Monday, December 8, 2014

More rebound evidence

More evidence for Germany’s rebound. October trade data just added to recent evidence that the Eurozone’s largest economy gained some momentum at the start of the fourth quarter. Exports dropped by only 0.5% MoM, from a strong +5.5% MoM in September. As imports dropped by 3.1% MoM, the seasonally-adjusted trade balance improved to 20.6 bn euro, from 18.6bn in September. The trade balance with Germany’s Eurozone peers was only slightly positive and exports to the rest of the Eurozone are only up 1.9% YoY. The fact that German exports to non-Eurozone countries are up by around 7% on the year illustrates the economy’s gradual decoupling from the rest of the Eurozone. German exporters are normally amongst the main European beneficiaries from a weaker currency. Interestingly, over the last twenty years, German exports to non-Eurozone countries have shown a rather unique correlation with exchange rate movements. Relatively immune against currency strengthening but strongly benefitting from currency weakening. A lucky pattern not all Eurozone countries have experienced. The exchange rate channel remains in our view the strongest argument for the ECB’s QE efforts. Indeed, going back to bigger macro-economic simulations indicates that ECB president Draghi was right in pointing to the negative impact on inflation from lower oil prices, rather than any positive effects for growth. As a rule of thumb, a depreciation of the (trade-weighted) euro exchange rate by only 5% could add some 0.3%-points to Eurozone GDP growth. To get the same impact from oil, prices would need to fall by at least 50%. At the current juncture, the weakening of the trade-weighted exchange rate has been less accentuated than the weakening vis-à-vis the US dollar. If it stayed at its current levels throughout 2015, the nominal effective exchange rate would only be 2.5% below its 2014 average. This seems to explain why ECB president Draghi prefers to use falling oil prices as a means to get QE, rather than hoping for the direct healing impact from oil. Looking ahead, even if it might hinder new structural reform efforts, a weaker euro is probably the best thing that could happen to both Germany and the Eurozone.

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