What to expect this week – 18 November – 24 November 2019

Highlights

> —Minutes of the last Fed’s meeting (Nov. 20) and of the last ECB’s meeting (Nov.21)
The Fed’s minutes will reveal the discussions on the drop of the Fed’s benchmark rate but the most useful part will be on the commitment to stop, at least temporarily, the downside trend on the benchmark rate.
In the ECB minutes, the focus will be on the discussions related to the important disagreements between governing council members after September decisions —

> Markit flash estimates for November in the Euro Area, Japan and the US (Nov.22)
In October a rebound in the US for the manufacturing sector was a surprise reflecting mainly the spike in the New export Orders index. The divergence with the eurozone and Japan was astonishing. The November survey will highlight the possibility for the US to remain strong while Japan and the EA are still weak.  —

> The French Climat des Affaires for November (Nov. 21)
The French index has been above its historical average for months. This is consistent with the stronger momentum of the French growth when compared with the Euro Area. This is linked to the specificity of the French economic policy that feed domestic demand in order to cushion a possible external shock. This strategy limits the possibility of a downturn.

> Eurozone Current Account for September (Nov.19)
The Euro Area current account shows a large surplus. It is circa 3% of GDP. This means that there is an excess saving in the Euro Area and that we have means to invest in order to improve the autonomy of our growth process. Because accumulating surplus is just useless.

> Existing homes sales in the US for October (Nov. 21) and Housing Starts (Nov.19)
Existing home sales indicator is a measure of a wealth effect on consumption expenditures. Its recent profile suggests a slowdown in expenditures during the last quarter of this year before a mild rebound at the beginning of 2020. —

> Productivity in the third quarter for the United Kingdom (Nov. 20)
The strong slowdown in the UK productivity suggests an extended period of low growth except if investment rebounds strongly. This will not be the case whatever the Brexit agreement because Brexit will continue to provide large uncertainty. —

> The Phylli Fed index will be release on November the 21st. The Japanese trade balance on November the 20th, the Japanese CPI for October on November the 22nd and the German Consumer Confidence index on November the 21st  

What to expect next week ? (September 23 – September 29, 2019)

Highlights

> Corporate surveys will highlight the business cycle foreseeable future. The IFO will be released on Tuesday 24 as will be the French Climat des Affaires. The French momentum is currently higher than in Germany as this latter is more exposed to the international backdrop. The Italian survey on corporate confidence will be out on September the 27th and may show the impact of a pro-European government on corporate confidence.

> Markit surveys, flash estimates, will be released on Monday the 23rd for the Euro Area, France, Germany and the US. The Japanese release will be done on September the 24th. These surveys are important but I will carefully look at the New Export Order indices in the Euro Area, US and Japan. Its average is clearly consistent with the world trade profile. In August it was as low as 46.6 giving a signal of continuous contraction in trade. September date will be important.

> Consumer confidence in the US (24 for the conference board and 27 for the Michigan), in France (25), Germany(26) and Italy (27). The US conference board will give us relevant signals on the US labor market dynamics. France index will remain above its average, way above the level it has a year ago when the yellow vests demonstrations started.

> Consumption expenditures in the US (27) and Fed’s preferred measure for inflation for August will be released on August the 27th. Consumers’ behavior is the strongest support of the current US growth momentum. Nevertheless it can be very volatile. We expect that it will be strong in August, consistently with retail sales. No strong expectations on inflation. The July core inflation rate is 1.6%.

> Inflation for September in France and Spain.
> New Home sales in August in the US. The real estate market has been stronger recently. A confirmation is expected as interest rates were low in August.

The document is available here
NextWeek-September 23- September 29-2019

Strong Labor Market in France

French employment is growing rapidly. 92 800 jobs have been added during the 1st quarter 2019. It’s more than the most optimistic forecasts and this figure is close to those strong numbers seen in 2017 when growth was stronger than now. Labor market reforms have been efficient.

With the strong economic policy measures on purchasing power that have been taken by the government, French growth is more autonomous and able to cushion the negative shock from world trade.

The French economy is becoming more robust

Business investment profile is still worrisome

The pace of capital goods orders in Germany in March suggests a further slowdown in investment in OECD countries over the coming months.
Orders are down 5.9% year-on-year and this indicator is closely correlated with the investment profile of OECD countries.

This slowdown in orders is global.
The rebound in the Euro zone is limited since over a year the decline in orders is still -6.5%. The rest of the world does not look encouraging either.

This is why I have doubts on the investment profile published by INSEE yesterday for the manufacturing sector for France. A 11% growth is expected for 2019 after 0% in 2018. This seems excessive since the survey shows a rapid slowdown in the second half. This means that the first semester has to be very strong. This is not necessarily consistent with what we see in the pace of investment of non-financial companies in the first quarter.
The survey is probably a bit too optimistic. Capital goods orders continue to contract in April 2019. I do not imagine strong investments in France while the rest of the world is rather in an investment slowdown.

