Happy new year to all. In case some of you missed it, the Department of Finance published two working papers (by Gavin Murphy, Martina Nacheva and Luke Daly) just prior to Christmas looking at the ever topical issue of Ireland’s output gap. Both papers can be accessed at this link. The first paper takes a detailed look and review of the main methods used to estimate the cyclical position of an economy. The authors highlight the diversity of modelling approaches used across institutions both within Ireland and abroad. The second paper outlines in detail the methodology used by the Department to produce estimates of the output gap for Ireland. To date, the Department has used the European Commission’s harmonised approach (i.e. common to all EU Member States), which has at times resulted in counterintuitive estimates of Ireland’s cyclical position. This research seeks to develop more plausible estimates taking better account of the nature of Ireland’s small open economy. Such work will enable the Department to better evaluate the appropriate fiscal stance and the sustainability of public finances over the medium term. For those with an interest in macroeconomic modelling and forecasting as well as fiscal policy related issues, the papers offer an invaluable source of information into what can be a complex area.
The economy continues to grow at a robust pace and momentum has picked up since our last set of published forecasts (July). Economic activity remains underpinned by robust and broad based growth in employment and incomes. In turn, underlying domestic spending has gained further momentum reflecting strong consumption and (underlying) investment expenditures. Overall, we see underlying domestic demand growing by 5.6 per cent this year, before moderating to 4.2 per cent in 2019 and 3.6 per cent in 2020. In GDP terms, we expect growth of 6.7 per cent this year, 4.8 per cent in 2019 and 3.7 per cent in 2020. The labour market continues to move towards full employment with the headline unemployment rate expected to be below 5 per cent in 2019 and 2020.
While the outlook remains favourable, a number of significant downside risks remain. On the domestic side, the main vulnerabilities relate to the cyclical strength of the recovery. On the external side, risks centre on Brexit and any further disruptive changes to international tax and trading regimes given the openness of the Irish economy.
Aside from the normal outlook and commentary, the Bulletin contains a number of Boxes highlighting research on some key issues. These include pieces on Brexit, the international economy and risks relating to Corporation Tax flows. The Bulletin also contains a chapter on financing developments in the economy and a signed article examining financial risks and buffers in the Central Bank.
Macroeconomic Implications of the UK Government Brexit White Paper: A Preliminary Analysis (Box A – page 13)
International economic outlook (Box B – page 17)
Risk related to Corporation Tax Flows (Box C – page 33)
On the financing side of the economy, there are pieces on:
Income Statement Statistics and Ireland’s Banking System (Box A – page 48)
Retrocession: Reinsuring the Reinsurer (Box B – page 52).
The Bank released its third quarterly bulletin of the year this week (Quarterly Bulletin (QB3 – July 2018). The outlook for growth remains favourable despite significant downside risks. The economy is expected to grow (in GDP terms) by 4.5 per cent this year and by 4.2 per cent in 2019. Most of the impetus to growth is likely to continue coming from domestic sources with the unemployment rate averaging 4.8 per cent next year on the back of solid and sustained gains in employment.
A number of significant downside risks remain. These predominantly relate to the vulnerability of the economy to external shocks, namely Brexit, further increases in protectionist trade policies and any changes to international tax regimes (that could affect FDI flows). Domestically, while inflationary pressures remain contained, the gradual erosion of spare capacity increases the prospects of overheating. In particular, in the labour market, unemployment is fast approaching levels that in the past have triggered an acceleration in wage inflation.
Aside from the normal outlook for the economy, the Bulletin contains a number of Boxes on a diverse range of topics. These include pieces on the National Accounts, a new economic indicator, trade, inflation, credit and debit card returns and mortgage arrears. The Bulletin also has a signed article that looks at Irish Government investment, financing and the capital stock.
