How economic integration fuels macroeconomic imbalances

Sophie Piton

From the introduction of the Euro up to the 2008 global financial crisis, macroeconomic imbalances widened among Member States. These imbalances took the form of strong differences in the dynamics of unit labour costs, which increased much faster in ‘peripheral’ economies than in ‘core’ countries. At first, these imbalances were interpreted as reflecting a catch-up and convergence process within the Euro Area – and were supposed to fall as countries converged. But, more recently economists and policymakers have challenged this view, suggesting that imbalances reflected a broader competitiveness problem in the ‘periphery’ compared to the ‘core’ countries. This post, based on a recent Staff Working Paper, revisits the effect of economic integration on macroeconomic imbalances.

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Is economic uncertainty holding back growth in the euro-area?

Lucia Quaglietti.

This blog discusses the impact of economic uncertainty on euro-area activity. To do that, we built on the methodology developed for the UK by Haddow et al. (2013). Our analysis suggests that elevated economic uncertainty has been an important driver of euro-area GDP during the financial and sovereign crisis, detracting (on average) around 0.5 pp from annual euro-area growth in the period between 2008Q3 and 2011Q3.  As the shock unwound, GDP was boosted during the subsequent recovery. This analysis suggests that any further increase in uncertainty could have a materially negative impact on euro-area activity. Therefore, it needs to be carefully monitored by policy makers, particularly in the context of the upcoming political elections in a number of countries.

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The declining sensitivity of asset prices to events in Greece

Menno Middeldorp.

The risk of Greece exiting the euro area (Grexit) has unsettled financial markets regularly over recent years. A New Year poll suggested that most Greeks feel that 2016 will see the threat of Grexit return. However, even if the probability of Grexit rises again, that does not necessarily mean that financial markets will respond with similar volatility. Indeed, this post shows that, based on the sensitivity of international asset prices to those in Greece itself, each successive episode of Greek stress has in turn caused less stress abroad.

To measure the sensitivity of global financial markets to Grexit risk I regress euro area, UK and US asset prices on a composite of Greek asset prices. I do this for three different episodes when Greek financial markets exhibited signs of stress and there was also a high volume of news articles on Bloomberg that referred to Grexit risk. For most euro area, UK and US asset prices, their sensitivity to Greek stress declined in each successive episode.

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