Conjoncture
    Conjoncture - 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
    Conjoncture - 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”.
    View document
    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”.

On the Same Theme

Euro zone credit trends: lending to non-financial companies (NFCs) weaker than consumer lending in November and December 2019 2/14/2020
Credit impulse in the euro zone stabilised in December 2019 (up 0.3%, as in November) against a background of a slight slowing of real GDP growth in the fourth quarter (1.0% from 1.2% in the third quarter). Outstanding bank lending to the private sector maintained its pace of growth in December (up 3.7% year-on-year). For the second month in a row, growth in lending to NFCs was less than that in lending to consumers. The slowdown in growth in lending to NFCs (where the year-on-year figure fell from 3.8% in October to 3.2% in December) was due mainly to lower investment spending (in France, Germany and most particularly Spain). This was in part offset by strong growth in consumer loans (from 3.5% to 3.7%). For the first time since 2013, more banks are expecting demand for credit from NFCs to slow (first quarter 2020). In contrast, expected demand for consumer mortgages remains strong, driven by low interest rates, particularly in France.
Eurozone: The consensus amongst economists expects a growth pick-up. Why? 2/11/2020
The contributors to the Bloomberg consensus forecast expect a pick-up in eurozone growth in the course of this year. This is shown by a higher median forecast for the 4th quarter compared to the 1st but in addition, the entire distribution of forecasts shifts to the right. This view is underpinned by a decline in uncertainty, the very accommodative monetary environment, some fiscal support in certain countries and an improvement in export orders.
Eurozone: macroeconomic outlook for 2020 and potential risks 1/24/2020
The eurozone went through a tough year in 2019. In 2020, the economic growth could stabilise, but a strong rebound seems unlikely.
ECB: reviewing strategy whilst waiting for inflation 1/24/2020
The ECB remains cautious in its assessment of the economic situation characterised by risks still tilted to the downside, although less than before thanks to the US-China trade deal. The message is slightly better on underlying inflation where some signs of a moderate increase are noted. Between now and year-end, the strategy review, which has now been launched, will grab a lot of attention, with markets wondering how it could influence monetary policy. The review is also important from the perspective of climate change: will monetary policy operations take it on board as a risk factor or will ambition even be higher?
Eurozone : first signs of stabilisation, but there is still a long way to go 1/24/2020
The most recent economic data in the Eurozone send an encouraging signal. The economic situation remains subdued, and particularly in the manufacturing and export sector, but a start of stabilisation can be expected...
2020: the year the economy begins to pick up? 1/24/2020
Will the year 2020 be marked by a rebound in eurozone economic growth? More favourable signs seem to be emerging, although they have yet to show up clearly in hard data. In any case, eurozone growth is bound to remain low. In this environment, inflationary pressures will probably fall short of the central bank’s target. Beyond that, the ECB Governing Council will be tackling new issues in 2020. Christine Lagarde announced a strategic review for the Frankfurt-based monetary institution. On the agenda: cryptocurrencies, climate change, technological progress, and inequalities.
Credit pulse in the eurozone: positive for households, negative for companies 1/10/2020
After picking up in October, the credit pulse of non-financial corporates (NFC) in the eurozone dipped again in November. Yet the decline in the private sector’s credit pulse was still very mild, bolstered by the remarkable stability of the credit pulse for households. Recent trends should extend into first-quarter 2020: the banks surveyed expect loan demand from NFC to continue to ease. Inversely, exceptionally low interest rates should continue to boost loan demand from households, mainly for home loans.
Very low interest rates for how long? 12/13/2019
Danish monetary policy is closely linked to ECB policy so the recent statement of Denmark’s central bank governor that he expects interest rates to remain around current negative levels in the next five to ten years is not without importance for the eurozone. Forward guidance by ECB implies that policy will only be adjusted when justified by economic conditions. The inability to be clearer in terms of time frame illustrates the complexities of inflation dynamics. Past wage increases will gradually filter through in a pick-up in inflation although low inflation, well-anchored inflation expectations and intense competition in certain sectors may very well moderate this transmission. It thus seems clear that the current policy will remain in place for a considerable time. How long ’considerable’ turns out to be will depend on the data. The eurozone clearly needs more growth. 
Eurozone economic slowdown: what if employment holds up? 12/12/2019
Eurozone GDP growth is causing concern, but the relative resilience of employment continues to surprise. This trend is nothing new. The negative impact on employment of previous crises has been fairly restrained. Despite considerable difficulties in the sector, manufacturing employment is holding up particularly well. The slowdown in productivity gains could, in the short term at least, help drive the growth in jobs. Slower growth in hours worked and low-skilled jobs: a possible labour hoarding phenomenon is under way in Eurozone companies.
QE and market instability risks 11/29/2019
The ECB’s monetary policy meeting account illustrates the dilemma it is facing: inflation is subdued and risks to growth are tilted to the downside, yet the financial stability implications of the very accommodative policy need to be closely monitored. These implications are covered in sobering detail in the ECB’s Financial Stability Review. A possible side effect of very low to negative interest rates is that borrowing and spending become more procyclical. Quantitative easing (QE), by modifying the risk structure of investment portfolios (less government bonds and more exposure to assets with a higher risk), will probably increase the sensitivity of portfolio returns to the business cycle.

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