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MNI POLICY: Eurozone 2020/21 Growth 1.2% - European Commission

By Luke Heighton
     FRANKFURT (MNI) - Europe's economy is expected to continue on a steady path
of moderate growth over the next two years driven by strong domestic demand
despite the "challenging" external environment, the European Commission said
     Tentative signs of stabilisation in the manufacturing sector, and a
possible bottoming out of the decline in global trade flows, should allow the
European economy to continue expanding, according to the Winter 2020 Economic
Forecast, although these factors "appear insufficient to shift growth into a
higher gear."
     Here are the key points from the report:
     -- Euro area gross domestic product (GDP) growth will remain stable at 1.2%
in 2020 and 2021. For the EU as a whole, growth is forecast to ease marginally
to 1.4% in 2020 and 2021, down from the 1.5% projected in the Autumn 2019
Economic Forecast.
     -- The forecast for euro area HICP inflation has been raised to 1.3% in
2020 and 1.4% in 2021, an increase of 0.1 percentage points for both years
compared with the Autumn 2019 Economic Forecast, reflecting "tentative signs"
that higher wages may start passing through to core prices and slightly higher
assumptions about oil prices.
     -- In the EU as a whole, the forecast for inflation in 2020 was raised by
0.1 percentage points to 1.5%. The forecast for 2021 remains unchanged at 1.6%.
     -- While some downside risks have faded, the report noted, new ones have
emerged. Overall the balance of risks continues to be tilted to the downside.
     -- The 'Phase One' trade deal between the U.S. and China has helped to
reduce downside risks to some extent, but the high degree of uncertainty
surrounding U.S. trade policy remains a barrier to a more widespread recovery in
business sentiment.
     -- The outbreak of the '2019-nCoV' coronavirus is a new downside risk. The
Commission's baseline assumption is that the outbreak peaks in the first
quarter, with relatively limited global spillovers. But "the longer it lasts,"
the report noted, "the higher the likelihood of knock-on effects on economic
sentiment and global financing conditions."
     -- Other downside risks include social unrest in Latin America, heightened
geopolitical tensions in the Middle East, and uncertainty over the EU's future
relationship with the UK, while short-term risks related to climate change
"cannot be ruled out."
     -- On the positive side, the European economy "could benefit from more
expansionary and growth-friendly fiscal policies and enjoy positive spillovers
from more benign financing conditions in some euro area member states," the
report stated.
     -- European Commissioner for the Economy Paolo Gentiloni said there had
been "encouraging developments in terms of reduced trade tensions and the
avoidance of a no-deal Brexit. But we still face significant policy uncertainty,
which casts a shadow over manufacturing. As for the coronavirus, it is too soon
to evaluate the extent of its negative economic impact."
     -- "Despite a challenging environment, the European economy remains on a
steady path, with continued job creation and wage growth. But we should be
mindful of potential risks on the horizon," Valdis Dombrovskis, Executive
Vice-President for an Economy that works for People, said. "Member States should
use this weather window to pursue structural reforms to boost growth and
productivity. Countries with high public debt should also shore up their
defences by pursuing prudent fiscal policies."
--MNI London Bureau; +44 203 865 3829; email:
[TOPICS: M$E$$$,M$X$$$,MT$$$$]

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