Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Nope, it's not enough for the weakest of the "Zone"

Spanning the period April 14, 2010 to June 7, 2010, the euro lost 12.5% in value against the $US (this is not a trade-weighted measure of the currency value, but it'll do). As the currency tumbled, Q2 nominal export income grew quickly over the quarter for the top 5 economies in the Eurozone:
  • Germany, 6%
  • France, 4.6%
  • Italy, 8.3%
  • Spain, 0.8% (definitely the exception to the rule)
  • Netherlands, 7.2%
The export income is welcome in Italy's economy, one of the PIIGS countries (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain). But what about Greece, or the rest of the PIIGS countries that desperately need the external income?

Well, Greece actually did quite well in Q2: nominal export income was up 5.8% over the quarter compared to a 0.1% decline in Q1. Perfect - that's the point, right? Nominal depreciation begets external economic support via exports?

It's not enough. The problem is, that the external support generated by a euro depreciation is too evenly distributed across the "Zone". The result: those economies with both external and domestic demand posted record growth rates (i.e., Germany), while those with an overwhelming contraction in domestic demand posted further GDP declines amid reasonable external demand growth.

The chart below illustrates the pattern in GDP quarterly growth for Eurostat's reporting countries, ranked by Q2 2010 growth rates in order of smallest (Greece, -1.5%) to largest (Germany, +2.2%).

It should be noted here that the Eurostat data is a "Flash" report of Eurozone GDP only. The breakdown by spending category will not be reported until the second GDP release, which is scheduled for September 2, 2010. Therefore, the nominal export numbers, which are seasonally and working day adjusted through June 2010 (the volume indexes are only available through May 2010), proxy the strength of external demand.

The interesting thing is that export growth is likely strong enough to keep the third largest (as of Q2 2010) Eurozone economy, Italy, afloat for now. However, oncoming austerity measures (I searched for a list of announced European austerity measures, but only came up with this - do you know a credible source/link?) will drive the positive feedback loop: rising deficits - raise taxes/cut spending - cut domestic demand - taxable income falls - deficits rise.

Rebecca Wilder

Note: I included export data only, although the trade balance, which is exports minus imports, data tells a very similar story: widespread improvement in the trade balance.

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