Thursday, November 27, 2014

German inflation drops in November

Based on the results of six regional states, German headline inflation dropped to 0.6% YoY in November, from 0.8% in October. On the month, German prices remained unchanged. Based on the harmonised European definition (HICP), and more relevant for ECB policy making, headline inflation decreased to 0.5%, from 0.7% in October, and stands now at its lowest level since February 2010. A quick look at the available components at the regional levels shows that the drop in headline inflation was not only driven by lower energy prices but also some tentative second-round effects on consumer goods and a drop in prices for vacation destinations and package tours. Looking ahead, the recent drop in energy prices – if sustained and if not offset by strong currency weakening – could push German headline inflation further down. Corrected for the euro depreciation vis-à-vis the US dollar, oil prices have dropped by more than 15% since last November. Not all of this price drop has yet been passed through to consumer prices. However, as German employment just reached another record-high in October, this drop in inflation should be inflationary rather than deflationary. Just think of Draghi’s famous words “with low inflation, you can buy more stuff”. At the current juncture, price expectations of both consumers and producers remain solidly anchored in Germany. According to today’s economic sentiment indicators from the European Commission, price expectations by both consumer and producers have slightly come down in November but remain close to their respective historical averages. Interestingly, price expectations in the service sector have now increased for three months in a row and are close to all-time highs. This might be the result of higher wages and maybe also the introduction of the minimum wage. For next week’s ECB meeting, today’s German inflation data could be the prelude of another downward revision of the ECB’s inflation forecasts. Back in September, ECB staff had projected an average inflation rate of 1.1% for 2015 and 1.4% for 2016. Even without any significant changes to the growth outlook, the latest drop in energy prices should be sufficient to automatically lead to lower inflation forecasts. Remember that last month, ECB president Draghi had described two “contingencies” for further action: the current measures are not enough to reach the new (soft) balance sheet target, and a worsening of the medium-term outlook for inflation. Obviously, next week will be too early to give an assessment on the first contingency but with lower inflation projections, one of the two lights needed to start QE could already be lit green next week.

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