I think I’d better rephrase that: more overall growth, but a very mixed bag. In deriving aggregate numbers for the zone, four big economies really matter: Spain, France, Germany and Italy. Now each of these economies actually has different characteristics, so it is not clear what ‘the general picture’ means here.
Spain is the European economy whose current growth characteristic seem to resemble most those of the USA: above average growth (around 3.5% per annum), high dependency on housing and construction for the ‘extra growth’, high and rapidly growing private indebtedness (around 20% y-o-y) and a large current account deficit. Where Spain doesn’t resemble the US is in productivity, which has been more or less negative in recent years.
France is , as I’ve been suggesting, relatively ebullient despite the lack of all those labour reforms, and seems to be ‘on a roll’ at the moment. Driven by internal consumer demand and exports France managed an annualised 2.8% in the third quarter. Ironically, possibly France represents the big-four Eurozone economy with the most sustainable and balanced growth trajectory right now.
The German economy is growing at an unexpectedly high rate, but this extra-spurt is virtually all explained by the rapid increase in exports (helped of course by the fall in the euro).Investment, fuelled by the demand for all those exports, was also up. Meanhwile internal consumer demand is possibly even falling. (Growth in the third quarter was at an annual rate of 2.4% up from an annualised 0.8% in the second quarter).
And Italy, which as I keep mentioning is definitely now the ‘poor sister’ of the eurozone, with an identity crisis about what kind of economy it actually is, and a rapidly ageing population producing huge fiscal pressure. (On this see Morgan Stanley’s Vicenzo Guzzo yesterday). Italian growth actually bucked the trend in the third quarter and was lower than in the second quarter (dropping from a 2.8% annual rate to a 1.2% one).
All of this leaves me with the feeling: ‘Eurozone’ which eurozone?