Europe is crossed by the hope that the worst of the crisis is passed and that the economy is slowly starting to recover. In the second quarter, in some countries there has been a substantial growth in some areas, while in others there has been a noticeable slowdown in the downward trend. The following is the result of the investigation on the GfK consumer climate in Europe which gives an overview on the development of economic expectations, income and propensity to buy among consumers in 14 European countries.
From the second quarter, has increased the hope that the financial crisis had reached its lowest point. The economy of the European Union recorded a further slight increase of 0.4% compared to the previous quarter. The most significant growth levels were recorded in France, Germany, Portugal and the UK, and it seems that the economies of Italy and Spain, although still in contraction, they are slowly recovering. In France, the foreign trade deficit has cleared and Greece came to a positive territory. In Portugal, for the first time in two years, there has been a decrease in the number of unemployed.
The reasons for this are several recovery in Europe, exporters are benefiting from the modest growth at the global level, in some countries, consumers seem increasingly inclined to spend their money and new policies are leaving, albeit with caution, their paths austerity that had held national economies. In particular, tourism has helped to improve the situation in the countries of southern Europe crisis.
In summer, the EU experienced its first marginal decline in the total number of unemployed, although the rate still hovers at 11.0%. On the horizon, and then, still do not see a real turnaround in the labor market and, in fact, the forecasts indicate that by next year the number of unemployed will continue to rise. A reversal of this trend is expected only in 2015, however, the experts do not expect, at least in the medium term, a possible return to pre-crisis levels.
The loans granted by the banks continue to be extremely limited and the stimuli from a weak level of growth, which could contribute to a possible development over the next few months, will certainly not be enough to curb the ever increasing mountain of debt of EU countries .
This summer, in Italy we could see the end of the recession. Although the economy continued to contract for the eighth time later, its value was found to be half as much as was feared, amounting to only -0.2%. In June, manufacturing output grew for the second consecutive month by 0.3% and the index of industrial SMEs reached in July, its highest level in more than two years. For the first time in more than 14 months, retail sales have recently grown, as is also improving the attitude of consumers towards purchase. Despite this, the goal of a possible restructuring of the state budget, one of the biggest problems of the Italians, along with unemployment, still seems far away. With a debt of almost € 9 billion in July, the country is still far short of the maximum allowed by the EU debt ceiling in order to provide for new debt. The public debt, currently, it is almost 130% of GDP and the mountain of debt is likely to rise further in the coming months.
In almost all countries, the economic expectations are clearly oriented upward; only in Greece and Italy is stagnating. Between July and September, the highest growth levels were recorded in Austria, the Czech Republic and France. Currently, the lowest value of the indicator is to be found in Greece (-41.1 points), in Italy there has been a slight improvement (-34.8 points), while in Poland there has been a significant increase (-29 , 5 points), although, overall, it is the third lowest value. In the coming months we expect an improvement in economic conditions in the United Kingdom (19.2 points), Germany (10.7 points) and Austria (6.7 points).
Consumers in the UK are starting to perform again ac-quisti, the state is investing and economic expectations of citizens are rapidly and turned around: the indicator currently stands at 19.2 points, an increase of about 12 points from 'summer and about 41 points rispet-to its lowest level in March this year. In the second quarter, the economy grew by 0.6% and experts predict that by the end of the year, we can attest to 1.5% on an annual basis. The current economic recovery should certainly be accompanied by some careful consideration as it is based substantially, and most importantly, with private consumption-and, later on state investments. But if income levels continue to be stagnant, British consumers over the long term, they will not be able to increase purchases and the government, sooner or later, be obliged to resume its path of austerity to strengthen its balance sheet. The hope is that the current economic attitude, generally favorable, leading to investments by companies and increased exports. Only at this point can be par-ticular of a possible economic recovery is truly sustainable and extended.
In France, the economic expectations have improved steadily over the past few months and the indicator currently stands at -10.6 points. Although this is clearly a negative value, it is well away from those -48.7 points registered in June. French consumers have confidence in the continuation of the economic recovery and stabilization in recent months. In the second quarter, the economy grew by 0.5%, although the European Commission forecasts for 2013 as a whole, a slight decrease of 0.1%. With a growth rate of 0.9%, it is expected that in the next year, the French economy to re-finally came out of the downward spiral. Despite the presence of these pro-spective positive, the French government can not, however, rest on our laurels for an economic recovery in the long term, future reforms should look forward, in particular the pension system and the substantial reduction in the level of unemployment .
Poland has passed its period of slight economic weakness last year and, according to the EC, the GDP growth on a quarterly basis, was 0.2% in the first quarter and 0.4% in the second. If you con-frontano these figures with those of the same quarter of the previous year, the increase was, respectively, 0.7% and 1.1%. The Polish consumers are convinced that in the coming months, the economic situation will continue its path of growth. Although the indicator of economic expectations is still undoubtedly negative, -9.0 points, its tendency is clearly directed upwards.
The Portuguese economy is only now starting to show faint signs of recovery. For 2013 as a whole, experts still predict a decline of 2.3% of economic performance, with growth forecast for next year be limited to only 0.6%. However, in the second quarter of 2013, GDP increased by 1.1% on a quarterly basis and this perspective helps to increase the chances of consumers. In September, the index of economic expectations stood at -29.5 points, the highest since April 2010 Currently, the indicator has increased by 35 points compared to its lowest value in September of 2011 this improve-ment can be attributed mainly to the tourism sector, which this year has been able to count on a considerable increase. In the first half of the year the number of customers in hotels increased by 3.5% compared to the first six months of 2012, while the number of overnight stays increased by 5.4%. Portugal is benefiting, in particular, its image as a "tourist destination safe" when compared to the region of North Africa, who had to deal with conditions of political unrest / social.
