EZ inflation has been falling steadily since early 2013, turning negative in late 2014. This column surveys a host of recent research from Banca d’Italia that examined the drivers of this fall, its macroeconomic effects, and ECB responses. Aggregate demand and oil prices played key roles in the drop, which has consistently ‘surprised’ market-based expectations. Towards the end of 2014 the risk of the ECB de-anchoring inflation expectations from the definition of price stability became material.
Stefano Neri, Stefano Siviero, 15 August 2015
Ashoka Mody, Guntram Wolff, 13 August 2015
The ECB believes that most Eurozone banks are out of the woods in terms of non-performing assets and capital shortfalls. This column argues that small and medium-sized banks – and among them the unlisted banks – remain under considerable stress. These banks are in the worst affected Eurozone countries, and their continued stress significantly impedes the flow of credit and also reduces lending. Policymakers need to seriously consider how and when to restructure and resolve these banks.
Reuven Glick, Andrew Rose, 15 June 2015
The Economic and Monetary Union in Europe has recently been the source of a lot of pain. Its economic benefits often seem a lot harder to measure. This column reconsiders earlier opinions on the trade effects of currency unions using the latest data and methodologies. It suggests the euro has at least a mildly stimulating effect on exports. However, the switches and reversals across methodologies do not make allowances for any bold statements.
Urszula Szczerbowicz, Natacha Valla, 09 April 2015
Sovereign bonds are the latest and biggest quantitative easing (QE) policy conducted by the Eurozone. This column argues that instead of sovereign bonds, the Eurozone should focus on assets that are the closest to job-creating, growth-enhancing, and innovation-promoting activities. In particular, instruments issued by agencies and European institutions should be given a prominent role. But they should also be selected to promote the financing of long-term growth and jobs, not of unsustainable government expenditure.
Eric Bartelsman, Filippo di Mauro, Ettore Dorrucci, 17 March 2015
The shallow growth response to Eurozone rebalancing policies could point towards structural impediments. To uncover such impediments and design effective structural reforms, it is necessary to focus on the path from micro behaviour to macro outcomes. This column argues that firm-level data from the CompNet database can shed light on the impacts of structural reforms.
David Amiel, Paul-Adrien Hyppolite, 15 March 2015
As the Eurozone crisis lingers on, euro exit is now being debated in ‘core’ as well as ‘periphery’ countries. This column examines the potential costs of euro exit, using France as an example. The authors estimate that 30% of private marketable debt would be redenominated, but since only 36% of revenues would be redenominated, the aggregate currency mismatch is relatively modest. However, the immediate financial cost of exiting the euro would nevertheless be substantial if public authorities were to bail out systemic and highly exposed companies.
Giuseppe Bertola, Anna Lo Prete, 28 February 2015
The large international imbalances accumulated in the Eurozone have proven difficult to unwind during the recent Crisis. This column argues that market reforms had a role in generating current account imbalances, and that patterns of relative labour market regulation could be equally important in the aftermath of the Crisis.
Marco Buti, Nicolas Carnot, 24 February 2015
In an uncertain world, fiscal policy must be robust to a range of models. This column introduces a rule of thumb governing fiscal expansion that is consistent for a group of countries, and for each country individually. Applying this rule to the Eurozone recommends overall fiscal neutrality, with moderate consolidation in France and Spain, lower consolidation in Italy, and moderate stimulus in Germany. This policy is optimal for Germany even without taking into account positive spillovers to other members.
Sebastian Gechert, Andrew Hughes Hallett, Ansgar Rannenberg, 26 February 2015
The literature on fiscal multipliers has expanded greatly since the outbreak of the Global Crisis. This column reports on a meta-regression analysis of ﬁscal multipliers collected from a broad set of empirical reduced form models. Multiplier estimates are signiﬁcantly higher during economic downturns. Spending multipliers exceed tax multipliers, especially during recessions. The authors estimate that the Eurozone’s fiscal consolidation – most significantly transfer cuts – reduced GDP by 4.3% relative to the no-consolidation baseline in 2011, increasing to 7.7% in 2013.
Sebastian Gechert, Andrew Hughes Hallett, Ansgar Rannenberg, 25 February 2015
The literature on fiscal multipliers has expanded greatly since the outbreak of the Global Crisis. CEPR Policy Insight 79 reports on a meta-regression analysis of ﬁscal multipliers collected from a broad set of empirical reduced form models. Multiplier estimates are signiﬁcantly higher during economic downturns. Spending multipliers exceed tax multipliers, especially during recessions. The authors estimate that the Eurozone’s fiscal consolidation – most significantly transfer cuts – reduced GDP by 4.3% relative to the no-consolidation baseline in 2011, increasing to 7.7% in 2013.
