Top euro zone economy forecaster optimistic on growth
The recent pickup in euro zone economic growth will be maintained this year but the European Central Bank will have to ease policy again to boost weak inflation, according to the top forecaster for the currency bloc in polls last year.
Johannes Mayr, head of economic research at BayernLB in Munich, is optimistic Germany will lead Europe in 2016 and while Chinese growth may disappoint, there is no risk of a sharp slowdown or recession.
"The current upswing will continue in 2016 and gain slightly more momentum due to higher fiscal spending from governments, to finance expenses from the refugee crisis, and slightly higher global demand," he said.
BayernLB topped a list of 60 forecasters in the euro zone and Germany that were graded by StarMine for accuracy on a set of key monthly data releases in 2015, including GDP, inflation, consumer confidence, unemployment rate, ECB deposit rate as well as the purchasing managers' surveys of business activity.
But while economic growth may be on a cyclical uptrend, Mayr predicts inflation will remain too low for the ECB's comfort due to persistently weak global oil prices.
ECB President Mario Draghi signaled last month that further policy easing could be coming within months, leading markets to price in a deposit rate cut in March. Economists polled by Reuters soon after the policy meeting also predicted a deposit rate cut in March but gave even chances for an increase in monthly asset purchases.
Mayr said before the ECB meeting: "The focus will be on quantitative easing and the ECB could expand its asset purchases, either in March or June. Another cut in the deposit rate is highly likely."
Similar calls for expansive policy helped BayernLB top last year's Reuters accuracy league, so Mayr has a fair degree of confidence in his latest views. "We had a good call that the ECB's job was not done when it started its QE program. So we expected the ECB to communicate rather aggressively throughout 2015 and loosen policy further. They did just that, helping to keep interest rates low."