David Chance: 'Eurozone economy heading into stormy waters as Commission glosses over failings'
A year ago one leading investment bank said "It's all systems go!" for the eurozone whose economy, the bank said, seemed to be going into overdrive. What a difference 12 months makes.
Italy and Germany may already be in recession and the European Commission yesterday slashed its growth forecasts for the eurozone to just 1.3pc this year from a forecast of 1.9pc made in November 2018.
The Commission sought to put as positive a spin as possible on the news, noting: "All EU countries are expected to continue to grow in 2019, which means more jobs and prosperity."
That, however, glosses over the eurozone's poor record on economic growth since the end of the global financial crisis, where it has lagged performance in other rich economies (the United States for example has been on a growth path since 2009 and has averaged a 2.3pc expansion since then). That's before considering that the eurozone was also lagging behind both before and during the crisis.
In fact, 20 years of the euro has for most of the 19 countries produced sub-par growth. Now the bloc faces the prospect of heading into the next recession in the budgetary straitjacket of the Stability and Growth Pact and with the European Central Bank unable to cut interest rates. The Commission's growth downgrades were largest for Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.
The cuts to Italy's outlook were brutal, down to 0.2pc growth this year from 1.2pc forecast just three months ago.
The Commission's outlook appeared to assume that Germany's economy actually grew in the fourth quarter, something that was thrown into doubt by a 0.4pc drop in industrial production there in December.
Brexit and any eurozone squall now risk becoming a fully-fledged storm.