Nadia Gharbi

Nadia Gharbi

Nadia Gharbi is economist at Pictet Wealth Management. She graduates in Université de Genève, Les Acacias, Canton of Geneva, Switzerland Do not hesitate to contact Pictet for an investment proposal. Do not hesitate to contact Pictet for an investment proposal. Please contact the Zurich Office, the Geneva Office or one of 26 other offices world-wide.

Articles by Nadia Gharbi

Steady euro area growth and rise in core inflation

Euro Area Quarterly GDP growth by Country

According to Eurostat’s preliminary figures, euro area GDP grew by 0.2% quarter on quarter in Q3, the same pace as in Q2 and in line with our expectations. Country wise, France, Italy and Spain grew at the same pace in Q3 as in Q2. In particular, household and investment spending grew at a solid pace in both France and Spain. The preliminary GDP figure for Germany will not be released until 14 November.

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Swiss National Bank – Between a rock and a hard place

Swiss Quarterly GDP Growth, 2011-2019

We expect the Swiss National Bank to stay on hold at its next policy meeting, but a lot will depend on ECB and Fed meetings.Uncertainties and global slowdown are weighing on business investment in Switzerland, while household consumption growth has been slowing. Swiss GDP rose by 0.3% q-o-q in Q2 (down from 0.4% in Q1), mainly due to spending in healthcare, housing and energy.

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Italy: Back to polls in Q4 2019?

Italy: Key Upcoming Dates, 2019

Recent developments in Italy’s political landscape have increased the probability of early elections in Q4 2019, but the situation is not so straightforward. Last week, political tensions in Italy intensified as Matteo Salvini, the League’s leader triggered a no confidence vote against Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.PM Conte will address the Senate on 20 August.

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Euro Area Real GDP Growth, 2013-2019

Slowing economic momentum in the euro area means that we are lowering our GDP forecasts for this year. The euro area economy grew by 0.2% q-o-q in Q2, down from 0.4% in Q1.While 0.2% is still a decent pace of growth, concerns about the economy in the second half of the year have increased. Recent data have shown that the industrial slump has started to leave some marks on the domestic economy.

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Semaña grande for Sánchez

Spain Generic Government 10Y Yield, 2015-2019

The interim Spanish prime minister, the socialist Pedro Sánchez, will aim to form a government this week. Outside the political noise, the Spanish economy continues to do well.April’s elections in Spain resulted in a fragmented parliament, making the formation of a government complicated.

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Euro area manufacturing is not out of the woods

Euro Area Industrial Production, MoM 2019

Industrial production rebounded in May. But a closer look shows that the improvement was narrowly spread, and euro area manufacturing faces numerous challenges ahead.After two consecutive months of contraction, euro area industrial production (IP, excluding construction) rose by 0.9% month on month (m-o-m) in May, above consensus expectations.

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A truce between Rome and Brussels

Italy Budgetary Timeline

For now, Italy has avoided Brussels’ Excessive Deficit Procedure. But tensions are set to rise again in the autumn when Italy presents its 2020 budget package.In its mid-year budget revision, the Italian government lowered its 2019 deficit target. The government pointed to better-than-expected revenues for this revision, including tax revenues that were EUR3.5bn higher than expected and an additional EUR2.7bn in other revenues (including dividends from state-owned companies).

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Swiss monetary policy – it’s (almost) all about the Swiss franc

ECB Deposit Rate and SNB Interest Rate on Sight Deposits, 2014-2019

With the ECB and the Fed both signalling their readiness to provide further stimulus, the Swiss National Bank is unlikely to have smooth sailing over the coming months.How the Swiss National Bank (SNB) reacts to further stimulus by its US and European counterparts will be the key focus of the coming months for investors. 

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How dovish can Swiss monetary policy go?

ECB's Deposit Rate and SNB's Interest Rate on Sight Deposits

The Swiss National Bank finds itself having to deal with an uncertain growth and inflation outlook as well as persistent external risks, but it is unlikely to pre-empt the ECB on interest rates.At its meeting on 13 June, the Swiss National Bank (SNB) will face an uncertain growth and inflation outlook. Economic data have been mixed and, more importantly, external risks (intensification of trade disputes, Brexit, Italian budget disagreements…) have increased.

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Why has euro inflation stayed so low?

Euro Area - HICP Inflation, 2010-2019

Weak inflation data pose a conundrum, both in terms of the growth outlook and the ECB’s policy stance. We believe the ECB will stay on hold in 2020.The euro area headline flash Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP) dropped to 1.2% year on year in May from 1.7% the previous month.  Core inflation fell by 50bp to 0.8% y-o-y.

