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The path to Global Growth narrows in 2019 after pick up in 2018

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Global growth in 2018 is estimated to be 3.7 percent, as it was last fall, but signs of a slowdown in the second half of 2018 have led to downward revisions for several economies.

Weakness in the second half of 2018 will carry over to coming quarters, with global growth projected to decline to 3.5 percent in 2019 before picking up slightly to 3.6 percent in 2020 (0.2 percentage point and 0.1 percentage point lower).

This growth pattern reflects a persistent decline in the growth rate of advanced economies from above-trend levels—occurring more rapidly than previously anticipated—together with a temporary decline in the growth rate for emerging market and developing economies in 2019, reflecting contractions in Argentina and Turkey, as well as the impact of trade actions on China and other Asian economies.

Specifically, growth in advanced economies is projected to slow from an estimated 2.3 percent in 2018 to 2.0 percent in 2019 and 1.7 percent in 2020.

  • The growth forecast for the United States also remains unchanged. Growth is expected to decline to 2.5 percent in 2019 and soften further to 1.8 percent in 2020 with the unwinding of fiscal stimulus and as the federal funds rate temporarily overshoots the neutral rate of interest. Nevertheless, the projected pace of expansion is above the US economy’s estimated potential growth rate in both years. Strong domestic demand growth will support rising imports and contribute to a widening of the US current account deficit.
  • There is substantial uncertainty around the baseline projection of about 1.5 percent growth in the United Kingdom in 2019-20. The unchanged projection relative to the October 2018 WEO reflects the offsetting negative effect of prolonged uncertainty about the Brexit outcome and the positive impact from fiscal stimulus announced in the 2019 budget. This baseline projection assumes that a Brexit deal is reached in 2019 and that the UK transitions gradually to the new regime. However, as of mid-January, the shape that Brexit will ultimately take remains highly uncertain.
  • Japan’s economy is set to grow by 1.1 percent in 2019 (0.2 percentage point higher than in the October WEO). This revision mainly reflects additional fiscal support to the economy this year, including measures to mitigate the effects of the planned consumption tax rate increase in October 2019. Growth is projected to moderate to 0.5 percent in 2020 (0.2 percentage point higher than in the October 2018 WEO) following the implementation of the mitigating measures.
  • Growth in the euro area is set to moderate from 1.8 percent in 2018 to 1.6 percent in 2019 (0.3 lower than projected last fall) and 1.7 percent in 2020. Growth rates have been marked down for many economies, notably Germany (due to soft private consumption, weak industrial production following the introduction of revised auto emission standards, and subdued foreign demand); Italy (due to weak domestic demand and higher borrowing costs as sovereign yields remain elevated); and France (due to the negative impact of street protests and industrial action).

For the emerging market and developing economy group, growth is expected to tick down to 4.5 percent in 2019 (from 4.6 percent in 2018), before improving to 4.9 percent in 2020.

  • Growth in emerging and developing Asia will dip from 6.5 percent in 2018 to 6.3 percent in 2019 and 6.4 percent in 2020. Despite fiscal stimulus that offsets some of the impact of higher US tariffs, China’s economy will slow due to the combined influence of needed financial regulatory tightening and trade tensions with the United States. India’s economy is poised to pick up in 2019, benefiting from lower oil prices and a slower pace of monetary tightening than previously expected, as inflation pressures ease.
  • Growth in emerging and developing Europe in 2019 is now expected to weaken more than previously anticipated, to 0.7 percent (from 3.8 percent in 2018) despite generally buoyant growth in Central and Eastern Europe, before recovering to 2.4 percent in 2020. The revisions (1.3 percentage point in 2019 and 0.4 percentage point in 2020) are due to a large projected contraction in 2019 and a slower recovery in 2020 in Turkey, amid policy tightening and adjustment to more restrictive external financing conditions.
  • In Latin America, growth is projected to recover over the next two years, from 1.1 percent in 2018 to 2.0 percent in 2019 and 2.5 percent in 2020 (0.2 percentage point weaker for both years than previously expected). The revisions are due to a downgrade in Mexico’s growth prospects in 2019–20, reflecting lower private investment, and an even more severe contraction in Venezuela than previously anticipated. The downgrades are only partially offset by an upward revision to the 2019 forecast for Brazil, where the gradual recovery from the 2015–16 recession is expected to continue. Argentina’s economy will contract in 2019 as tighter policies aimed at reducing imbalances slow domestic demand, before returning to growth in 2020.
  • Growth in the Middle East, North Africa, Afghanistan, and Pakistan region is expected to remain subdued at 2.4 percent in 2019 before recovering to about 3 percent in 2020. Multiple factors weigh on the region’s outlook, including weak oil output growth, which offsets an expected pickup in non-oil activity (Saudi Arabia); tightening financing conditions (Pakistan); US sanctions (Iran); and, across several economies, geopolitical tensions.
  • In sub-Saharan Africa, growth is expected to pick up from 2.9 percent in 2018 to 3.5 percent in 2019, and 3.6 percent in 2020. For both years the projection is 0.3 percentage point lower than last October’s projection, as softening oil prices have caused downward revisions for Angola and Nigeria. The headline numbers for the region mask significant variation in performance, with over one-third of sub-Saharan economies expected to grow above 5 percent in 2019–20.

