Euro-Zone 'Misery' Has Never Been Higher
While the 'Misery' Index in Iran reaches exceptional levels, and the US aggregate of inflation and unemployment peaked last October, Europe's misery has continued to rise in the face of an ever-easing ECB and political jawboning. As SocGen notes today, the UK's misery has turned back higher and the Euro-zone's Misery Index has never been higher. These misery indices clearly reflect deteriorating economic performances in the main G10 countries, with some unsurprisingly weaker performances in Spain and Greece, leading the eurozone index higher. Given recessionary situations expected in some eurozone countries next year, the misery index is unfortunately quite unlikely to edge south significantly.
Eurozone: a record misery index. The situation in the eurozone deteriorated further during the summer: the unemployment rate hit a record 11.4% in August, while inflation increased from 2.4% yoy to 2.6% yoy, pushing the eurozone misery index to a record high (14%). With an unfortunately dark employment outlook, the index is unlikely to reverse course sharply anytime soon. This will force the ECB to keep an ultra-accommodative stance for some time to come.
US misery index: keep a close eye. The decrease (from 8.3% to 8.1%) in the unemployment rate in August was not enough to offset the increase (from 1.4% yoy to 1.7% yoy) in the inflation rate. As a result, the US misery index has increased slightly. Is it merely a passing cloud or the first sign of a more worrying storm? The September NFP report, to be released on Friday, will give us more of a clue. Although the US job situation is clearly less worrying than the eurozone’s, it remains a risk factor for the outlook for the US misery index, and could force the Fed to embark on QE 3.5 with Treasury purchases early next year.
UK misery index edging north. Although we only know the July results for now, we also note the first signs of a deterioration in the UK misery index; based on both employment and inflation. This provides a quandary for the BoE; our economists expect it to increase its QE programme in November.
Spain and Greece: converging misery indices. Spain’s misery index overtook even Greece’s in Q2, and is now about twice the eurozone’s (25.93 versus 13.7). With 24% unemployment rates in both countries, it is clear where the underperformance by both Spain and Greece comes from. Inflation is much more satisfactory, with 1.3% yoy in June in Spain and Greece versus 2.4% yoy in the eurozone. Unfortunately, looming austerity budgets in both countries next year will weigh on domestic demand and thus unemployment rates, leading to still elevated misery indices.