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European elections – a more diverse but still pro-Europe parliament

Evolution In EU Turnout Elections, 1979-2019

Voter turnout for European parliament elections surged across the continent, exceeding 50% for the first time in a quarter century and breaking the downward trend of the last four decades. However, differences in turnout across the EU have been substantial and a more fragmented parliament has emerged.Voter turnout was up for the first time ever and at 51%, higher than in any election since 1994. The results delivered a parliament with a pro-European majority, broadly in line with opinion polls.

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Rising downside risks to euro area growth

Extra Euro Area Export of Goods in Volume, 2012-2019

While our forecasts remain unchanged for now, external drags on growth prospects for the euro area look set to persist for longer than we had previously expected.A potential improvement in euro area growth in H2 2019 on the back of a revival in the global economy is in jeopardy due to the intensifying trade dispute between the US and China.

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French tax cuts designed to reboot Macron’s presidency

French - Real GDP Growth, Q1 2016-Q1 2019

The French government’s respond to the ‘yellow vest’ protests could provide a meaningful boost to consumer spending, mostly next year.Following a series of townhall meetings with French citizens up and down France, President Emmanuel Macron responded to social unrest with two doses of fiscal easing.

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Swiss Policy Mix Review

Swiss Government Debt, 1990 - 2018

The Swiss federal budget is governed by a strict expenditure rule, which is enshrined in the Constitution. Since its introduction, the ratio of public debt-to-GDP has been significantly reduced, falling back to its early-90’s level. At the close of 2018, the Swiss federal budget registered a significant surplus of CHF 2.9 billion, compared with budget projections for a surplus of CHF 295 million.

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Switzerland: Lower growth, lower inflation

Swiss Quarterly GDP Growth, 2007-2018

Growth and price rises should moderate in 2019.The Swiss economy posted impressive GDP growth in 2018, although there was significant divergence between strong growth in the first half and stagnation in the second. Overall, we expect Swiss GDP to expand by 1.3% in 2019, down substantially from 2.5% in 2018. Risks to our growth outlook for Switzerland are tilted to the downside.

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Q&A on European Parliament elections

European Institutions

European Parliament elections, to be held between 23 and 26 of May, will be a key political event in Europe. However, we expect limited short-term impact, given the European Parliament’s limited ability to set Brussels’ agenda.European Parliament (EP) elections will be a key political event in Europe, a form of ‘midterm election’ in which the electorates can state their approval or disapproval of their respective national governments. 

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Germany: signs of rebound ?

German IFO Indices 2010-2019

German growth may remain subdued in H1 2019, before picking up somewhat in H2 2019 as some near-term risks dissipate.Germany’s leading indicator, the Ifo index, rose in March, driven by an increase in both sub-components: current assessment and expectations.

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German Economy Set to Recover

German Government Budget Balance, 2002 - 2018

Germany’s economy weakened significantly in the second half of 2018. External headwinds remain strong and, in an environment where monetary-policy ammunition remains limited, all eyes have shifted towards German fiscal policy, especially as the country has generated significant budget surpluses since 2011.

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Euro area : What if car tariffs lie ahead ?

Share in value added of Exports of car and car parts to the US

New US auto tariffs may impact the economy significantly more than the previous tariffs on steel and aluminium.Among the key risks for our euro area outlook, the threat of US auto tariffs is of major importance.The US Commerce Department’s investigation on national security threats posed by auto imports is due to be concluded on 17 February.

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Exports save the day for French GDP growth

French Quarterly GDP, Q1 2016 - Q1 2018

Prospects for French economic growth are looking up, but disruptions to consumption are possible.French GDP rose by 0.3% quarter-on-quarter (q-o-q) in Q4, the same pace as in Q3. The details reveal that Q4 exports surged significantly, while household consumption and investment slowed. This left growth for the year at +1.5%, following +2.3% in 2017.

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Update on euro area economic activity

Euro Area Real GDP Growth and GDP Estimate Based on PMI 2001-2019

The balance of risks to growth in the region is still tilted to the downside.The big question about the euro area economy is when the bottom of the slowdown will be reached. A rebound was already expected in Q4 2018, but at the start of this year there are still few signs of recovery. Flash composite PMI numbers for the region declined by 0.4 points to 50.7 in January, the weakest level since July 2013.

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European Central Bank likely to stick to script

Falling ECB Market Rate Hike expectations 2018-2019

The ECB is comfortable with current market expectations for rate hikes.At its latest meeting in December, the ECB turned more cautious, lowering its growth forecasts but showing no sign of panic regarding the loss in euro area economic momentum. Risks were considered as “broadly balanced”, but moving to the downside.

