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 this week (21 October – 27 October 2019)

Highlights

> The ECB meeting (October 24) will be the most important event of the week.
During last meeting, the ECB adopted a very accommodative monetary policy stance. This led to important discussions notably on the resumption of the QE and on the forward guidance as these measures will remain until the EA inflation converges to the ECB target. Nothing new is expected?

> This meeting will be the last for Mario Draghi. He will quit the ECB at the end of this month and be replaced by Christine Lagarde. Draghi has given to the ECB the soul and the instruments that are necessary for an independent and influential central bank (more details on Draghi’s impact on the ECB in the document).

> Many corporate surveys for October will be released during the week. The French “climat des affaires” (23), the German Ifo (25), the Markit flash estimate (24) and CBR orders in the UK (21)
The current mood in developed countries is pessimistic and this will not reverse rapidly. The IMF forecasts was a synthetic view of this backdrop.
A Brexit deal would have had a positive impact but the Parliament has not allowed for it. BoJo has ask for a new delay until the end of next January. This increases uncertainty as we don’t know what will happen in the next three months. Do we converge to a new referendum ? Will Bojo force the Brexit before the end of next January ? Will there be general elections ? No one knows. Many would like to write the future but the recent past has shown that the foreseeable future is not predictable.
There are uncertainties also coming from the discussions between China and the US. Discussions, last week was mainly on agriculture as there is a necessity for the US to reverse the trend coming from the trade war. China now buys soybean in Brazil rather than in the US. This weakens Trump future presidential campaign. The risk associated with this negotiations’ failure is a source of supplementary weakness. The uncertainty for the future is still high and is a constraint for the economic activity.

> Durable goods orders in the US for September (24).
These numbers have not been strong recently and could reflect a weakness in corporate investment in coming months.
> Existing homes sales in the US for September (22)
This statistic is important as it reflects a kind of wealth effect. Thera are more house owners in the US than people having a large portfolio of risky assets. Movement in the real estate has therefore more impact on consumers’ behavior than the stock market can have. The existing home sales is for me the most important statistic that shows this wealth effect. Recent improvement was supportive for consumers’ expenditures.

The detailed document is available here
NextWeek-October21-October27-2019

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

French Households are optimistic

French households are optimistic. INSEE the French statistical institute has just released its consumer confidence survey for August.
The synthetic index is 2% above its historical average. Last November, at the start of the Yellow Vests movement, the index was more than 8% below this average.

The change has been important. The real change is that now, households have a positive outlook on their immediate future. In November, they were very pessimistic on their purchasing power due to higher taxes on diesel. This is no longer the case. This extra tax has been withdrawn, the labor market is more supportive (150 000 new jobs have been created during the first half of 2019), and the economic policy has pushed up purchasing power.

The budget constraint is less tight than it was perceived and the labor market sends a positive signal. This change in perception can be seen on sub-index in the survey. The financial situation for the next 12 months which reflects the financial situation for an individual is above its historical average and the index for Standard of living (for all the French people) is also above this average. This can be completed by the perception that unemployment is no longer a important source of concern. French households’ perception on unemployment is also on the optimistic side.
In other words, the rapid reaction of the government has limited the impact and duration of the Yellow Vests crisis.

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.

The yellow vests and the French economic outlook

The French economy remains under pressure at the beginning of 2019. Business leaders do not want to commit to the long term because of the uncertainty that hangs over the immediate situation. Since November, there has been a clear drop in orders for capital goods. It may imply a sharp slowdown or even a decline in productive investment around the turn of the year.leading to a low trajectory. The protracted social unrest is beginning to weigh on employment, as shown by the rapid slowdown in hirings as measured by the French Social Security for the fourth quarter of 2018.
We can not spontaneously wait for relay from the European countries. The composite indicator calculated by Markit for the Euro zone is at its lowest since July 2013. The impetus will not come from there.
The difficulties of reducing social uncertainty will weigh on the profile of 2019 growth, which will probably have to be revised downwards. We must now think about a growth rate of around 1% for the whole year. The “Grand Débat” launched by the French President Emmanuel Macron to reduce the current social unrest and the preparation of the European elections next May, where new lists (yellow vests) appear, will maintain this deleterious climate. This will not help either employment or purchasing power. France goes around in circles.

INSEE expects a moderate recovery in activity in 2019

The latest outlook note from French national statistics body INSEE (full-length version in French, English summary available here) suggests that the French economy will not be affected on a sustainable basis by the recent wave of social unrest in the fourth quarter of the year. The pace of growth over the first half of 2019 fits with the trend witnessed since 2013, apart from 2017, which was an exceptional year.We can see this return to normal on the chart below, showing the half-on-half change in economic activity as reflected by GDP. The pace has returned close to pre-2017 stats and growth is near its potential rate. In these figures, average growth is set to come to 1.5% in 2018 and carry-over at the end of 1H 2019 at 1%.

We can see this return to normal on the chart below, showing the half-on-half change in economic activity as reflected by GDP. The pace has returned close to pre-2017 stats and growth is near its potential rate. In these figures, average growth is set to come to 1.5% in 2018 and carry-over at the end of 1H 2019 at 1%.