The Dutch economy continued to perform well in 2019, although momentum did weaken during the course of the year. Real GDP growth amounted to 1.7% in 2019, which makes the Netherlands one of the most flourishing economies in Western Europe. All drivers of economic growth showed positive figures. Private consumption remained resilient and was one of the major drivers behind economic growth. The US-China trade war has so far had only a marginal impact on the Dutch economy. The 6.9% increase in house prices had a positive impact on other economic segments. However, economic growth forecasts show a lower growth path for the years ahead as the global business cycle is expected to come to an end and as the coronavirus is affecting supply-chains.
The Dutch labour market remained robust as job growth continued and unemployment rates declined further. The latter, however, is at record low levels, resulting in a very tight labour market in a number of sectors. Consumer prices increased substantially in 2019 and the 2.6% inflation rate was well above both the 2% plan rate and the Eurozone average.
Interest rates have now been at historically low levels for a number of years and have been a major driver of real estate pricing. Eurozone interest rates are expected to remain low for the coming years, due among other things to the late-cycle stage of the economy, the ageing of the population and a steep increase in savings. With the aim of raising inflation, the European Central Bank has restarted its financial asset buy-back programme and once again lowered its benchmark interest rate in September 2019.
Additionally, the European economy is facing the challenge of the impact of Brexit, but also of political tensions and populist sentiments in a number of countries. On a global scale, geopolitical tensions and protectionist policies will lead to growing uncertainty in the years ahead, while the impact of the coronavirus has to be awaited.
Retail spending is closely linked to the overall economic situation and consumer confidence. The first remained positive in the past year, although growth did decline somewhat, while the second remained stable at around the zero level, indicating a balance between the positively and the negatively inclined. Spending did increase over the course of 2019 and was up by 3.9% year-on-year in the third quarter of 2019. It should be noted that, unlike in past years, growth in the non-food sector (+2.9% year-on-year) was stronger than in food sector (+1.5%). This was the case throughout 2019.
Key economic indicators (Source: OE)
Consumer price index (CPI)
Government bond yields, long-term
Sources: Oxford Economics; CPB
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