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Concerns about Italy have not gone away

Italian Real GDP Growth and Surveys, Q1 2012-Q1 2018

Rome and Brussels reached a compromise on the Italian government’s budget plans last month. But there are plenty of reasons for thinking this will be a challenging year for Italy.After battling for more than two months over a 2019 budget plan defiantly non-compliant with the EU fiscal rules, Rome and Brussels struck a last-minute agreement in December that avoided opening an Excessive Deficit Procedure (EDP).

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Germany is Stagnating

Germany Industrial Production and Manufacturing PMI, 2012 - 2018

Sagging industrial production and confidence figures point to weak Q4 GDP. German industrial production (including construction) fell by 1.9% month-on-month in November, extending the sector’s decline to five out the six last prints. Year on year, industrial production was down by 4.6%, the worst performance since November 2009.

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ECB: Still Broadly Confident, but Caution Increasing

ECB Staff Projections

The ECB kept its key rates unchanged (i.e. the main refinancing at 0.00%; the marginal lending facility rate at 0.25% and the deposit rate at -0.4%), in line with consensus. The ECB’s forward guidance on interest rates was kept unchanged. The ECB expects its policy rates to “remain at their present levels at least through the summer of 2019”.

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ECB Preview: an end to net asset purchases

ECB Staff Projections, September - December 2018

With the ECB’s asset purchases due to end this month and forward guidance set to remain unchanged, a focus at next week’s policy meeting will be staff forecasts for growth and inflation. At its Governing Council meeting next week, we expect the European Central Bank (ECB) to confirm that its asset purchases will cease at year’s end.

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Yellow vest protests cast cloud over Macron’s reform plans

General Government Total Receipts from Taxes and Social Contributions 1995-2018

Recent protests could have a negative impact on French growth, tax revenue and president Macron’s reform plans for his country and for Europe. French protests began on November 17 over hikes in fuel taxes, but have progressively broadened out into an expression of general anger with the French government about the cost of living and high taxes.

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Growth Contraction puts pressure on Italian Government

Italy GDP, Q1 - Q3 2018

The downward revision to 3Q GDP will make the Italian government’s targets more difficult to achieve and complicate the budget debate with Europe. The Italian statistical office’s (ISTAT) final reading showed that the economy shrank 0.1% q-o-q (-0.5% q-o-q annualised) in Q3, whereas a preliminary reading on October 30 showed that growth was flat.

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Surprise contraction in Swiss Q3 GDP

Swiss Quarterly GDP growth 2014-2018

Switzerland’s growth unexpectedly contracted in the third quarter, pushing down our GDP growth forecast for 2018. Recent softening in the euro area also casts doubts about the pace of monetary tightening by the SNB.The strong growth enjoyed by the Swiss economy since Q1 2017 came suddenly to an end in Q3 18, when real GDP shrank unexpectedly by 0.2% q-o-q (-0.9% q-o-q annualised).

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Italy and the EU: a debt-based excessive deficit procedure

Italian General Government Debt 2006-2022

European Commission deems Italy’s budget noncompliant with EU rules.This week, the European Commission issued its opinion on Italy’s budget plans. Deeming them noncompliant with the EU’s budgetary rules, it recommended that an Excessive Deficit Procedure (EDP) be opened.Of the options available to the EU, a debt-based EDP would be the most difficult for Italy to deal with, as it would last longer and require Italy to ensure its debt stock diminishes at “a satisfactory pace”.

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Italian government sticks to its 2019 deficit plan

Italian: Credit Standards to Non-Financial Corporations

The minor concessions continued in the revised plan presented to the European Commission are unlikely to dissuade Brussels from launching sanctions.In a letter to the European Commission on 13 November, the Italian government confirmed that it would aim for a budget deficit at 2.4% of GDP in 2019 and reasserted its real growth forecast of 1.5% for next year.

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Euro area’s fiscal policy to turn supportive of growth next year

Euro Area: Fiscal Stance chart

Modest fiscal easing could help counter mounting external risks and slowing growth indicators.Euro area member states have all submitted their 2019 Draft Budgetary Plans (DBP) to the European Commission (EC) by now. These show that, collectively and based on EU Commission’s autumn forecasts, the euro area’s fiscal stance1 will turn supportive in 2019, although it varies significantly from one country to the next.

