The news continues to move in a bearish direction. Although the UK and Australia are in decent economic shape, neither country is setting growth records. And on the bearish side, Mario Draghi stated the EU recovery is weak and may need additional stimulus while Japan entered a technical recession for the second time in two years. And all this is occurring at time when the global growth juggernaut of China is slowing. Overall, the scales appear to be more and more tipped in a bearish direction.  

Mario Draghi’s speech was the most important news from the EU this week.He noted three risks to the EU region:

First, the downside risks to our baseline scenario for the euro area economy have increased in recent months due to the deterioration of the external environment. The outlook for global demand, especially in emerging markets, has notably worsened, while uncertainty in financial markets has increased. Global growth this year will be the weakest since 2009.

Second, even factoring in those headwinds, the strength of the underlying recovery is modest. Taking the Purchasing Managers’ Index, the present upswing which started in 2013 is the weakest euro area rebound since 1998. That is striking considering that we are in the early phase of a recovery, where one would expect to see a much more vigorous pickup. Deferred spending typically comes back on stream in a bulky way, aided by more favorable financing conditions.

It is also striking considering the important tailwinds helping the economy along – not just our monetary stimulus, but lower prices for energy. None of those previous rebounds since 1998 could benefit from cheapening energy: in fact, oil prices have been a constant headwind blowing against previous recoveries. Moreover, in none of those previous upswings was monetary policy, measured by real EONIA rates, as supportive as it is now.

Third, the recovery remains very protracted in historical perspective. It took between five and eight quarters for the countries now making up the euro area to recover their pre-recession level of real output after the slumps of the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s. During the recent recession – which was admittedly the worst since the 1930’s – it took the US economy 14 quarters to reach its pre-crisis peak. If our current assessment is correct, it will take the euro area 31 quarters to return to its pre-crisis level of output – that is, in 2016 Q1.

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