Energy Price Shock Poses Additional Challenge to Austria's Price Competitiveness

This article reports on the latest update of Austria's effective exchange rate indices, which aggregate bilateral exchange rates and relative prices or costs into indicators of Austria's short- to medium-term international competitive position. The weighting scheme on which the indicators are based uses bilateral trade data for Austria's 55 most important trading partners. With the latest update, the three-year averaging period was moved forward to 2016-2018. The main results are as follows: Based on the recalculated country weights, we confirm the preliminary finding of a medium-term worsening of Austria's competitive position, although alternative price indices would appear to provide conflicting signals. In particular, measures based on producer prices and unit labour costs indicate competitiveness gains, while the HICP/CPI-based index shows marked losses. These diverging signals, however, merely reflect data availability at the current edge. With regard to the geographical focus of Austria's international trade relations, we observe a further shift toward overseas markets in the US dollar area and China, away from Western Europe and Russia. The real effective exchange rate for the tourism industry, which we developed during the previous update and enhanced during this update, reflects a more pronounced appreciation in the tourism sector than in the service sector as a whole. However, according to the latest figures on overnight stays this loss in price competitiveness has had no significant dampening effect on tourism demand in recent months. Finally, we address the economic costs of Austria's current inflation differential to the euro area, which has induced a real appreciation. In two simulations, we quantify realized effects and calculate expected future losses driven by higher unit labour costs. In total, we find that the loss in price competitiveness may cause the Austrian economy to shrink by around ¾ to 1 percentage point between 2022 and 2025.