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The Beginning of the End for Angela Merkel

Germany Next General Elections, Sep 2017 - Nov 2018

As a consequence of the heavy drop of support in recent regional elections, Chancellor Merkel has declared she would not run again for leadership of the CDU at the 6-8 December party convention. Merkel also said she would retire from politics at the end of the current parliament in 2021. It is questionable whether she will get that far, and well before then, the transition to a new leader amid a loss of electoral support for the main centre-right and centre-left parties in Germany could have implications for the EU as a whole.

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Rebound in inflation data brings some relief to the ECB

Euro Area HICP Inflation, 2011 - 2018

Euro area flash HICP rose from 2.1% year on year (y-o-y) in September to 2.2% in October, in line with expectations and the highest level since December 2012. Crucially, core inflation (HICP excluding energy, food, alcohol and tobacco) rebounded from 0.9% to 1.1% in October.

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Euro area’s initial growth figures for Q3 prove disappointing

US Versus Euro Area Real GDP Growth 2005-2019

While growth in France rebounded, Italy stalled in Q3. Our full-year forecast for the euro area remains unchanged but is clearly at risk.According to initial estimates, growth in the euro area slowed in Q3 to 0.2% q-o-q (quarter on quarter) from 0.4% in Q2. These latest GDP results were below consensus expectations and our own forecast.

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Credit Conditions in the Euro Area Remain Supportive of Investment Recovery

Euro Area Investment, 2005 - 2018

Investment is an important driver of the business cycle and a key determinant of potential growth. In the euro area, total investment makes up about 20% of GDP. Construction, machinery and equipment (including weapons systems), intellectual property rights and agricultural products account, respectively, for 48%, 32%, 18% and 2% of total investment.

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Gloomy Signals for Euro Area Manufacturing

Euro Area Composite PMI and GDP growth, 2003 - 2018

The euro area economy started the fourth quarter on a weak note; the flash composite PMI dipped to 52.7 in October from 54.1 in September. Both manufacturing and services showed a notable loss of momentum. A common feature in France and Germany was the weakness in manufacturing, where both countries posted similar declines.

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Bumpy Road Ahead for Italian Budget

Italy Update Chart, 2006 - 2022

Rome’s budget plans put it on a collision course with the European Commission. The Italian government has submitted its 2019 draft budget plan (DBP) to the European Commission. The proposed DBP is not in line with European Union rules and sets the government on a collision course with the European authorities.

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Devil is in the details: Italian and French deficits are not quite comparable

France Versus Italy: Government Budget Balance (% of GDP) 2009-2019

Italy’s structural weakness explain higher level of concern around its deficit target.Each EU member state is currently preparing 2019 budget plans for formal submission to the European Commission (EC) before mid- October. Among them, France and Italy’s budget plans have been raising eyebrows. Why is the EC concerned about Italy’s proposed 2.4% GDP deficit target for 2019 and not France’s target of 2.8%?

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Squaring off over the Italian budget

Italy Macro Assumptions

The Italian government’s budget plans set it on a collision course with the European Commission. The road to some kind of agreement is likely to be long and bumpy. The Italian government has confirmed its deficit target at 2.4% of GDP for 2019. This represents significant slippage from a previous budget deficit target of 0.8% in 2019.

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German September PMIs surprisingly weak

Germany Manufacturing Orders, 2012 - 2018

Recent German soft and hard data in the manufacturing sector has been surprisingly weak. Data released today showed that the final manufacturing PMI fell to 53.7 in September, from 55.9 in August. Factory orders rose by 2.0% month-on-month (m-o-m) in August, having contracted for six out of the seven previous months.

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Italy tests the EU’s tolerance

Italian public debt dynamics under three different deficit dynamics

The populist government’s plans to increase the deficit could set it on a collision course with Brussels. We remain bearish Italian bonds and euro peripheral bonds in general.Leaders of Italy’s coalition government and the finance minister yesterday agreed on a 2.4% GDP deficit target. The new target is higher than our expectation of a deficit “above but close to 2.0%” in 2019.

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A bit too early to be worried about French consumers

France: consumer confidence index and households consumption expenditure

Despite the recent fall in French consumer confidence, spending should pick up in the second half of the year. The French economy disappointed in the first half of this year. While there was a widespread ‘soft patch’ in the euro area, the source and size of the slowdown in France stands out. The real GDP growth rate fell by 0.5 points, much more than the rest of the euro area. Moreover, while the slowdown in the other countries was mainly due to net trade, in France weakening in household’s expenditure also contributed.

