RECALLING the Joint Declaration on the Launch of Negotiations for the  ...
2020-11-19 2 ENGLISH REPORTS
Unemployment trends during 2020 have not always echoed GDP trends due to differences in labor market policies and practices. In some European countries, wage subsidies and other measures have limited layoffs, so that, as late as June, when the unemployment rate in the United States was 11%, it was only 8%–9% in France and Italy, and just 4% in Germany – similar to Britain in May. Greece and Spain, on the other hand, had rates of 17% and 16% in May and June, respectively. High unemployment effects are also seen in Latin America and in some parts of the Asia-Pacific region, such as Turkey and the Philippines. Government budget balance effects are noteworthy. These tend to be largest in the highincome countries hardest hit by the pandemic, such as Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States. Not only are tax revenues depressed, but these countries have also spent a great deal on relief. Impacts in other countries are also sizable, with an average 9% deficit increase anticipated for the European Union as a whole, for example. The predicted deficits in the United States and the United Kingdom will raise their overall public debt to about 115% and 125% of GDP, respectively. Rapid expansion of public debt has caused concern in the past, but low interest rates make the debt burden more manageable as long as countries revert soon to normal GDP growth rates.
Countries with weaker credit ratings face higher interest rates, so that some countries may experience financing difficulties even if their deficit increase is modest by the standards of Table 1. And the huge extra demand for borrowing by governments could lead to rising interest rates all round as the global economy recovers. Equity markets The first, highly visible verdict on the economic implications of the pandemic was delivered by the financial markets from mid-February onward. At that time, very few countries other than China had a significant number of COVID-19 cases, and stock markets around the world were at or close to their peak. The S&P 500 index in the United States, for example, peaked on 19 February at a level 13% higher than a year earlier and 61% above five years ago. However, Figure 1 shows that equity prices dived in high-income countries from mid-February onward: the S&P 500 fell by 34%, the FTSE100 by 35%, the DAX by 39%, and the Nikkei by 31%. The Shanghai index also fell, but only by 13%. Each of these indexes bottomed out between 18 March and 23 March. Markets gained confidence after 23 March, in part due to the large scale of relief packages announced by governments in the G7 and other rich countries. Although some fluctuations occurred, progress was fairly steady during this second phase and, by the end of June, most of the major indexes in G7 countries were within 10% of their peak earlier in the year. A notable exception was the FTSE 100, reflecting the severity of the health and economic impacts of the pandemic in Britain.
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