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European Economic Forecast - Spring 2014

The ECFIN produces economic forecasts on behalf of the Commission. They serve as a basis for various economic surveillance procedures, such as in the context of the European Semester.

Editorial by Marco Buti, Director General Economic and Financial Affairs 

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The EU economic outlook is strengthening. While leading indicators point to GDP growth gaining momentum in the near term, the conditions for a sustained recovery in the medium term are also improving. In view of the crisis legacy, growth is still set to remain moderate, but a gradual easing of the drag related to deleveraging, financial fragmentation, adjustment of external imbalances and uncertainty is noticeable. The improved economic outlook encompasses the vulnerable euro-area Member States, where the impact of the crisis and adjustment needs had been the strongest. However, challenges and vulnerabilities remain and require continued monitoring and policy action. Moreover, support from the external side may turn out to be weaker than earlier anticipated. While growth in advanced economies is generally firming, emerging market economies register a moderate deceleration, and world trade has hit a soft patch amid a continued appreciation of the euro exchange rate. New geopolitical risks have emerged on the back of tensions with Russia. 

In the EU, the rotation towards domestic demand that started in the second half of 2013 is progressing. Private consumption is again expanding, though at a slow pace. Improved confidence and falling energy inflation provide some support in the short run. Sustained consumption growth will however depend crucially on improvements in the labour-market situation. Even though joblessness is projected to decline only slowly, there are encouraging signs of employment growth setting in, and of recent labour-market reforms in vulnerable Member States starting to bear fruit. Investment has picked up more robustly than consumption, and is set to strengthen further from a very low basis. The constraints that caused the large investment shortfall since 2008 are gradually fading, as capacity utilisation is normalising, corporate debt deleveraging has made progress and uncertainty has been abating. At present, the investment recovery is however not supported by credit. This is not necessarily a major constraint in the very short run, as firms typically use internal funds to finance investment in the early stages of a recovery. Further ahead, credit supply conditions are expected to ease, as banks have been progressing with the repair of their balance sheets and their funding conditions are good. Finally, after several years of frontloaded adjustment, domestic demand also benefits from a broadly neutral budgetary policy for the euro area and the EU as a whole. asses the vulnerable euro-area Member States, where the impact of the crisis and adjustment needs had been the strongest. However, challenges and vulnerabilities remain and require continued monitoring and policy action. Moreover, support from the external side may turn out to be weaker than earlier anticipated. While growth in advanced economies is generally firming, emerging market economies register a moderate deceleration, and world trade has hit a soft patch amid a continued appreciation of the euro exchange rate. New geopolitical risks have emerged on the back of tensions with Russia.

In the EU, the rotation towards domestic demand that started in the second half of 2013 is progressing. Private consumption is again expanding, though at a slow pace. Improved confidence and falling energy inflation provide some support in the short run. Sustained consumption growth will however depend crucially on improvements in the labour-market situation. Even though joblessness is projected to decline only slowly, there are encouraging signs of employment growth setting in, and of recent labour-market reforms in vulnerable Member States starting to bear fruit. Investment has picked up more robustly than consumption, and is set to strengthen further from a very low basis. The constraints that caused the large investment shortfall since 2008 are gradually fading, as capacity utilisation is normalising, corporate debt deleveraging has made progress and uncertainty has been abating. At present, the investment recovery is however not supported by credit. This is not necessarily a major constraint in the very short run, as firms typically use internal funds to finance investment in the early stages of a recovery. Further ahead, credit supply conditions are expected to ease, as banks have been progressing with the repair of their balance sheets and their funding conditions are good. Finally, after several years of frontloaded adjustment, domestic demand also benefits from a broadly neutral budgetary policy for the euro area and the EU as a whole. 

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