 

Risks to the Outlook

Key sources of risk to the global outlook are the outcome of trade negotiations and the direction financial conditions will take in months ahead. If countries resolve their differences without raising distortive trade barriers further and market sentiment recovers, then improved confidence and easier financial conditions could reinforce each other to lift growth above the baseline forecast. However, the balance of risks remains skewed to the downside.

Trade tensions.

The November 30 signing of the US-Mexico-Canada free trade agreement (USMCA) to replace NAFTA, the December 1 US-China announcement of a 90-day “truce” on tariff increases, and the announced reduction in Chinese tariffs on US car imports are welcome steps toward de-escalating trade frictions. Final outcomes remain, however, subject to a possibly difficult negotiation process in the case of the US-China dispute and domestic ratification processes for the USMCA.

Thus, global trade, investment, and output remain under threat from policy uncertainty, as well as from other ongoing trade tensions. Failure to resolve differences and a resulting increase in tariff barriers would lead to higher costs of imported intermediate and capital goods and higher final goods prices for consumers.

Beyond these direct impacts, higher trade policy uncertainty and concerns over escalation and retaliation would lower business investment, disrupt supply chains, and slow productivity growth. The resulting depressed outlook for corporate profitability could dent financial market sentiment and further dampen growth

 

Financial market sentiment.

Escalating trade tensions, together with concerns about Italian fiscal policy, worries regarding several emerging markets, and, toward the end of the year, about a US government shutdown, contributed to equity price declines during the second half of 2018. A range of catalyzing events in key systemic economies could spark a broader deterioration in investor sentiment and a sudden, sharp repricing of assets amid elevated debt burdens.

Beyond the possibility of escalating trade tensions and a broader turn in financial market sentiment, other factors adding downside risk to global investment and growth include uncertainty about the policy agenda of new administrations, a protracted US federal government shutdown, as well as geopolitical tensions in the Middle East and East Asia. Risks of a somewhat slower-moving nature include pervasive effects of climate change and ongoing declines in trust of established institutions and political parties.

 

Policy Priorities

With momentum past its peak, risks to global growth skewed to the downside, and policy space limited in many countries, multilateral and domestic policies urgently need to focus on preventing additional deceleration and strengthening resilience. A shared priority is to raise medium-term growth prospects while enhancing economic inclusion.

Multilateral cooperation.

Building on the recent favorable developments noted above, policymakers should cooperate to address sources of dissatisfaction with the rules-based trading system, reduce trade costs, and resolve disagreements without raising tariff and non-tariff barriers. Failure to do so would further destabilize a slowing global economy.

Beyond trade, fostering closer cooperation on a range of issues would help broaden the gains from global economic integration, including: financial regulatory reforms; international taxation and minimizing cross-border avenues for tax evasion; reducing corruption; and strengthening the global financial safety net to reduce the need for countries to self-insure against external shocks.

