EU Raises Eurozone Growth Forecast

The Brandenburg Gate reflected by a puddle on Pariser Platz Square in Berlin Germany Tuesday Nov. 7 2017

The 19-country eurozone will grow by 2.2 percent in 2017, its fastest pace in a decade, the European Commission said in its autumn economic forecasts.

The European Commission said in its autumn economic forecast on Thursday that "Italy's economic recovery accelerated in 2017, supported by external and domestic demand, but fading tailwinds and lower medium-term growth prospects are expected to moderate growth".

Strong export growth, particularly in services, and a fall in imports related to the contraction in investment is pushing up the current account surplus, which is forecast to approach 10% of GDP in 2017.

However, in view of Malta's openness to trade (nominal exports and imports combined to reach 270% of GDP in 2016) any volatility in Malta's main exporting sectors would have a disproportionately large impact on real GDP growth.

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The Commission estimates that the budget deficit this year and next year will be 0.9 percent of GDP, while in 2019 it will be 0.7 percent of GDP. Private consumption and household investment, supported by both government-initiated and market-driven wage increases, as well as a strong recovery in bank lending and further fiscal loosening, is expected to lift growth in 2018; however, growth is set to slow in 2019 as capacity constraints emerge, it added. Monthly government statistics to date suggest that the 2017 general government primary balance target (1.75 pct of GDP in terms of the ESM programme definition) will be met, with the balance of risks tilted to the upside.

The optimism, the commission said, is fueled by increased private consumption, favorable lending conditions, improved economic growth around the world and falling unemployment in Europe. He added that the investment in the European Union is "picking up" and that confidence in economy has "considerably brightened".

The economies of all member states are expanding and labour markets improving, but wages are rising only slowly.

Unemployment across the currency union is expected to drop faster than expected in May, dipping to 9.1% by year-end and then to 8.5% in 2018 and 7.9% the following year.

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The European Commission forecasts are slightly more pessimistic than other forecasts for the United Kingdom, but given that so far this year, the United Kingdom grew by 0.3 percent in both the first and second quarters, and by 0.4 percent in the third quarter, they don't seem unduly downbeat.

United Kingdom growth slowed down this year - to 1.5 percent from 2.3 percent in 2015 and 1.8 percent in 2016 - because higher prices led to lower consumption.

"Yet challenges remain in the form of high debt levels and subdued wage increases".

"The long-lasting moderate expansion has shifted into more robust and long-lasting growth", said Pierre Moscovici, the European commissioner for economic and financial affairs, taxation and customs.

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