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Eco Focus is an aperiodic publication providing up-to-the-minute analysis of a current topic.
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.
As widely expected, the FOMC raised the Fed funds (FF) target by 25 bps to a range of 0.75% to 1.00%. The Fed's median projection for the FF rate at the end of 2017 was 1.4%, implying two additional 25 bps rate hikes this year. This is unchanged from the December projection as was the projection for yearend 2018 at 2.1%, implying 3 additional hikes next year. The longer-run fed funds rate projection remained at 3.0%.
Sometimes the ECB feels it has to run away, it has to get away from the dovish stance it drove into the heart of the Eurozone. The dovish stance seems to be close to an end. It is losing its usefulness… The constructive ambiguity widely used by the ECB at today's press conference confirms our view that the ECB is almost at the peak of its accommodative stance: from now on, it will slow the expectations on monetary policy before actually – very gradually – removing the monetary support.
Rudyard Kipling's cat is the wildest animal of the Wet Wild Woods, not because he refuses to respect the bargain negotiated – on the contrary, he respects it whatever happens – but because he respects only the bargain and refuses to submit to any other kind of pressure: man's boot-throwing or the dog's bite. He is the cat that walks by himself. Mario Draghi is ready to do "whatever it takes", "whatever the ECB must", "without any limit" to respect the bargain negotiated in the European Treaty: price stability.
Markets and institutional organisations favour a better recent dynamic in Spain, while Italy stands out as benefitting from a better status on various economic dimensions. Spain has started earlier implementing a series of post-crisis structural reforms, while Italy was standing on a better reform track in the 1990s. The latest impressive round of Italian structural reforms is too young to unveil their impact and has not been fully taken into account by observers.
The Republican's key legislative focus this year is on repealing the ACA and passing a tax reform package. That is a very ambitious agenda that is unlikely to be implemented before next year, in our view. ACA Repeal/Replace: Easier said than done. The current proposals have yet to convince a majority in Congress given concerns for millions who may lose their health insurance coverage in the years ahead and tax hikes for those with generous health care plans. The House leadership plans to move forward with its proposals nonetheless.
US economic performance is likely to warrant further gradual increases in the federal funds rate. Chair Yellen reiterated her view that "waiting too long to remove accommodation would be unwise, potentially requiring the FOMC to eventually raise rates rapidly, which could risk disrupting financial markets and pushing the economy into recession."
As widely expected, the FOMC left its monetary policy unchanged with the Fed funds rate target range maintained at 0.5% to 0.75% at its February meeting. The Fed's balance sheet reinvestment policies were also unchanged.
On 17 January, UK PM Theresa May clarified the broad objectives of her government's plan for the Brexit. The UK will leave the Single Market and the customs union. It will seek a comprehensive free trade agreement with the European Union and ambitious trade deals with third countries. May also promised a parliamentary vote on the final terms of the Brexit.
As expected the ECB maintained a dovish stance, downplaying the relatively high inflation numbers of December, and focussed the speech instead on the low and stalling core inflation rate, and on the downside risks. It restated its asymmetrical forward guidance: on rates – they can go lower but not higher over the medium term; on QE – it can be increased in size and in duration but not reduced.
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