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The resilience of the British economy in the post-referendum period has taken many by surprise. Some made rapid conclusions that ‘Brexit has had no effect on the economy'. To state this, however, is to voluntarily omit that Brexit has not yet occurred. We are still at the very beginning of the negotiation process, which started officially on 29 March. The main effects of the referendum result so far have been through foreign exchange.
The housing market saw a marked recovery in both 2016 and 2015. The number of transactions rose by 5% in pre-owned and saw a further very sustained increase of 17% in new-build. Prices are picking up once more, although modestly, rising by 1.7% over 12 months in pre-owned in Q3 2016. However, this boom is not quite comparable to a traditional cyclical rebound, and features some weaknesses. In 2017-2018, we lean towards a scenario featuring a slight rise in 10-year OAT rates and lending rates, leading to a slowly declining trend on the market.
Despite an uneven growth profile in 2016, the French economy's growth rate finally looks set to come out at 1.1%. Looking ahead, growth is forecast to accelerate modestly. External support factors will continue to have an overall positive impact, even if oil prices and interest rates are starting to edge upwards. In addition, the positive impact of several economic policy measures bear out our growth forecast, whose dynamism is nevertheless restricted by persistent structural constraints.
Highlights: Russia's Central Bank is on the horns of dilemmas. Turkey is seeing a very significant worsening of its corruption indicators. In Tunisia, the economy is ailing despite the aid, but there is some political hope. In South Africa, the budget has been revised in a toxic atmosphere. In China, the Communist Party's Plenum was held under the banner of transparency... Brazil cuts its key rate for the first time since 2012 (but only by 25bp).
Fears about 'hard Brexit' have escalated in recent days and that has pushed GBP to fresh multi-year lows. We expect the concerns to linger and lower our GBP forecasts. We expect GBP/USD to finish the year at 1.23 and EUR/GBP at 0.90. Further out, we expect a cautious recovery because we believe that 'hard Brexit' will be avoided and that the UK will able to secure an enhanced free trade agreem ent with the EU in the coming years.
The housing market has been experiencing a marked rebound since early 2015. Transaction numbers grew 15% in 2015. In mid-2016, cumulative 12-month totals were again up by about 15% and are nudging the high points of the previous, 2004-2007, cycle. Prices have started rising again, even if the trend is still modest. That said, the ongoing boom is fairly atypical, with some clearly upside factors, but also some persistent weaknesses.
We are expecting a slight improvement in economic growth in 2016, with volume GDP growth of 1.3%, compared with 1.2% in 2015 (slightly below the Eurozone average), a rate that should continue through into 2017.
At a time when world trade is flagging – for reasons that are as much structural as cyclical – and when it is no longer a growth driver, households continue to be growth's chief pillar. They consume and they invest. Following a period of deleveraging, the improving labour market, the steady – if sluggish – rise in wages, positive wealth effects and low inflation – which is driving gains in purchasing power – constitute a series of fundamentals that, so far, is proving resilient.
Although the drivers do not all have the same power, they should nevertheless allow both the US and European economies to grow at a rate of 1.6% in 2016. That rate is respectively close to and much higher than those economies' potential growth rates of 1.6-1.7% in the US and 1% in the Eurozone. That said, we cannot see any recovery in productive investment, which is clearly not at the level we could have hoped for. It is also futile to hope for a sharp increase any time soon in what (in the olden days…) used to constitute a ‘growth engine'.
The level of mortgage lending rates is likely to be the driver in the housing market. Two scenarios are possible. We prefer a scenario of a very slight increase in OAT and lending rates in late 2016 and in 2017. The windfall effect could subside, therefore. But another scenario is possible, with long-term interest rates held at the same level and very low lending rates, close to those of early 2016.
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