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June 2, 2022

China unemployment, EU consumer confidence, MENA outlook and why it’s a good time to visit Japan

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Julius Probst
Arnaud Lieugaut
Patrick Malm
Karl-Philip Nilsson
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China unemployment

This week, we start with more grim data from the world’s second-biggest economy. China’s national and youth unemployment rate have both surged to a record amid stringent lockdowns. Job prospects for graduates have also deteriorated significantly as the Chinese economy heads towards contraction.

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EU consumer confidence

The mood is hardly better in Europe, where consumer confidence has fallen to historic lows across the euro area. As the chart below shows, the current value has dropped below the 25th percentile for almost every country in the bloc.  

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EU consumer confidence and inflation

Soaring retail prices obviously discourage people from spending money, and this next chart shows the extent of that correlation.

The proportion of consumers with low (below the 25th percentile) or record low confidence has spiked – to levels comparable with the Great Recession, the European debt crisis and the pandemic – as EU inflation hits a record 8.1% this month.

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EU consumer vs business confidence

Interestingly, while consumers are feeling the pinch, businesses have hardly felt more buoyant – so much so that the gap between consumer and business confidence has widened to a record! Amid rampant inflation, are businesses managing to maintain profit margins by passing costs on to consumers?

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MENA food inflation

To the MENA region now, where consumers are also feeling the pain – or even hunger pangs – of inflation.  

The chart below shows the degree to which headline inflation across the region is being driven by rising food and beverage prices, particularly in north African countries such as Algeria and Egypt.

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MENA breakeven oil prices

Oil producers in the MENA region, on the other hand, are raking in the profits as the war in Ukraine sends commodity prices soaring.

The chart below shows the breakeven oil price each country needs to cover the cost of its imports (external) and balance its budget (fiscal) compared with the current spot price and 10-year average.

(This short article by the Council of Foreign Relations discusses breakeven oil prices and the pros and cons of using these figures for economic analysis.)

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Global growth outlook

Thanks to high oil prices, MENA is poised for healthy economic growth this year. It trails only Asian emerging markets in the IMF’s growth outlook for 2022, as the chart below shows. Global GDP is now expected to expand by about 3.6%, with significant variation across regions. Note the toll of the Ukraine war on European emerging markets.

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Japan’s real effective exchange rate

Finally, a bit of good news for Japanese exporters and tourists to Japan.

Thanks to the Bank of Japan’s ultra-easy monetary policy, the country’s real effective exchange rate – the weighted average of its currency in relation to an index or basket of other major currencies – has dropped to the lowest level since the early 1970s.  

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