International economic outlook (Box A – page 13)
Revisions to the CSO National Accounts (Box B – page 15)
A new monthly indicator of economic activity (Box C – page 21)
Irish exports and world demand (Box D – page 29)
Consumer prices in Ireland (Box E – page 38)
On the financing side of the economy, there are pieces on:
The Central Bank published the Quarterly Bulletin (QB 2 – April 2018) today. The economy continues to perform well with the growth outlook revised upwards by close to half a percentage point to 4.5 per cent on average in 2018/19 (relative to the last set of forecasts in January). This outlook is underpinned by robust domestic demand, solid prospects for the labour market and a supportive international environment. At the same time however, a number of significant tail risks remain. These predominantly relate to the vulnerability of the economy to external shocks, namely Brexit related exposures, any increase in protectionist trade policies, changes to international tax regimes (that could affect FDI decisions) and disruptive exchange rate movements.
Some of the forecast highlights within the Bulletin include:
labour market – we now see the unemployment rate falling below 5 per cent to average 4.8 per cent in 2019, with close to 99,000 additional jobs being created this year and next. Annual employment growth is expected to average 2.2 per cent in 2018 and 2019, moderating from growth rates of close to 3 per cent in recent years
domestic spending – underlying domestic demand (which attempts to strip out much of the noise in some of the components of investment) is forecast to grow by 4.3 per cent per annum in both 2018 and 2019
trade – net exports are expected to support growth over the forecast horizon.
inflation – consumer prices were subdued last year but we expect some pick-up towards closer to 1 per cent in 2018 and 2019, as the effects of past sterling weakness unwind coupled with strong domestic demand.
Aside from the normal commentary and forecasts for the economy, the Bulletin contains Boxes on:
International economic outlook (Box A – page 11)
Sterling depreciation (Box B – page 14)
Leading indicators of new housing output (Box C – page 17)
Vacancies and wage growth (Box D – page 22).
On the financing side of the economy, there are pieces on:
Trends in Bank Lending to SMEs (Box A – page 35)
Exposures of Irish-Resident Investors to Offshore Financial Centres (Box B – page 40).
This was the original title of this recent paper of mine. Some people thought it too truculant but even Patrick Honohan – when he wanted, as Governor, to talk about competitiveness – would get his RA’s to calculate the old indicators rather than use the new ones. To keep it eye-catching I dropped the ‘Useless’ and added ‘Pernicious or Merely Otiose?’ but then some (though not the journal, I should point out) complained that they had to reach for the dictionary! But I think the issue is a serious one. I am hoping that Peter Clinch at the National Competitiveness Council will take up the challenge.
Today, the Bank published its first Quarterly Bulletin (QB 1 – January 2018) of the year, including forecasts to 2019. The outlook remains robust with GDP forecast to grow by 4.4 and 3.9 per cent in 2018 and 2019, respectively. This forecast is underpinned by strong domestic demand and broad based employment gains.
Some of the highlights include:
the increasing prospect of full employment – we see the unemployment rate falling towards 5 per cent by next year with an additional 89,000 persons in employment.
the composition of employment is likely to differ markedly relative to the previous employment peak (in 2007). Back then, 1 in 9 persons were directly employed in construction relative to 1 in 16 expected in 2019.
Inflationary pressures remaining subdued but picking up from 0.7 per cent this year to 0.9 per cent in 2019. This partly reflects an unwinding of the negative impact on goods prices from recent euro/sterling exchange rate movements. (For more on exchange rate pass through, see Reddan and Rice (2017)).
The main risks relate to Brexit, the global trade and taxation environment as well as domestic overheating.
As regards the latter, a key question at present is the extent of remaining slack within the economy and prospects for wages and employment. Recent research within the Bank (Linehan et al., (2017) and Byrne and Conefrey (2017)) have addressed some of these issues. Further, the newly published labour market data (documented in the Bulletin) indicate that broader measures of labour supply signal that that there is still additional labour supply available. All of this suggests that while labour market conditions are tightening, there is still scope for unemployment to fall further before more significant wage pressures emerge.
In terms of the Irish economy, the Bulletin contains short Boxes on:
international economic outlook (Box A – page 12)
the recovery in personal consumption expenditure (Box B – page 15)
trade deflators dynamics (Box C – page 21)
the new labour force survey (Box D – page 24).