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Credit Growth Remains Buoyant in the Euro Area

Euro Area Bank Loans to Non-Financial Corporations, 2010 - 2018

Financial conditions remain supportive and are not expected to tighten much in the coming months. Lending to non-financial corporations in the euro grew by an annual 4.2% in August, its fastest rate since April 2009. Forward-looking indicators suggest that euro area credit growth should remain strong over the coming months.

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Business Indicators Present a Contrasting Picture of the Euro Area

Eurozone Composite PMI and Euro Area Real GDP, 2000 - 2018

Euro area flash composite PMI dipped slightly to in September and came in slightly below consensus expectations. Activity in services picked up and weakened further in manufacturing, which continued its decline since the start of the year, falling to 53.3 in September from 54.6 in August. New export orders failed to grow for the first time since June 2013.

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Cut to Swiss inflation forecast

Swiss Monetary Policy, 2005 - 2018

The Swiss National Bank has revised down its medium-term forecast for consumer inflation. We still expect a first SNB rate hike in September 2019. At the end of its quarterly monetary assessment meeting, the Swiss National Bank (SNB) left its main policy rates unchanged.

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Italian material deprivation rates still the worst among large euro area economies

Latest poverty figures provide government with an argument for fiscal stumulus.Severe material deprivation rates gauge the proportion of people whose living conditions are severely affected by a lack of resources. According to Eurostat, “it represents the proportion of people living in households that cannot afford at least four of the following nine items: mortgage or rent payments, utility bills, hire purchase instalments or other loan payments; one week’s holiday away from home; a meal with chicken, fish or vegetarian equivalent every second day;

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European labour market remains in rude health

Euro area: Job creation by country between Q2 2013 - Q2 2018

But there is room for further improvement.This week euro area employment data confirmed that labour market recovery remains on track. Employment grew at 0.4% q-o-q in Q2 2018, marking the 20th consecutive quarter of expansion. Employment is now 2.4% above its pre-crisis (2008) level. Since Q2 2013, 9.2 million jobs have been created in the euro area.

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Switzerland Q2 growth numbers are impressive, but details are mixed

Swiss quarterly GDP growth with adjustment for sport events 2014-2018

Manufacturing and sports events served as boosts to growth, while domestic consumption was a letdown.The latest Swiss GDP figures were impressive. According to the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs’ quarterly estimates, Swiss real GDP grew by 0.7% q-o-q in Q2, slightly above our 0.6% projection and consensus. Average growth in the first half of 2018 was therefore the strongest since 2010.

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Italian 2019 draft budget: a bumpy road ahead

Italian Fiscal Timeline

Tensions between Rome and Brussels could lead to significant market volatility before an agreement is found. September will be a key month for gauging the Italian government’s budgetary plans for 2019. The government has communicated neither a precise timeline for implementing the measures announced in its ‘contract for government’ nor a precise cost analysis for these measures.

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Revising our euro area 2018 GDP growth forecast down

Euro area real GDP growth and EC economic sentiment index, 2005 - 2018

The cut to our growth forecast reflects slippage in euro area data.According to Eurostat’s preliminary flash estimate, euro area real GDP expanded by 0.3% q-o-q in Q2 2018, below consensus expectations. This was the weakest growth in two years and is down slightly from GDP growth of 0.4% q-o-q in Q1.Following today’s GDP growth data and recent economic indicators, we have revised down our GDP growth forecast for 2018.

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French Q2 GDP growth marks time

France GDP Q2 2018

A number of one-off factors hurt growth dynamics, but there are many reasons to think that expansion will pick up in the rest of this year. France is the first country in the euro area to publish Q2 GDP figures. The economy expanded by 0.2% q-o-q in Q2, the same pace as the previous quarter and below consensus expectations of 0.3%.

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Ceasefire in US/EU tariff dispute

EU and US: average trade tariff rate 1990-2018

The two sides have agreed to discuss lowering barriers to transatlantic trade, helping to de-escalate tensions. While positive, the US’s dispute with China still needs watching.US President Trump and EU Commission President Juncker this week struck an unexpected deal to de-escalate the trade dispute between the EU and the US.

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Message from the ECB: Enjoy summer!

Today’s Governing Council meeting did little to break the seasonal torpor. We continue to expect its first rate hike to come in September 2019. There was no change in interest rates or forward guidance at today’s ECB Governing Council meeting.

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Euro Area Lending Dynamics in Good Shape

Euro Area M3 and Annual Growth in Loan to Private Sector

The ECB’s M3 and credit report for June just published confirms that lending dynamics continue to be in a good shape in the euro area, boding well for private investment. Bank credit flows to non-financial corporations (adjusted for seasonal effects and securitisations) amounted to €10bn in June, down from €25bn in May.

