Bank of France Trims Growth Forecasts as Protests Drag
Comment of the Day

December 13 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Bank of France Trims Growth Forecasts as Protests Drag

This article by William Horobin for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Still, the central bank said 1.5 percent growth was a level that would help the country close a gap with euro-area peers. It expects consumers to drive growth next year thanks to a rise in spending power, supported by tax cuts.

“French growth should remain above its average of recent years: That is still a rather favorable economic situation,” Villeroy said.

The central bank’s forecasts do not take into account Macron’s planned tax cuts. But it said the measures could also support consumer spending next year.

In the Les Echos interview, Villeroy also commented on the European Central Bank’s decision to end its net asset purchases. He said a “gradual normalization” of policy is justified by euro-area figures, but the central bank remains flexible in uncertain times and has powerful instruments available.

Eoin Treacy's view

Countries on the periphery of the EU got the message loud and clear that the EU has one set of rules for large countries and quite another for small countries when depositors were bailed-in during Cyprus’s troubles but were rescued when Banca di Monte Paschi di Siena was going under.

Italian consumers would have been forgiven for thinking Italy was benefitting from its status as a large economy. However, the rescue of BMPS was probably more to do with Mario Draghi’s erstwhile association with the bank than any particular Italian favouritism. Now that Italy’s proposed deficits are being challenged by the European Commission, while not a word has been uttered to condemn France’s recent budget busting, Italy probably feels more like the periphery than the core of the EU.

Getting agreement within the EU for anything is like herding cats so it is going to take time for fiscal stimulus to become truly fashionable, but the trend is clear. The ECB has now ended its quantitative easing program and that removes a major source of stimulus for the region’s economy. Something is going to need to pick up the slack.

When the Federal Reserve ended its QE program, the ECB picked up the baton and ran with an infusion of €2.6 trillion. That is now over and there is no central bank that appears ready to print in a big way. That throws responsibility for liquidity provision to governments. The USA, UK, France, Italy and India are all now in the fiscal stimulus club. It is only a matter of time before we see more budget busting measures from other countries as the loss of liquidity takes a toll on growth. We are seeing in real time the transition from synchronised monetary stimulus to synchronised fiscal stimulus. The big question is whether it will happen fast enough to arrest the pressure coming to bear on asset prices.

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