Is the recovery sustainable in the US and Europe?

Content Type
Working Paper
Oxford Economics
Following the worst recession since the 1930s, the US, UK and Eurozone economies have all now returned to positive growth. With the boost from policy stimulus and the inventory cycle peaking, however, this raises questions about the sustainability of the current rebound. The analysis presented here suggests that the recoveries in both the US and Europe will be relatively muted compared to recent historical experience. The US is likely to be the growth leader, reflecting the more dynamic nature of its economy and financial sector. A key uncertainty relates to how labour markets will perform during the recovery phase. To date, the rise in US unemployment been particularly severe when compared to the experience of Europe. In light of the sharp falls in European productivity, we expect employment gains in Europe to be more muted in the recovery phase than in the US. The performance of residential real estate markets also remains important. Home prices in the US are now close to fair value by most metrics, suggesting that the correction in prices is likely to be bottoming out. In Europe, only Spain and Ireland appear to be in the midst of substantial housing market corrections. Commercial real estate markets are also facing ongoing corrections in many countries. While conditions in the US and Eurozone may deteriorate further, commercial property values appear to be stabilising in the UK following earlier sharp declines. The ability of the banking sector to finance the economic recoveries in the US and Europe remains a key risk to the growth outlook. As the process of absorbing credit losses and rebuilding capital is likely to be protracted, the normalisation of lending standards is likely to take longer than following recent recessions. This is a particular concern for the Eurozone, where bank funding is more important for companies. Whether domestic demand in the US and Europe recovers will also depend on whether private sector deleveraging has further to run. The destruction of household net wealth in the US suggests that the personal savings rate has further to rise, whereas there no longer appears to be a pressing need for households in the UK and Eurozone to consolidate their balance sheets. In contrast, non-financial corporations in the US are in a stronger financial position than their European peers, having not increased debt levels as rapidly during the credit boom. Risks around public finances have received the most attention in recent weeks. In particular, the adjustments underway in Greece pose a risk of potential contagion from sovereign credit risk that could threaten growth on both sides of the Atlantic.
Economics, Markets, Financial Crisis
Political Geography
United States, United Kingdom, Europe