European Commission raises eurozone growth forecast for 2023 as inflation eases

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The European Commission (EC), on Monday (February 13), raised its growth forecast for the eurozone this year and also expects inflation to be lower than previously estimated at the end of 2022. The expected GDP for the eurozone was raised by 0.9 per cent which was up from the previously predicted 0.3 per cent. Additionally, the eurozone might also dodge recession this year after high levels of gas storage helped ease the energy crisis and labour markets continue to hold up, said the EC. 

The EU’s executive arm released the new winter forecasts which show that the 20 countries which use the euro referred to as the ‘eurozone’ will narrowly avoid the technical recession which was expected last year in November as the growth since was 0.1 per cent quarter-on-quarter. Furthermore, the wider European Union is expected to grow by 0.8 per cent from the previously predicted 0.3 per cent, said the EC. 

“Almost one year after Russia launched its war of aggression against Ukraine, the EU economy is on a better footing than expected in autumn”, said the commission, on Monday. They added, “Inflation appears to have peaked and favourable developments in energy markets foreshadow further forceful declines.”

This also comes as the wholesale gas prices have fallen “below pre-war levels” which has been attributed to the above-seasonal average levels of gas storage. The commission also said that the “forecast crucially hinges on the purely technical assumption that Russia’s aggression of Ukraine will not escalate”. 

Furthermore, the EU executive arm in Brussels while announcing the forecast said, “Both areas are now set to narrowly avoid the technical recession that was anticipated for the turn of the year. The forecast also slightly lowers the projections for inflation for both 2023 and 2024.” Notably, the growth forecast for 2024 remains unchanged with 1.5 per cent for the eurozone and 1.6 per cent for the EU. 

The estimates also show that all EU states are expected to witness growth this year except Sweden which might contract by 0.8 per cent as the country is also facing a recession along with Denmark. Whereas, Germany the region’s biggest economy and Austria have also witnessed two consecutive quarters of contraction making them the only two eurozone countries which are facing this phenomenon.  

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However, the commission has also said there is high uncertainty surrounding the forecast but the risks to growth are now broadly balanced. This could be due to a rise in domestic demand and if the “recent declines in wholesale gas prices pass through to consumer prices more strongly and consumption proves more resilient”, said the EC. 

It added, “Nonetheless, a potential reversal of that fall cannot be ruled out in the context of continued geopolitical tensions”. Additionally, the Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni also cautioned that “better than expected doesn’t mean good,” and said Europe continues to face a difficult period of slow growth and only a gradual easing in inflation.

Additionally, households and businesses in Europe continue to face high power bills, as core inflation with the exception of energy and unprocessed food is still affecting consumers’ purchasing power, said the commission. 

This could signal further raises in interest rates by the European Central Bank, addressing which the commissioner said, “There are of course consequences of the tightening of monetary policy, but…there is the very positive aspect of this tightening, which is the contribution to reducing inflation, so overall I think this is balanced”. 

(With inputs from agencies) 


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