Also, the indicator of income expectations improved significantly in almost all countries. It is still at an extremely high level in Germany and an extremely low in Greece. Over the past three months, the index of income expectations declined only in the Netherlands. The lowest values were recorded in Greece (-46.8 points), the Netherlands (-42.7 points) and France (-42.1 points), while the highest were recorded in Germany (33.7 points), the Czech Republic (16.5 points) and Austria (15.1 points).
In recent months, Italy has seen an improvement in their economic prospects. Even if companies are not yet out of danger and the unemployment rate remains high, consumers are regaining confidence, supported also by the economic recovery plan with which the Government intends to improve the rail network, restructure and consolidate schools and bridges galleries. In addition, there is an additional loan of € 10 billion intended to pay off outstanding bills issued by private companies in charge of state administration. Although Italians do not expect that their incomes will increase in real terms, confident that their income will remain unchanged and, above all, that there is no further reductions. As a result, the indicator of income expectations increased significantly to 16.9 points, its highest level since December 2010.
After the first economic recovery in Spain after many months, the citizens do not anticipate that their income may fall further. The economy seems to go the right way and for the second half of the year, is also expected to return to growth, albeit weak. For the next few months there are no tax increases or cuts in wages and income expectations indicator has now amounted to -11.8 points, hence moving away from its historical minimum value of -62.4 points in August of the year last year. Over the past five months, the indicator has risen by about 22 points.
The economy of the Czech Republic has been able to successfully reverse the trend in the second quarter. Although GDP has fallen by a further 1.2% on an annual basis, increased by 0.6% compared to the first quarter of this year. The National Institute of Statistics Czech declares that in recent months has decreased substantially even the unemployment rate and the national average is currently stood at 6.9%. In view of the general recovery is clearly perceived in Europe, particularly in Germany, consumers are convinced that their economic situation will improve further influencing, consequently, on their income. The indicator of income expectations rose about 16 points so far this year and is currently amounted to 16.5 points, the highest level since November 2009.
Although last year Slovakia was one of the countries with the highest level of growth in Europe in the second quarter of this year, GDP grew by only 0.3% compared to the first quarter of 2013 and the 0.8% compared to the same quarter last year. The condition of the labor market can be described as critical because, in spite of economic growth, the past year has seen an increase in the unemployment rate, which currently is 14%, the highest recorded in Central and Eastern Europe. Experts predict that the situation will improve significantly only in 2015, consumers have not lost hope that the economic situation, and consequently the labor market may recover in the near future and this is also reflected by the income expectations. Although it continues to remain in positive territory, the indicator in the course of this year, has not changed: it is now 8.2 points,
Notwithstanding that the economic expectations and income have improved significantly across Europe, it is not surprising that this is also reflected in a more positive attitude with regard to the pro-board purchases over the first half of the year. The indicator is stopped in Austria, the Czech Republic, France, Greece, Portugal and Romania, while in the other countries marked increases that were relati-tively substantial in some countries. The lowest values were recorded in the Czech Republic (-25.8 points), France (-36.6 points) and in Portugal (-42.2 points) and highest in Germany (45.0 points), in Bulgaria (15.2 points) and Austria (11.8 points).
With 45 points, the indicator of propensity to buy in Germany is the highest ever achieved by December 2006 This value is attributable to the favorable conditions of the global economic structure. After the mild recession in late 2012 and early 2013, the economy has improved. The unemployment rate is low and incomes are rising. To this we must add the historically low interest rates that do not invite the Germans to deposit their money in the bank, but to spend it on consumer goods of high value, or to invest in the renovation of housing.
In July, the propensity to buy in Austria reached its lowest level since April 2009 with the re-emergence of the crisis of Hypo Alpe-Adria-Bank International AG and the looming insolvency of Dayli and Niedermeyer, resulting in increased unemployment rate. However, during the summer, the indicator has recovered thanks to general economic conditions, to stand currently at 11.7 points. The economy has recovered from the financial crisis and, more recently, showed an increase of 0.2% on a quarterly basis. Despite the recent increase, the unemployment rate in Austria is still the lowest in Europe.
The Dutch economy is in recession. According to Eurostat, the rate of unem-ployment is increasing and is at 7% and the economic weakness is attributable mainly to the collapse of the housing market that, over the past year has seen a decrease of about 30% of the value of homes. Payables for mortgages of many Dutch now total approximately twice the value of the real estate property itself. This is the main reason that drives consumers to cut all the expenses that are not essential ones. The indicator of the propensity to buy it is a direct reflection, and currently stood at -21.8 points.
Although the economy in Greece continues to be in decline, are more and more signs that the economy is slowly getting to his feet. The forecasts of recession by the end of the year are down 4% against -6.4% at the end of 2012 for the first time in ten years, the state budget will present a primary surplus, albeit limited. It is possible that the recession can be overcome in the next year (forecast: 0.6%), with tourism that is currently playing a key role in this recovery. A greek five is employed in this sector. This development is also reflected in the propensity to buy, with the index currently stands at -25.1 points. However, the same index is also heavily declined in August, up to -43 points, due, probably, of the expected surplus of 4,000 civil servants and the new round of inspections of the Troika, consisting of the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund.