More shadow than sunshine

Poor economic data and high unemployment continue to keep Europe on tenterhooks

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The financial and economic crisis has not yet been overcome, despite the recession bottoming out in some European countries. These are the findings of the GfK Consumer Climate Europe survey, which provides an overview of the development of economic and income expectations and willingness to buy among consumers in 12 European countries.
 

Discussions in the European Union (EU) continued to be dominated by the financial crisis in the second quarter of 2013. As a result, the start of Croatia’s EU membership on 1 July was almost disregarded. The debates are increasingly focusing on the matter of how the immense debt mountains can be reduced. On this issue, there have so far been two rather different, irreconcilable opinions. On the one hand, Germany and other Northern European countries are arguing for a continued stringent austerity and consolidation course. On the other, Southern European countries and also the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are insisting that economy incentives should be provided in the short term, rather than cutbacks. In their view, a country’s economy must first gain momentum in order for its citizens to find employment and earn money before it can pay off debts and address structural measures.
 

At present, it seems that a combination of the two courses will be the result. Consequently, France and Spain have gained two extra years to bring their debt levels below the key deficit line, which has been set at 3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). Italy is expected to be removed from the excessive deficit procedure, as are Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania. In light of their high unemployment levels, Brussels does not want to unduly burden these countries, but instead recognize their efforts. However, the European Commission (EC) is still insisting on structural reforms, especially in the labor markets, pensions systems and the economy in general.
 

In the meantime, there is now actually increased hope throughout Europe that there will be an end to the financial crisis in the medium term. The eurozone continues to be in recession, but in comparison with the final quarter of 2012, the economic situation has improved slightly. The European Central Bank (ECB) also sees signs of a gradual recovery from the end of the year, but it is not yet predicting a true upturn. There is a clear improvement in the early warning system values of the Purchasing Manager Index of the Markit Institute for all eurozone countries. The Purchasing Manager Index is regarded as a particularly reliable early indicator as the data is based on surveys and is therefore more up-to-date than official statistics. It includes hard data such as production, employment and prices.In France, the value has risen to 46.4 points, rather than the predicted 45.5 points. The indicator for Italy increased to 47.3 points in June, not the expected 46.2 points. Spain saw a particularly impressive improvement to 48.1 points, which is the highest value for 24 months and above the 45.5 points predicted. The United Kingdom’s indicator has now firmly settled above the 50-point mark, which signifies economic growth, and is currently at 51.3 points.

 

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