EcoWeek of 03 July 2020
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    The bleak outlook for the labour market implies there is a strong case for measures to boost consumer spending in order to keep the recovery on track. A host of instruments can be considered: vouchers, VAT rate cuts, income tax cuts, tax credits, negative income taxes. Amongst these, a voucher programme offers many advantages given the possibility for fine-tuning the target group, the final beneficiaries, the type of spending and the regional dimension. However, it comes with considerable administrative costs.
    Are we over the worst? In the short term, that would seem to be the message from the latest economic data for May and June at our disposal. Having hit record lows in April, activity indicators posted a rally in May, and an even steeper recovery in June. This recovery was expected, despite the public health measures still in force, given the ending of the lockdown in the eurozone member states. However, the economic activity is still weaker than in normal periods (pandemic free) [...]
    With an increasing number of countries scaling back if not removing the lockdown measures, the purchasing managers’ indices have improved further in June. The world manufacturing PMI is now even above the level reached in February. Big increases have been noted in the US, France, Germany, Ireland, Spain, Turkey, Indonesia and Vietnam. Brazil and India have also seen a considerable improvement, which seems at odds with the health situation in these countries [...]
    EcoWeek of 26 June 2020
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    Corporate sentiment has jumped following the easing of Covid-19 related restrictions. There is a risk of excessive enthusiasm because better business expectations do not tell us where we are in terms of the level of activity and demand. The current phase of the rebound is mechanical. It shows that the supply side starts to function again. The real question however is what happens to the demand side in the coming quarters. Companies and households are confronted with limited visibility, so caution will prevail.
    The significant shrinking of the blue area in today’s Pulse indicates that the economic climate has substantially deteriorated during the past three months because of the lockdown measures in order to stop the Covid-19 pandemic. However, there were some remarkable differences [...]
    While the economic horizon cleared up a bit in May, the improvement was much bigger in June. Given its construction, our Pulse does not yet show any traces of this rebound, which is just as remarkable as the preceding plunge [...]
    The barometer for Spain has begun to improve with the introduction of post-lockdown data, but it continues to fluctuate around historically-low averages [...]
    EcoWeek of 19 June 2020
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    Recent economic data have improved on the back of the easing of lockdowns. This may create a feeling of false comfort. The effects of the severity of the crisis will make themselves felt well into the future. A key factor is the rise in unemployment and in unemployment expectations. Both weigh on household spending, due to related income losses and increased precautionary savings. The major national central banks of the Eurosystem expect unemployment to increase in 2021, despite the economic recovery. When visibility remains limited and the pressure on profits high, many companies have no other option than to reduce their labour force
    Our barometer shows an improvement in China’s economic momentum during the period between March and May 2020, compared to the preceding three months. This came as no surprise as economic activity collapsed in February, the first month of the lockdown, before beginning a very gradual recovery in March...
    Having contracted by 5.8% in March, the UK’s GDP plummeted by more than 20% in April, with industrial production and retail sales down 24.3% and 18.7%, respectively. This is its biggest monthly fall since the data series began in 1997. However, economic growth will probably return quickly, due to the gradual easing of lockdown measures – most ‘non-essential’ shops have reopened this week – and to monetary and fiscal support...