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Euro area PMIs on the soft side

Euro Area GDP Growth and Composite PMI, 2005 - 2018

Markit’s euro area flash PMI surveys for July came in on the soft side. The composite PMI for the euro area fell to 54.3 in July from 54.9 in June, below consensus expectations. At the sector level, the manufacturing PMI index rose marginally, putting a halt to six consecutive months of decline.

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Europe chart of the week – UK GDP growth

UK monthly GDP Jun 2016-Jun 2018

Short-term rebound in the UK, driven by services.The Office for National Statistics (ONS) published this week a new rolling monthly estimate of UK GDP. The release pointed to a rebound of growth in Q2 (quarterly data will be published on August 8). According to the ONS, the rolling three-month growth to end-May was 0.2%, compared to 0% in the three months to end-April (see chart below).Looking at the details, the services sector (79% of the economy) grew by 0.3% in the three months to end-May and was the only positive contributor to GDP growth.

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Euro area: a slight rebound

Eurozone Markit PMI, 2010 - 2018

The final reading for the euro area composite Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) rose from 54.1 in May to 54.9 in June, slightly higher than the initial estimate of 54.8. However, the manufacturing PMI fell further, to an 18-month low of 54.9, due to weakness in France and Germany.

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Buying more time

Swiss Headline Inflation and SNB Inflation Forecasts, 2000 - 2018

At its quarterly monetary policy assessment last week, the Swiss National Bank (SNB) kept unchanged the target range for the three-month Libor at between -1.25% and -0.25% and the interest rate on sight deposits at a record low of -0.75%. The SNB reiterated its willingness to intervene in the foreign exchange market if needed.

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European cars at a crossroad

European Union: New car registrations 2010-2018

Falling momentum in new car sales, together with the threat of US tariffs is adding to the uncertainty facing the European car industry.Last weekend’s G7 summit in Canada ended badly, with President Trump withdrawing his support for the summit’s final statement. Heightening tensions between Europe and the US are Trump’s hints that the White House is considering import tariffs on cars and car parts.

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Europe chart of the week – Spanish growth

Spain GDP and EC Economic Sentiment Index, 2006 - 2018

This week saw the final release of Spanish GDP growth for Q1. The economy again managed to post robust growth, the highest among the four largest euro area economies (+0.7% q-o-q versus 0.4% q-o-q for the euro area). The breakdown of figures showed that domestic demand was once again the main growth driver.

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Spain Snap Elections in Sight

Spain Politics in General Election

Political instability in Spain has added to turmoil in other peripheral countries. The situation is not comparable with the one that Italy is experiencing at the moment, but since it comes at the same time it is increasing market volatility. Last Friday, Spain’s main oppositionparty, the Socialist party (PSOE) filed a no confidence vote against Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. The debate will start on May 31 with a vote probably on June 1.

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Italy heads towards new elections

Italian polls on voting intentions in the next general election

Fragmented politics and the risk of a financial crisis continue to hang over the country.This weekend, the Five Star Movement and the League decided to pull the plug on their attempt to form a coalition government after the President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella vetoed the appointment of anti-euro professor Paolo Savona as minister of finance. Mattarella has granted ex-International Monetary Fund official, Carlo Cottarelli, a mandate to form a caretaker government.

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Spaniards back in the mood to borrow

Before the financial crisis, the real estate bubble and the parallel growth in borrowing meant that the indebtedness of Spanish households spiralled ever higher, reaching a peak of 84.7% of GDP in Q2 2010. Since then, Spanish’s households have tightened their belt, with indebtedness falling to 61.3% of GDP in Q4 2017.

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Switzerland: ‘Sovereign money’ initiative

The ‘Sovereign money’ initiative, to be voted on in June, aims at a fundamental reform of the Swiss monetary system. In a nutshell, the initiative asks that the creation of money and the granting of loans be separated by barring commercial banks from creating deposits through lending. According to the initiative’s promoters the “Swiss National Bank (SNB) should be the sole organisation authorised to create money – not only cash and coins, but also the electronic money in our bank accounts”.

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Euro area growth: somewhere between hard and soft data

Euro Area Real GDP Growth, 2010 - 2018

According to Eurostat’s preliminary flash estimate, euro area real GDP expanded by 0.4% q-o-q in Q1 2018 (1.7% q-o-q annualised, 2.5% y-o-y), in line with consensus expectations (0.4%) and down from an upwardly revised figure of 0.7% q-o-q for Q4 2017. The implications of the growth slowdown on ECB staff projections should remain limited, in our view.

