Économie et Statistique n° 359-360 - 2002Business Cycle Report
European Growth Disrupted by a Short Cycle
How should we react when economic indicators convey conflicting signals, signs of an apparently troubled and hesitant economic situation, as in 1998? How should we interpret economic deviations between European countries? A cyclical analysis of the European countries' GDPs can shed light on these questions, which are central to both cyclical economists and economic policy bodies. An observation of the euro zone at an aggregate level over a long period shows that the European business cycle actually breaks down into two cycles of distinct periods. In addition to the generally studied fluctuations, which are decennial and related to investment movements, there is a short cycle of approximately three years linked to stock variations. These two distinct cycles can be combined for an easier interpretation of the apparently hesitant episodes in the business cycle and for an assessment of the advisability of an economic policy decision, given the time taken for it to reach the real economy. A short cycle can be found in most of the euro zone countries. These national short cycles bear similar curves to the aggregate zone cycle. However, the short-run cyclical fluctuations cannot come down to a single European component. Groups of countries appear headed by Germany, France and Italy whose synchronisation varies over time. Hence a country in the zone may deviate from the European business cycle. This raises the question of the distribution of European economic policy roles and the pertinent level of action.