Lars Feld, Christoph Schmidt, Isabel Schnabel, Benjamin Weigert, Volker Wieland, 20 February 2015
Claims that ‘austerity has failed’ are popular, especially in the Anglo-Saxon world. This column argues that this narrative is factually wrong and ignores the reasons underlying the Greek crisis. The worst move for Greece would be to return to its old ways. Greece needs to realise that things could actually become much worse than they are now, particularly if membership in the Eurozone cannot be assured. Instead of looking back, Greece needs to continue building a functioning state and a functioning market economy.
Plamen Iossifov, Jiří Podpiera, 16 February 2015
The ongoing, synchronised disinflation across Europe raises the question of whether non-Eurozone EU countries are affected by the undershooting of the Eurozone inflation target, by other global factors, or by synchronised domestic, real sector developments. This column argues that falling world food and energy prices have been the main disinflationary driver. However, countries with more rigid exchange-rate regimes and/or higher shares of foreign value added in domestic demand have also been affected by disinflationary spillovers from the Eurozone.
Thomas Philippon, 10 February 2015
Greece has a problem with debt that must be addressed on way or the other. This column proposes a way to estimate a ‘fair’ level of fiscal consolidation in Greece. The author’s central argument is that contagion risk made the Greek crisis worse by preventing early debt restructuring. If restructuring took place in 2010 instead of 2012, Greece’s debt to GDP ratio would have been 30 percentage points lower today. To bring Greece’s debt under 120% of GDP, it would be fair for Greece to run a 3% primary surplus over the next decade or two. This is less than the current target of 4.5% but still requires a significant effort.
Julio Escolano, Laura Jaramillo, Carlos Mulas-Granados, Gilbert Terrier, 27 February 2015
Fiscal consolidation is back at the top of the policy agenda. This column provides historical context by examining 91 episodes of fiscal consolidation in advanced and developing economies between 1945 and 2012. By focusing on cases in which the adjustment was necessary and desired in order to stabilise the debt-to-GDP ratio, the authors find larger average fiscal adjustments than previous studies. Most consolidation episodes resulted in stabilisation of the debt-to-GDP ratio, but at a new, higher level.
Paolo Manasse, 27 January 2015
This column discusses and evaluates the new guidelines issued by the European Commission regarding the Stability and Growth Pact. These do not change the existing rules, but work to improve transparency, encourage fiscal discipline, and underline that fiscal adjustments should vary based on the circumstances a country finds itself to be in. But by operating within to the existing rules, the new guidelines conform to austerity bias and complexity of implementation.
Francesco Giavazzi, Guido Tabellini, 17 January 2015
The ECB may soon launch QE. Two of Europe’s leading macroeconomists argue that QE is the ECB’s last anti-deflation tool – it must not be sacrificed to political expediency. The risk-sharing debate is secondary to the programme’s size and duration – one example would be €60 billion per month for one year, or until inflation expectations rose to near 2%. The ECB should also explain that no matter how well the monetary part of the programme is designed, an accompanying fiscal expansion is critical to QE’s effectiveness.
Marco Buti, 22 December 2014
Weak investment is a key macroeconomic problem in the Eurozone, and the new European Commission has proposed an ‘Investment Plan’ to complement existing policy initiatives. In this column, the Commission’s Chief Economist explains the key rationale behind the Investment Plan.
Vincent Bouvatier, Anne-Laure Delatte, 14 December 2014
Eurozone financial integration is reversing, with 2013 cross-border capital flows at 40% of their 2007 level. This column discusses research showing that banking integration has in fact strengthened in the rest of the world.
Jean-Pierre Landau, 02 December 2014
Eurozone inflation has been persistently declining for almost a year, and constantly undershooting forecasts. Building on existing research, this column explores the conjecture that low inflation in the Eurozone results from an excess demand for safe assets. If true, this conjecture would have definite policy implications. Getting out of such a ‘safety trap’ would necessitate fiscal or non-conventional monetary policies tailored to temporarily take risk away from private balance sheets.
Paolo Manasse, 01 December 2014
Today’s Eurozone fiscal discipline is the amalgamation of reforms implemented over ten years, with the latest and largest changes agreed in crisis settings. This column argues that the result fosters neither growth nor stability since actual fiscal policy has been powerfully procyclical. The focus on intermediate targets has distracted attention from the final objectives – debt sustainability and economic convergence. A drastic simplification of the current rules is proposed.