On the Same Theme

Europe: fiscal policy in action 6/30/2020
The Covid-19 shock has triggered a significant fiscal policy response by European Union member states. Even though it is likely to be short-lived, the 2020 recession will be historic. The fiscal response has therefore been essential in avoiding much more serious and longer-lasting economic consequences. Member states have not all been affected in the same way by the current crisis, and the scale of their fiscal responses varies. The European response has been one of the few positive aspects of the crisis. However, the challenges are not yet over. Levels of risk and uncertainty on both the public health and economic fronts will remain particularly high over the next few months. An agreement on a European recovery programme is therefore needed and there is little likelihood of any letting up in national efforts.
Boomerang economics 6/26/2020
Corporate sentiment has jumped following the easing of Covid-19 related restrictions. There is a risk of excessive enthusiasm because better business expectations do not tell us where we are in terms of the level of activity and demand. The current phase of the rebound is mechanical. It shows that the supply side starts to function again. The real question however is what happens to the demand side in the coming quarters. Companies and households are confronted with limited visibility, so caution will prevail.
DESI index, a roadmap for the European Union 6/17/2020
The European Commission has recently published the 2020 Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI). DESI is a weighted average of five indicators: connectivity, citizens’ digital skills, use of internet, integration of digital technology in businesses, and digital public services. Scandinavian countries perform the best, with Finland, Sweden and Denmark at the top of the ranking. Italy is only 25th, while France (16th), Germany (12th) and Spain (11th) are close to the EU average. The Covid-19 crisis and the lockdown have led to a greater use of digital technology. As technological transformations accelerate in many areas (artificial intelligence, 5G, e-commerce), EU economies will need to pursue their efforts towards greater digitalisation in order to develop new sources of growth and employment.    
Corporate leverage as a headwind during the recovery 6/12/2020
One of the longer-lasting consequences of this crisis is a forced increase in corporate gearing A high level of corporate leverage can act as a drag on growth. Research shows that firms with higher leverage invest less than others. This reduces the effectiveness of monetary accommodation. Highly indebted companies may also suffer a lasting loss in competitiveness vis-à-vis their better capitalised competitors. It implies that policies aimed at recapitalising companies should have lasting favourable effects on growth.
After an ambitious proposal, preparing for difficult negotiations 5/29/2020
The European Commission is proposing a comprehensive plan to support growth and achieve the EU ambitions in terms of climate policy and digital strategy. Such an effort is necessary in order to avoid that the current crisis would increase the economic divergence between member states. Such a development would weaken the functioning of the Single Market and weigh on long-term growth. The Commission proposes a combination of grants and loans at favourable terms, funded by debt issued directly by the EU. Given the resistance of certain countries to grants, negotiations on the proposal will be tough.
Central European economies should not avoid a recession in 2020 5/20/2020
Central Europe has registered a better growth performance in Q1 (-1% q/q), compared to -3.3% in the European Union. In Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria economic growth had even remained positive during this period. However, this Q1 growth performance is rather the consequence of a late impact of the Covid-19 than a byproduct of a lower impact. Manufacturing production figures show that the economic downturn has gathered pace in Central Europe in March. This downturn is now stronger in Hungary, Romania and Slovakia than in European Union’s average. Exports should be one of the main drivers of the contagion towards Central Europe. Openness to trade is high in these countries and the export loss is already stronger in several of them compared to EU average export loss, particularly regarding the car sector. As a consequence, Central Europe’s GDP should decrease by -3.8% in 2020 (-5.8% in Slovakia, -5.3% in Hungary, -4.8% in Romania, -4% in Czech Republic, -3.5% in Bulgaria and -2.9% in Poland).
Preparing for leaner pensions 4/30/2020
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.
The EU response to the economic consequences of the pandemic: clear progress 4/24/2020
Clear progress has been made at the European Council meeting this week. The proposals of the recent Eurogroup meeting on the creation of three safety nets have been endorsed. There is agreement to work on a recovery fund intended for the most affected sectors and geographical areas in Europe. Its financing would be linked with the multiannual financial framework. Importantly, Chancellor Merkel has declared that, in the spirit of solidarity, one should be prepared to temporarily pay a higher contribution to the European budget.
After the arduous Eurogroup agreement on pandemic relief, now for the difficult part 4/10/2020
The Eurogroup has reached an agreement on bringing EUR 500 bn -4.2% of eurozone GDP- of additional firepower to attenuate the immediate economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Three tools will be used: the SURE programme to temporarily support national safety nets, the EIB guaranteeing lending to companies -in particular SMEs- and a Pandemic Crisis Support via the ESM. The work on the creation of a Recovery Fund to boost European investments will continue. The difficult part will be to agree on its funding.
European elections: Between Brexit and political segmentation 5/22/2019
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.

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