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Emerging Europe

Latvia

Recession risks take centre stage

The Russian economy will collapse this year and we expect spillovers from the war in Ukraine to cause a recession in many of the smaller countries in the region, particularly Bulgaria and the Baltic States. Loose fiscal policy and strong labour market dynamics should help Poland and Hungary outperform but, even so, we’re more downbeat on GDP growth in all major economies than the consensus. We think inflation will end the year stronger and interest rates higher than most expect. The economic backdrop of widening macro imbalances, the euro-zone recession risk and aggressive global monetary tightening will cause the region’s currencies to depreciate.

20 April 2022

Russia entering recession, slowdowns in CEE

The war in Ukraine has devasted its economy, while Western sanctions are likely to push Russia into a deep contraction, with GDP set to fall by 12% this year. Immediate fears of a Russian sovereign default have not materialised and Russia’s financial markets have rebounded in recent weeks, but it’s unclear for how long this will continue. A more sustained recovery will probably require a peace deal which still looks far away. Meanwhile, spillovers from the war will be felt acutely in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). Industry will be hit by supply disruptions and higher inflation will weigh on households’ real incomes and dampen consumer spending. We expect the war to shave 1.0-1.5%-pts off growth in CEE this year.

30 March 2022

Economic Sentiment Indicators (Mar.)

The EC’s Economic Sentiment Indicators unsurprisingly fell in most countries in March amid the fallout from the war in Ukraine and there were further large increases in price pressures on the back of rising global commodity prices. Sentiment is likely to stay depressed, or even fall further, in Q2 which will add to the headwinds facing the recovery and supports our below-consensus GDP growth forecasts this year.

30 March 2022
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Emerging Europe: War reinforces weak values outlook

The war in Ukraine will have spillover effects for property in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), albeit that Russia will be far worst hit. Economic growth is expected to be slower, which will weigh on property demand, while inflation and interest rates will rise faster. We still think that office and retail rents in the CEE region can return to growth this year, but the recovery is likely to be slower than previously expected. With bond yields already higher, we think that there is less scope for further falls in property yields this year and that they will rise more quickly from next year than we previously forecast. Overall, this reinforces what was already a weak outlook for property values.

Mounting headwinds to take the shine off the recovery

We expect regional GDP growth to come in below expectations this year as high inflation erodes households’ real incomes and policy becomes more restrictive. Despite this view on the growth outlook, we think that persistent capacity constraints will mean that inflation ultimately settles at a higher level than is currently appreciated. This feeds into our relatively hawkish interest rate forecasts, particularly in Russia, Poland and Czechia.

Five points on the latest virus developments in EMs

The COVID-19 situation in many EMs has improved markedly over the past month or so as new infections have fallen sharply and vaccine rollouts have gathered pace. That said, the recent surge in virus cases in Emerging Europe serves as reminder that the risk of renewed outbreaks lingers, particularly where vaccine coverage is low. Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa still look particularly vulnerable on this front.

Virus outbreaks shine spotlight on vaccine hesitancy

The surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths in Eastern Europe has prompted the re-imposition of restrictions and it looks like measures will be stepped up, weighing on recoveries in Q4. Tight restrictions may not remain in place for long across Central Europe, but vaccine hesitancy has held back rollouts in the east and the risk in low-vaccine coverage countries such as Russia, Romania, Bulgaria and Ukraine is that containment measures need to stay tight for a prolonged period to suppress outbreaks.

Renewed virus waves cast clouds over the recovery

COVID-19 outbreaks have surged across the region in the past month. Record high daily cases have been reported in Russia, Romania, Bulgaria and Latvia and infections are rising sharply elsewhere. Governments have tightened containment measures, including a four-week lockdown in Latvia and closures of hospitality services in Russia. 40-60% of people in most countries have received two vaccine doses, but rollouts have slowed and the spread of a new, highly transmissible subvariant (so-called “Delta plus”) highlights that much higher vaccine coverage is needed to supress outbreaks on a sustainable basis. Most countries are unlikely to follow Israel’s lead in rolling out booster jabs quickly and it is likely that governments will tighten restrictions further in the coming weeks. This will add to the headwinds from surging inflation and supply disruptions in industry and provides another reason to think that GDP growth will slow in Q4.

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