Europe's economy enters 2018 in robust health
Commission issues more optimistic forecast, good opportunity for reforms
9 February, 2018
Photo © European Commission
Pierre Moscovici presents the Winter 2018 Economic Forecast, Brussels, 7 February.
The European Commission raised its growth projections for the euro area in the Winter Economic Forecast, announced last Wednesday. Growth rates for the euro area and the EU beat expectations last year, as the transition from economic recovery to expansion continues, the Commission reports. The euro area and EU economies are both estimated to have grown by 2.4% in 2017, the fastest pace in a decade. This robust performance is set to continue in 2018 and 2019 with growth of 2.3% and 2.0% respectively in both the euro area and EU.
“Europe's economy has entered 2018 in robust health. The euro area is enjoying growth rates not seen since before the financial crisis, Pierre Moscovici, Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, says. He notes that unemployment and deficits continue to fall and investment is at last rising in a meaningful way. Economic growth is also more balanced than it was a decade ago - and provided we pursue smart structural reforms and responsible fiscal policies - it can also be more durable. This window of opportunity to reform will not remain open forever: the moment to take the necessary ambitious decisions to strengthen the Economic and Monetary Union is now,” Moscovici recommends.
The 2.4% GDP growth now estimated for 2017 is above November's Autumn Economic Forecast projections of 2.2% for the euro area and 2.3% for the EU. The growth forecasts for 2018 and 2019 have also been raised since November for both the euro area and EU economies: from 2.1% to 2.3% for this year and from 1.9% to 2.0% for 2019. This is a result of both stronger cyclical momentum in Europe, where labour markets continue to improve and economic sentiment is particularly high, and a stronger than expected pick-up in global economic activity and trade, the Commission says.
Strong demand, high capacity utilisation and supportive financing conditions are set to favour investment over the forecast horizon.
Core inflation, which excludes volatile energy and unprocessed food prices, is expected to stay subdued, as labour market slack recedes only slowly, and wage pressures remain contained. Headline inflation will continue to reflect the significant influence of energy prices and is forecast to rise modestly. Inflation in the euro area reached 1.5% in 2017. It is forecast to remain at 1.5% in 2018 and to increase to 1.6% in 2019.
According to Commission's experts, risks to this growth forecast remain broadly balanced. Economic growth could exceed expectations in the short term as indicated by the high level of sentiment. In the medium term, high global asset prices could be vulnerable to a re-assessment of risks and fundamentals. Downside risks related to the uncertain outcome of the Brexit negotiations remain, as do those associated with geopolitical tensions and a shift towards more inward looking and protectionist policies.
Given the ongoing negotiations on the terms of the UK withdrawal from the EU, the Commission says its projections for 2019 are based on a purely technical assumption of status quo in terms of trading relations between the EU27 and the UK.