The Eurozone’s False Recovery

At first glance, the eurozone economy seems like it might finally be on the mend. On closer inspection, however, recent improvements turn out to be modest and probably temporary, casting further doubt on the prevailing policy agenda of fiscal consolidation and structural reform.

LONDON – At first glance, the eurozone economy seems like it might finally be on the mend. Stock markets are rallying. Consumer confidence has picked up. Lower oil prices, a cheaper euro, and quantitative easing by the European Central Bank are all expected to boost growth. ECB President Mario Draghi claims that “a sustained recovery is taking hold,” while policymakers in Berlin and Brussels latch onto signs of life in Spain and Ireland as proof that their bitter prescription of fiscal consolidation and structural reforms worked as advertised.

On closer inspection, however, it becomes clear that the improvement is modest, probably temporary, and not the result of the policies promoted by Germany. True, according to some estimates, the eurozone economy may now be growing at an annual rate of 1.6%, up from 0.9% in the year to the fourth quarter of 2014. But that is far slower than in the United States and Britain. With the eurozone economy 2% smaller than it was seven years ago, “recovery” does not feel like the right word – especially as the relief is unlikely to last.

For starters, the one-off boost from lower oil prices is already being unwound. After dropping by more than half between mid-June and mid-January, oil prices in euros have since bounced back by a third, partly owing to the euro’s sharp depreciation, which is making imports generally more expensive. The effect of that on households’ budgets and companies’ costs is hardly cause for celebration.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

Registration is quick and easy and requires only your email address. If you already have an account with us, please log in. Or subscribe now for unlimited access.

required

Log in

http://prosyn.org/944PK0L;
  1. Television sets showing a news report on Xi Jinping's speech Anthony Wallace/Getty Images

    Empowering China’s New Miracle Workers

    China’s success in the next five years will depend largely on how well the government manages the tensions underlying its complex agenda. In particular, China’s leaders will need to balance a muscular Communist Party, setting standards and protecting the public interest, with an empowered market, driving the economy into the future.

  2. United States Supreme Court Hisham Ibrahim/Getty Images

    The Sovereignty that Really Matters

    The preference of some countries to isolate themselves within their borders is anachronistic and self-defeating, but it would be a serious mistake for others, fearing contagion, to respond by imposing strict isolation. Even in states that have succumbed to reductionist discourses, much of the population has not.

  3.  The price of Euro and US dollars Daniel Leal Olivas/Getty Images

    Resurrecting Creditor Adjustment

    When the Bretton Woods Agreement was hashed out in 1944, it was agreed that countries with current-account deficits should be able to limit temporarily purchases of goods from countries running surpluses. In the ensuing 73 years, the so-called "scarce-currency clause" has been largely forgotten; but it may be time to bring it back.

  4. Leaders of the Russian Revolution in Red Square Keystone France/Getty Images

    Trump’s Republican Collaborators

    Republican leaders have a choice: they can either continue to collaborate with President Donald Trump, thereby courting disaster, or they can renounce him, finally putting their country’s democracy ahead of loyalty to their party tribe. They are hardly the first politicians to face such a decision.

  5. Angela Merkel, Theresa May and Emmanuel Macron John Thys/Getty Images

    How Money Could Unblock the Brexit Talks

    With talks on the UK's withdrawal from the EU stalled, negotiators should shift to the temporary “transition” Prime Minister Theresa May officially requested last month. Above all, the negotiators should focus immediately on the British budget contributions that will be required to make an orderly transition possible.

  6. Ksenia Sobchak Mladlen Antonov/Getty Images

    Is Vladimir Putin Losing His Grip?

    In recent decades, as President Vladimir Putin has entrenched his authority, Russia has seemed to be moving backward socially and economically. But while the Kremlin knows that it must reverse this trajectory, genuine reform would be incompatible with the kleptocratic character of Putin’s regime.

  7. Right-wing parties hold conference Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images

    Rage Against the Elites

    • With the advantage of hindsight, four recent books bring to bear diverse perspectives on the West’s current populist moment. 
    • Taken together, they help us to understand what that moment is and how it arrived, while reminding us that history is contingent, not inevitable


    Global Bookmark

    Distinguished thinkers review the world’s most important new books on politics, economics, and international affairs.

  8. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin Bill Clark/Getty Images

    Don’t Bank on Bankruptcy for Banks

    As a part of their efforts to roll back the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, congressional Republicans have approved a measure that would have courts, rather than regulators, oversee megabank bankruptcies. It is now up to the Trump administration to decide if it wants to set the stage for a repeat of the Lehman Brothers collapse in 2008.