Headlines Belgian economy
Since the start of 2012, tensions in money and bond markets have receded somewhat in most euro countries. Together with the recent uptick in most confidence indicators, this is expected to lead to a bottoming out of European GDP. Assuming the sovereign debt crisis does not intensify again, economic activity should gradually pick up in the second half of the year. Nonetheless, on a yearly basis, this implies negative euro area GDP growth of -0.3%, which is a substantial downward revision as compared to our September forecasts (1.2%). This scenario remains highly uncertain, with renewed turmoil in financial markets as the main risk.
Belgian economic growth amounted to 1.9% in 2011, although economic activity fell slightly during the second semester. In 2012, quarterly growth should remain very modest against the background of a gradual pick-up in the European business cycle and of the austerity measures already taken by the Belgian government. Economic activity ought to stabilize in 2012Q1, followed by a slight export-led upturn (up to qoq growth of 0.2% in 2012Q4). Economic growth should remain limited to 0.1% on a yearly basis.
Due to the lack of dynamism in the business cycle, job creation has stagnated since mid-2011 and should only slightly recover in the course of this year, leading to an average annual increase of 6 400 units in 2012. As a result, the harmonised unemployment rate (Eurostat definition) should rise from 7.2% in 2011 to 7.5% in 2012.
Our most recent inflation forecasts were finalised at the end of February. Belgian inflation, as measured by the yoy growth rate of the national consumer price index, should amount to 3.0% on average this year. This upward revision (compared to our 2.7% forecast at the end of January) is largely due to price increases for energy products as a result of higher oil prices.
STU 1-12 was finalised on 16 March 2012.