Growth: the Gallic village resists

INSEE, the French statistical institute published its new forecasts for the first half of this year. (Its forecasts are just for a semester to avoid being in conflict with the government expectations). Activity would increase by 0.4% in the first and second quarters (non annualized rate). INSEE slightly revised up its second-quarter figure.
The carryover growth for 2019 would thus be 1.1% at the end of the first half. To reach the new government forecast at 1.4% (indicated by Bruno Le Maire while the budget for 2019 had a forecast at 1.7%), quarterly growth has to be at 0.4% for each quarter. The current trend for the first semester would therefore be extended to the whole year. This figure, 1.4%, is also the one recently published by the Banque de France.

The articulation of the INSEE forecast is based on two elements.

The first is the rebound in domestic demand in the first months of 2019. On this point, all experts agree. The measures that have been taken on purchasing power should be support for household consumption. The pace of growth of this one would thus pass from an average figure per quarter of 0.125% in 2018 to 0.5% in the first quarter and 0.4% in the second. (Measures to boost the purchasing power have been taken after yellow vests’ protests. The amount of these measure is around Eur 11bn)

The second element of the framework drawn by INSEE is the momentum associated with the international environment. The Institute considers that the slowdown seen at the end of 2018 is just temporary and that the situation will rapidly improve to regain a more robust outlook. The demand’s profile to France from the rest of the world is unchanged from the INSEE’s December economic outlook. And this is a fairly solid figure, rising 0.7% in the first quarter and 0.9% in the second, while the average figure for 2018 was 0.5% per quarter.

If the strong slowdown of the last quarter, which conditioned the strong downward revision of the OECD forecasts (from 1.8% to 1% for the Euro zone) and the ECB (from 1.7% to 1%), is reversed then the outlook may be robust in coming months.
Such a conjecture implies a rather robust pace for exports as world trade regains a stronger track. It also implies a rebound in business investment, as expected demand would recover. In that case, a strong recovery can be expected as companies’ financial situation will improve dramatically in 2019 (Lower taxes which was a policy proposed by Hollande in 2013 will be replace in the future by lower charges on wages. But in 2019 both measures are available as the new measure will be put in place and the former has a one year lag. This is a opportunity for firms. They will take advantage of that if expected demand improves dramatically).

If the global shock is persistent then the pace of exports will be less sustained and the investment will be gloomier. The improvement of financial conditions are only permissive conditions but not decisive when the expected demand is mediocre.
The pace of employment will also be conditioned by the persistence or not of the shock.

If one assumes a more persistent shock from the rest of the world then the figures are less robust beyond the jump of the first quarter and without being catastrophic growth would tend to 1.1- 1.2% on average for 2019. And this does not suggest necessarily a re-acceleration of growth in 2020 as suggested by the Banque de France.

The key element will therefore be the overall momentum beyond the short-term effects of government measures. The Fed, the OECD and the ECB are wondering about the pace that this global dynamic can have. The Fed no longer wants to make commitments (on the pace of interest rates and on the reduction of its balance sheet) in order to be able to respond to a possible global shock without having hands tied. But France resists this mood.

In the first months of 2019, the economic situation will largely depend on domestic demand and therefore the measures taken by the government on purchasing power. An immediate consequence is that the government will not be able to engage in a policy of reducing public spending which is a precondition for a credible reduction in taxation. An expenditure reduction policy would annihilate support measures. The public deficit will therefore remain high, probably at best around 3.5% in 2019.

French growth’s low momentum

The French GDP growth was 1.1% (at annual rate) during the fourth quarter of last year. The same number than during the third quarter.
Social unrest has had no impact on the headline figure. Nevertheless, details show that the private sector domestic demand stalled (0.2%) during the last quarter after a strong 2.4% growth in the third quarter. Households’ consumption was 0 and investment contribution was at 0.2% versus 0.9% in Q3. On companies’ side, investment contribution decreased on the same scale (0.2% after 0.9%). Residential investment was down with a negative contribution (-0.1%).
The good surprise was on exports’ side with a strong increase at 9.8% vs 0.7% in the third quarter. Therefore and despite a rapid imports’growth, the external demand contribution was positive at 0.9% after 1.1% in Q3.
Inventories have had a marginal negative contribution.

For 2018, the average growth was at 1.5% after 2.3% in 2017 but the end of 2017 was the peak of the cycle and the economy is now converging to its potential.
In 2019, with 1.2% per quarter which is close to the 2018 average, growth will be at 1.1%. We have a forecast at this level. It way below the government forecast at 1.7%. We can’t expect a strong reversal in the GDP momentum that could justify such a forecast.
In 2019 consumption will be pushed up by all the measures on purchasing power that has been announced by the President Macron in December. But as long as social unrest remains companies will not boost their investment. The improvement seen on exports will not last. World trade is slowing down rapidly and France will follow this trend.
In other words, the French economy has a limited growth momentum (just 0.9% from Q4 2017 to Q4 2018). With social unrest and uncertainty on external trade, the French economy will continue this trend close to 1% in 2019.