as India’s prime minister has been broadly positive economically. In the last five years, he has pushed through some important reforms, taking advantage of his majority in the lower house of Parliament. However, to achieve a significant increase in GDP per-capita and reduce India’s vulnerability to external shocks, it is necessary to carry out further reforms in order to create a more conducive environment for domestic and foreign investment. The latest polls suggest that no party could win a majority in the lower house of Parliament in the general election scheduled for April and May. Mr Modi’s party still looks likely to win the most seats, but could be forced to govern alongside the Congress Party. That could make it harder to implement reform and weaken the public finances.
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