- Inflation will rise quickly in the next few months and could peak very close to the ECB's inflation target...
- ...but underlying inflationary pressures should stay muted...
- ...and Mario Draghi prevented possible early discussions on tapering by announcing a nine-month extension of QE
Eurozone inflation in November was confirmed at 0.6% y-o-y in the final reading, one notch higher than in October (0.5%). Energy deflation intensified slightly (from -0.9% to -1.1%) as pump prices declined over the month. According to Fabio Balboni, European Economist at HSBC, this was offset by slightly higher food prices, particularly unprocessed food (from 0.2% to 0.7%), albeit still at very low levels. Core (0.8%) and services (1.1%) inflation remained flat for the fourth consecutive month. And core industrial goods inflation was also stable at 0.3% for the fourth consecutive month, down from a local peak of 0.7% in January 2015, suggesting that the impact of previous EUR depreciations might already be waning.
Across countries, the harmonised inflation rate remained stable in Germany (0.7%) and Spain (0.5%), but it increased in France (from 0.5% to 0.7%). HICP finally moved into positive territory in Italy, from -0.1% in October, to 0.1%, although it is still lagging behind the other Big 4 members. In November, there were only four countries still in deflation in the eurozone: Slovakia, Greece and Ireland (-0.2%) and Cyprus (-0.8%).
"In the coming months, with the base effects from energy fading, the oil price up 15% the past month, and the EUR having fallen below 1.05 against the USD, we expect inflation to rise fast. Pump prices were already 2% higher in the first half of December and are likely to rise further in the second half, benefiting from the festive season. We could also see a reversal of the recent slowdown in core industrial goods prices, with the latest PMIs pointing to output prices finally starting to rise. These elements could push eurozone inflation to 1% y-o-y in December. We then expect it to continue to rise, peaking at 1.8% in February, and possibly above 2% in Spain also thanks to some tax increases on alcohol and tobacco agreed by the government." He says.
All of this, Balboni believes, could cause a bit of a headache for ECB Governing Council in the coming months, with inflation peaking in some countries at close to (or even above) 2%. However, the need to continue to provide fiscal support in countries where the output gap is still wide, and where wage growth is still slowing (the latest print was 1.2% in Q3 for the eurozone) are likely to keep underlying inflationary pressures muted. "We won't have to worry about a possible early tapering of QE already next year. In December, ECB's head Mario Draghi was quick to accept the offer on the table of a nine-month extension - albeit at a slower pace - still slowing until the end of 2017. This should allow the ECB to look through the inflation peak in the first half of next year before having to make a decision on a possible further extension of QE." He concludes.