Europe

European Chart Book

European Chart Book

Inflation to remain above target in 2022

Euro-zone inflation reached 5.0% in December, which is likely to be the peak. Unless oil and gas prices surge again in 2022, which seems unlikely, energy inflation will plummet – we forecast the contribution of energy to headline inflation to drop from 2.5 percentage points in December 2021 to around zero in December 2022. But we don’t expect to see a downward trend in core inflation. The full impact of high input prices has probably not yet fed through to core goods inflation, which was already at a record high at the end of last year. In the near term, the Omicron variant could lead to a bigger reduction in global supply than demand, adding to inflationary pressures. And if demand rebounds when Omicron cases start to fall, as we expect, it could push up wage growth and services inflation. We forecast core inflation to average a little over 2% this year, which would put more pressure on the ECB to prepare the ground for interest rates to rise in 2023.

11 January 2022

European Chart Book

Omicron adds to downside risks

High frequency data show that travel to retail and recreation destinations, restaurant bookings and flights have all declined in the past few weeks as coronavirus restrictions have been tightened in the face of rising hospitalisations. It now looks likely that GDP growth will be lower than our forecast of 0.7% q/q in Q4. The Omicron variant has added to these downside risks although at this stage its transmissibility, severity and capacity to escape vaccines are unknown. Meanwhile, we think euro-zone inflation has probably peaked at nearly 5% in November. If restrictions are tightened sharply, energy inflation may fall more than we have assumed, pulling headline inflation down a bit further and faster than we are assuming. But core inflation – which matters more to central bankers – could end up higher than anticipated if supply problems last for longer. Either way, it now seems likely that the ECB will maintain some capacity to keep bond purchases high and flexible beyond next March.

6 December 2021

European Chart Book

Recovery slowed by supply chain problems

Economic growth has slowed sharply as output approaches its pre-pandemic level. We think that GDP will probably increase by only around 0.5% q/q in the final quarter, down from 2.2% in Q3. Manufacturing firms in Germany are struggling more than most and a large majority of them are reporting shortages of materials. At the same time, price pressures have continued to increase, with both the input price and output price components of the euro-zone Composite PMI reaching record highs in October. The euro-zone inflation rate reached 4.1% in October and is likely to edge up a bit further before year-end. However, it should then fall over the course of 2022 as energy inflation declines. The ECB is likely to leave its key policy rate unchanged at -0.5% throughout next year, and probably well beyond that, as it will continue to judge that the increase in inflation will prove transitory.

8 November 2021
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European Chart Book

Headwinds strengthening

Supply shortages and rising energy prices are becoming stronger headwinds to the euro-zone recovery. The latest data from Germany showed sharp falls in industrial orders and production, with manufacturers citing supply bottlenecks as a constraint on output. These problems have hit the vehicle sector particularly hard, and in the September German Ifo survey more car producers expected conditions to deteriorate in the next six months than improve. Firms in the construction sector also seem to be struggling to source materials. Meanwhile, the recent huge increases in energy prices are adding to producers’ costs and at the same time pushing up consumer price inflation. While the timeliest business surveys remain consistent with the economy as a whole growing, and we think that supply problems will ease and energy prices fall next year, the risk of stagnation in the final months of this year is rising.

European Chart Book

Rise in inflation is not over

Headline inflation came in higher than our above-consensus forecast in August and, at 3.0%, reached its highest level for a decade. It is likely to rise a bit further in the coming months: producer price inflation has risen recently and the price components of surveys such as the PMIs show that price pressures are still strong. However, we think inflation will drop even further than the consensus and ECB expects over the next two years. This is largely because we expect wage inflation to remain low, given that there is more slack in the labour market than before the pandemic and that the Phillips curve is flat. Although there are some signs that the recovery is losing momentum, this is inevitable as activity gets close to its pre-pandemic level. Against this backdrop we think the ECB is likely to dial down its emergency asset purchases slightly on Thursday and end them completely next March, but continue with its standard asset purchase programme for several years and leave the deposit rate unchanged for the foreseeable future.

European Chart Book

Strong recovery to continue in Q3

The surge in spending as coronavirus restrictions have been lifted will bring the euro-zone economy close to its pre-pandemic level in the coming months. After expanding by 2% q/q in Q2, we expect a similar increase in Q3. Both business and consumer sentiment are strong and order books are full. High frequency mobility data also suggest that things are getting back to normal. The main exception is the tourist sector; although there has been a big increase in flight numbers in the past few weeks, it is still running well below normal levels. Meanwhile, inflation rose above 2% in July and there is mounting price pressure in supply chains, while producer price inflation reached double-digit levels and points to HICP inflation rising further in the coming months. That said, we are confident that inflation will drop back again next year to below the ECB’s 2% target.

European Chart Book

Activity taking off as hospitality reopens

The economy has continued to rebound strongly as governments have lifted almost all restrictions on retail and restaurants and eased rules on foreign travel. Restaurant bookings are back above pre-pandemic levels and the number of flights is rising steeply (no pun intended!). This rebound is likely to put a bit more pressure on inflation, which looks set to resume its upward course in the second half of the year after pausing in June. The latest statements from key policymakers suggest that the ECB is in no hurry to scale back its asset purchases, but we think the Governing Council will begin to taper its bond-buying in the coming months.

European Chart Book

Springing back to life…again

The economic outlook has brightened as the virus has subsided and governments have permitted people to return to the shops and restaurants as well as to travel a bit more freely. However, manufacturers are struggling to keep up with booming demand due to shortages of key inputs, and there are some signs that firms in the hospitality sector may struggle to fill vacancies immediately. These frictions may put some upward pressure on prices in the near term. After rising to 2.0% in May, we think the headline inflation rate will average around 2½% in the second half of the year although core inflation remains low. (See Chart 1.) The ECB is not likely to be fazed by these inflation numbers and, in our view, is right to worry more about under-shooting its target over the medium term. We expect the Bank to pare back its PEPP purchases only very gradually in the second half of the year.

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