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Switzerland, still on the monitoring list

The U.S. Department of Treasury has just published its semi-annual report on International Economic and Exchange Rate Policies. It comes at a time when the US Administration remains deeply concerned by the significant trade imbalances in the global economy. The report only focuses on the US’s 12 largest trading partners, which collectively account for more than 70% of the US’s trade in goods.

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Hard data proves soft in the euro area

Signs of a certain loss of momentum may well fuel additional ECB dovishness in the near term, but is unlikely to compromise upcoming policy normalisation.Euro area industrial production (excluding construction) was weak in February (-0.8% m-o-m) and follows the recent release of other disappointing pieces of hard data such as retail sales, German factory orders and trade. Based on available ‘hard’ data, real GDP growth rate in the euro area is projected to be 0.1-0.2% q-o-q in Q1 2018, a sharp slowdown from 0.6% q-o-q in Q4 2017.

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Europe has a lot to lose from trade wars

Any estimate of the economic costs of protectionist measures, let alone trade wars, is subject to uncertainty given the complexity of global supply chains. A common assumption is that new tariffs on exports will produce small direct effects on GDP growth but more significant indirect effects in the event of escalating trade conflicts, including on domestic investment.

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Disentangling the Swiss current account

Following the Swiss National Bank’s (SNB) publication of Switzerland’s balance of payments data for Q4 2017, in this note we look deeper into the Swiss current account to try to find out why Switzerland persistently runs a surplus and whether or not the current account balance can be used to assess the fair value of the Swiss franc.

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Europe chart of the week – Employment

Euro area employment grew for the 18th consecutive quarter in Q4 2017 (+0.3% q-o-q), and is now 1.5% above its pre-crisis (2008) level. By contrast, hours worked per person employed decreased during the same period, remaining 4% below their pre-crisis level. The two data series have followed divergent trends since the start of the economic recovery. Between Q1 2008 and Q2 2013, the total amount of labour input used by firms decreased massively.

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Too early for Switzerland’s central bank to change policy…

Switzerland: headline inflation and SNB inflation forecasts

At its latest quarterly monetary policy assessment unveiled today, the Swiss National Bank (SNB) maintained its accommodative monetary policy. The target range for the 3-month Libor was kept between -1.25% and -0.25%, the interest rate on sight deposits with the SNB was maintained at a record low of -0.75%, and the central bank reiterated its willingness to intervene in the foreign exchange market if needed.

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Europe chart of the week – SNB FX intervention

SNB FX Intervention, Feb 2015 - Feb 2018

In the wake of the financial crisis, the Swiss National Bank (SNB) increased massively the monetary base to provide liquidity and limit the Swiss franc’s appreciation. The expansion in the monetary base can essentially be seen in the form of an increase in sight deposits held by domestic Swiss banks at the SNB.

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SNB confirms record profit for 2017

The Swiss National Bank (SNB) published its 2017 annual result today. The SNB confirmed a profit of CHF54.4bn in 2017. This was more than double the 2016 figure (CHF24.5bn) and its biggest profit ever. Earnings from the SNB’s foreign currency positions amounted to CHF49.7bn, its gold holdings increased in value by CHF3.1bn and its Swiss positions by CHF2bn (see Chart below).

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Switzerland: So far so good

According to the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO)’s quarterly estimates, Swiss real GDP rose by 0.6% q-o-q in Q4 (2.4% q-o-q annualised; 1.9% y-o-y), above consensus expectations (0.5%). The Swiss economy expanded by 1.0% in 2017 overall, in line with our own forecast. This comes after GDP growth of 1.4% in 2016 and 1.2% in 2015.

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Who will tackle Italy’s root problems?

Average Monthly Voting Intentions, Jan 2016 - Jan 2018

The Italian general election campaign is in its final stretch before voting on 4 March. The election will take place under the new electoral law (Rosatellum bis), which allocates 37% of parliamentary seats via the principle of “first-past-the-post” and 61% via proportional representation, with the remaining 2% reserved for overseas constituencies (see our previous Flash Note for further details).

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Europe chart of the week – Business surveys

There was a broad-based setback in euro area business surveys in February, whether in terms of country or of sector. The Flash composite PMI slipped to 57.5 in February from 58.8 in January. The month-to-month dip was the biggest since 2014. National business surveys painted a similar picture.

