Eco Week
Economic Scenario

Economic scenario of 2 October 2023

GDP growth and inflation


a strong second half of 2022 (+0.7% q/q on average per quarter), US activity decelerated only slightly in the first half of 2023 (+0.5% q/q on average per quarter), thanks to the resilience of household consumption and the strength of nonresidential investment. The impact of the tighter monetary policy on lending standards is strong but it still limited on activity and employment growth. Q3 GDP growth is expected to be very positive again before a sharp slowdown in Q4 and to slide into recession in the first half of 2024. The peak in inflation was reached in mid-2022 but core disinflation remains gradual. Headline inflation should approach the 2% target in 2024. However, the slow pace of disinflation argues in favor of keeping monetary policy in restrictive territory, despite the expected start of the easing cycle in Q2 2024. This should limit the recovery in 2024.


Economic growth started to accelerate in early 2023 following the end of the zero Covid policy, but the recovery has weakened very rapidly. Export momentum has stalled due to depressed global demand and tensions with the US. Domestic demand has remained held back by a significant loss in consumer and investor confidence. The crisis in the property sector has persisted, with the continued fall in sales, new defaults of developers and growing difficulties of certain financial institutions. The government and the central bank have implemented new policy stimulus measures over the summer, aimed at supporting domestic demand and activity in the property sector. A slight improvement in real GDP growth is thus expected in the short term. However, policy makers remain prudent, notably constrained by the debt excess of the economy and the weak financial situation of local governments.


After a slight contraction in GDP in Q4 2022, the euro area returned to slightly positive growth in the first half of 2023. According to the latest figures available, Q1 growth was again revised up (from -0.1% to 0.0% and now to +0.1% q/q), while Q2 growth was downwardly revised to +0.1% q/q, erasing the initially reported technical rebound of +0.3% q/q. The disparate performance between Member States weakens the overall result. France and Spain have been doing well, but Germany, Italy and the Netherlands are struggling. The negative effects of monetary tightening should intensify and further slow economic activity, which would stagnate in the second half of 2023, before starting a sluggish recovery. Although it is expected to decline throughout 2023, inflation would remain elevated, slightly exceeding 3% y/y at the end of this year. Illustrating the slowness of the disinflation process, it would still be significantly above the 2% target at the end of 2024 (2.5% y/y), forcing monetary policy to remain in restrictive territory.


French growth significantly surprised on the upside in Q2 2023, with activity accelerating more than expected (+0.5% q/q, after stagnation in Q1 and a modestly positive Q4 2022). While household consumption and investment remain depressed, this rebound has been supported by business investment and, above all, exports. A negative correction is likely in Q3. Inflation rebounded in August (5.7% y/y according to the harmonized measure), driven by energy prices, but this rebound does not call into question the slow disinflation process. Because of rising interest rates, household demand should remain subdued in 2023, weighing on our GDP growth forecast (0.7% in 2023, compared to 2.5% in 2022).



In the US, after having skipped the June meeting, the Federal Reserve proceeded, as expected, to a further 25bp rate hike in July. This increase should be the last in our view, but uncertainty remains given the still elevated core inflation and the resilience of activity and the labour market to date. In any case, these factors argue against a rate cut before mid-2024. The residual uncertainty on the policy rate peak is reflected in long-term rates, which remained on an upward trend during the first half of September. However, as inflation falls further and the prospect of monetary easing in 2024 rises, long-term rates should resume their decline soon.
Unlike the Fed, the ECB did not pause in June but, like the Fed, it increased its key rates by 25bp in July. It did not stop there and hiked again by 25 bp in September (deposit rate at 4.00%, refinancing rate at 4.50%). We are of the view that this increase should mark, this time, the end of the ECB’s tightening cycle, considering the effects of the monetary tightening already underway. But it is not yet certain that it will really be the last, given the absence of a tangible fall at this stage of core inflation. As part of its monetary tightening, the ECB also announced a complete halt, starting in July 2023, of its reinvestments under the APP. European long-term rates remain on a uptrend, moving in line with US rates, but in a more muted way. They are expected to ease gradually as the fall in core inflation should become more visible, dissipating uncertainty over the continuation of monetary tightening.
On 27 July, the Bank of Japan (BoJ) adjusted its yield curve control policy (YCC) by allowing a wider fluctuation in 10-year sovereign interest rates around the target of 0.5%Further adjustments to the YCC cannot be excluded, given that the country currently faces the fastest rate of inflation since the early 1990s. Nevertheless, the BoJ is unlikely to increase its policy rates this year, but a rise is expected in 2024.
We remain structurally bearish regarding the US dollar versus the euro. The dollar’s valuation is expensive and next year the Federal Reserve should ease more than the ECB. We expect the yen to remain around current levels in the near term before strengthening versus the dollar based on the expected monetary divergence between the Fed and the BoJ in 2024.


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