On the financing side of the economy, there are short pieces on:
household debt and disposable income (Box A – page 38)
the statistical treatment of new bank holding company structures (Box B – page 44 )
holders of Irish resident investment funds shares across the Euro Area (Box C – page 46).
The robust performance of the Irish labour market over the past number of years offers the most tangible evidence of the recovery in the Irish economy. With unemployment falling and vacancies rising, an obvious question that arises is the extent to which the current pace of growth can be maintained. Today, colleagues in the Central Bank published a paper examining this very issue, bringing together a range of labour market indicators to assess the current state of play including prospects for wages over the short-term. We also revisit Okun’s law and the Phillips curve drawing on the latest Irish data. We hope that this research proves useful as 2017 draws to a close. The paper is titled ‘The Labour Market and Wage Growth after a Crisis’ and can also be accessed by clicking this link.
A new working paper from Niall Conroy and Eddie Casey of the Fiscal Council Secretariat.
The Council’s mandate includes endorsing, as it considers appropriate, the official macroeconomic forecasts of the Department of Finance on which the annual Budget and Stability Programme Update are based. As part of the endorsement process and for the purposes of its ongoing monitoring and analysis of the Irish economy, the Council’s Secretariat produces its own Benchmark macroeconomic projections. This paper describes the short-run forecasting models used by the Secretariat for producing these projections. The general forecasting approach can be described as follows. Equations are used to forecast each component of the expenditure side of the Quarterly National Accounts. Multiple models are estimated for most components, with the simple model average used as an initial input into the formulation of the Benchmark projections. The out-of-sample forecasting performance of these models is assessed at each endorsement round. In addition to these model-based projections, other elements are considered. Discussions with the Council and other forecasting agencies help to guide any judgement that may be applied before arriving at the final Benchmark projections.
For more than 30 years, Economic Policy has been publishing papers on pressing European policy issues. Preliminary versions of the papers are first discussed at Panel meetings. The 65th Panel meeting, which starts today in Valletta, features papers on the causes of Brexit, on the consequences of Brexit, on the impact of the 2015 reforms on the Italian labour market, on innovation, on entrepreneurship, on retirement, on monetary policy, and on mobile communications. The papers are available here.
Speeches start at 1pm; as is now traditional, the whole thing has essentially been leaked to the papers, see here and here for representative samples, there’s also a live stream with the relevant documentation beside it.
Comment moderation is off to simulate the ‘live blog’ thing I still can’t quite get right on this site.
One of the really interesting outcomes of the last election was the rejection by voters of the Fine Gael strap line: let’s keep the recovery going. As measured by GDP growth, Ireland was rebounding from its period of austerity very strongly, with the fastest GDP growth in Europe.
A household sector which had just received an income tax cut, child benefit increases, pension increases, social welfare increases, public sector pay increases (or restorations, whatever), threw the main party’s ‘recovery’ line back in its face at the doorsteps–what recovery, they asked. No recovery here.
This was taken to mean that there was no recovery outside of Dublin. Dan O’Brien’s series of columns have dispelled that myth. There is a recovery in rural Ireland, it’s just not happening as quickly as in the capital, where employment levels are now 96% of their 2008 peak. In the Mid-West employment levels are at 88% of their peak.
Then a long and rambling discussion on the corporate tax element of Ireland’s apparent rebound took place, largely on twitter. The volatility of the corporate tax take in Ireland is exceptional.
Jordà, Schularick and Taylor have produced a must-read paper, summarising the results of a decade-long research effort to create a long-run macro-financial data set for 17 countries. The paper is here (.pdf) and they provide some new stylized facts they document should “prove fertile ground for the development of a newer generation of macroeconomic models with a prominent role for financial factors”.
In particular, they document a ‘hockey-stick’ effect of private sector creditto GDP for a range of economies, and one of the hockey sticks can be seen in the figure below. After about 1950, for most of the elements the authors study, finance and leverage takes a more and more central role in the development of modern economies.