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Euro area: Flash PMI surveys pass their peak

The IHS Markit flash composite purchasing managers’ index (PMI) for the euro area eased to 57.5 in February from 58.8 in January, below consensus expectations (58.4). The index marked its the largest monthly decrease since August 2014. Activity in both services PMI (-1.3 points to 56.7) and manufacturing (-1.1 points to 58.5) cooled in February. But while the breakdown by sub-indices showed that the pace of growth in new orders and output slowed (see Table), it remains close to record highs, and consistent with solid growth.

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Europe chart of the week – Italian productivity

With less than 30 days to go, the Italian general election remains highly unpredictable. The new electoral system and the fact that 37% of seats are to be allocated on a ‘first-past-the-post’ system make projecting seats from voting intentions particularly hard. Importantly, Italy is going into this election with an economy that is performing relatively strongly relative to recent history. However, cyclical strength is masking structural weaknesses.

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Switzerland: inflation edged lower in January

According to the Swiss Federal Statistical Office (FSO), the headline consumer price index (CPI) inflation eased to 0.7% y-o-y in January from 0.8% y-o-y in December, in line with consensus and our own expectations. Core inflation (CPI excluding food, beverages, tobacco, seasonal products, energy and fuels) also eased, from 0.7 % y-o-y in December to 0.5% y-o-y in January (see Chart 1), back to the level of October 2017.

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When will the SNB start the process of policy normalisation?

When the Swiss National Bank (SNB) scrapped its currency floor three years ago, its monetary policy strategy was clear: to fight Swiss franc appreciation. It did so verbally, by calling the currency “significantly overvalued”, and physically, by implementing a negative interest rate and intervening in the foreign exchange market as necessary. Three years on, the interest rate on sight deposits at the SNB remains unchanged at a record low of – 0.75%.

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Euro area: Business activity expanding at its fastest pace in nearly 12 years

Eurozone Composite PMI and GDP Growth, 2000 - 2018

The flash composite Purchasing Managers’ index for the euro area increased to 58.6 in January from 58.1 in December, above consensus expectations (57.9). The services sector index rose, offsetting the decline in the manufacturing index . Companies also expressed growing optimism about this year’s outlook, with business expectations up to an eight-month high.

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Switzerland: Inflation at a seven-year high

Swiss Headline and Core Inflation, 2005 - 2018

According to the Swiss Federal Statistical Office (FSO), consumer prices in Switzerland remained broadly stable at 0.8% y-o-y in December, in line with consensus expectations, meaning that Swiss inflation stayed at its highest rate in almost seven years at the end of 2017.

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Chinese demand leads the Swiss watch industry’s recovery

Switzerland Exports, 2005 - 2017

The most important driver of the Swiss watch industry’s recovery has been the revival of the mainland China market. After years of impressive growth, the Swiss watch industry faced difficult conditions in 2015 and 2016, when exports declined by 3.2% and 9.9% respectively in value terms.

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Increasingly optimistic on Swiss outlook

At its December meeting, the Swiss National Bank (SNB) left its accommodative monetary policy unchanged. More specifically, the SNB maintained the target range for the three-month Libor at between – 1.25% and-0.25% and the interest rate on sight deposits at a record low of – 0.75%. The SNB also reiterated its commitment to intervene in the foreign exchange market if needed, taking into account the “overall currency situation”.

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Euro area: The sky is the limit

Momentum in the euro area picked up further at the end of the year. The flash composite purchasing managers’ index (PMI) increased to 58.0 in December, from 57.5 in November, above consensus expectations (57.2). The improvement was once again broad-based across sectors.

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The Swiss economy is gaining momentum

Swiss Real GDP Growth, 1990 - 2018

Swiss growth was disappointing at the end of 2016 and in the first half of 2017. Consequently, GDP growth this year is likely to be just 1.0% , its lowest level since 2012 . However, a wide set of statistics are already painting a considerably more positive picture of strengthening growth as we approach the end of 2017. Of particular note is the increasing contribution of manufacturing to real GDP growth.

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Euro Area Forecast to Grow 2.3percent in 2018

Euro Area Real GDP Growth

2017 was the year of the ‘Euroboom’ and the removal of political tail risks. Moving into 2018, we mark-to-market strong economic data, including carryover and revisions. We forecast annual GDP growth of 2.3% both in 2017 and 2018. Qualitatively, our forecasts reflect our view that the euro area has reached ‘escape velocity’, with important implications for investors.

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Strong Swiss growth lessens chance SNB will act

Swiss real GDP growth data surprised on the upside in Q2, expanding by 0.6% q-o-q (and 2.5% q-o-q annualised). In addition, growth in the three previous quarters was revised significantly higher. As a result, our GDP growth forecast for growth in Switzerland rises mechanically from 0.9% to 1.5% for 2016.

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