 

Domestic policies. The policy priorities across advanced economies, emerging markets, and low-income developing countries remain broadly the same.

  • Across advanced economies, above-trend growth is set to moderate to its modest potential (in some cases, earlier than previously anticipated). All countries should emphasize measures that boost productivity, raise labor force participation, particularly of women and, in some cases, youth, and ensure adequate social insurance, including for those vulnerable to structural transformation. Monetary policy should ensure inflation expectations remain anchored, while fiscal policy should build buffers where needed to replenish limited policy space for combating downturns.
  • Emerging market and developing economies have been tested by difficult external conditions over the past few months amid trade tensions, rising US interest rates, dollar appreciation, capital outflows, and volatile oil prices. In some economies, addressing high private debt burdens and balance-sheet currency and maturity mismatches will require strengthening macroprudential frameworks. Exchange rate flexibility can complement these policies by helping to buffer external shocks. Where inflation expectations are well anchored, monetary policy can provide support to domestic activity as needed. Fiscal policy should ensure debt ratios remain sustainable under the more challenging external financial conditions. Improving the targeting of subsidies and rationalizing recurrent expenditures can help preserve capital outlays needed to boost potential growth and social spending to enhance inclusion. For low-income developing countries, concerted efforts in these areas would also help diversify production structures (a pressing imperative for commodity-dependent economies), and their progress toward the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

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Economy

Global Economic Growth Becomes Fragile as Trade Tensions Persist

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Global momentum has weakened markedly and growth is set to remain subpar as trade tensions persist. Trade tensions have disrupted growth. With uncertainty high and confidence low, investment has suffered, and the manufacturing sector has taken a hit.Key risks include a prolonged period of higher tariffs between the US and China, new trade barriers between the US and EU, a sharper slowdown in China, prolonged sub-par growth in Europe and financial vulnerabilities from high debt.

“Overall, however, trade tensions are taking a toll and global growth is projected to slow to only 3.2% this year,” Laurence Boone, OECD Chief Economist, revealed.

The Global Economy in 3600

United States| Stronger Q2 as trade and inventory unwinds

Economic growth accelerated sharply in the first quarter thanks to strong net exports and a buildup of inventories, which more than offset slowing consumer spending and fixed investment growth. Imports contracted largely due to frontloading in Q4, in anticipation of tariff increases on China, while the inventory surge was partly related to softer demand, particularly for vehicles. Shutdown effects, on the other hand, dragged on growth. Nevertheless, monthly indicators for March suggest a rebound in both private investment and consumption momentum at the end of the quarter. Turning to Q2, the trade and inventory boost should unwind and weigh on growth, while conversely, delayed private and public spending due to the shutdown will provide support. Overall, consumer spending will likely gain steam, but weak investment in the residential property market remains a concern.

Economic momentum will cool this year as a variety of factors weigh on activity. Higher interest rates—despite the recent halt of the Fed’s tightening cycle—and slower global growth are notable headwinds. Moreover, trade uncertainty should persist this year—even in the event of a trade deal with China—while fiscal stimulus effects will fade, further dampening growth.

Euro Area| Uncertainty continues in Q2 as growth declines

The economy likely stayed in a soft patch in the first quarter, plagued by problems in the manufacturing sector and a weaker external backdrop. Economic sentiment fell throughout Q1, recording the worst reading in over two years in March, while declining export orders alongside transitory issues caused industrial output to drop in February and kept the manufacturing PMI in contractionary territory in March. That said, a solid labor market should continue to keep activity in the black. Leading data for Q2 has so far been lackluster, with the composite PMI falling in April. Moreover, on the political front, uncertainty continues to reign. While the EU recently approved an extension to the UK’s exit date, questions linger over if and when Brexit will occur and what it will entail. Meanwhile, on 15 April, the EU approved a mandate to open trade talks with the U.S. amid ongoing threats of tariffs from its largest trading partner.     

Growth is seen slowing sharply this year, hampered by a more challenging external environment, souring sentiment and a weaker manufacturing sector. That said, contained inflation, some fiscal loosening and accommodative monetary policy should provide some relief. Risks stem from a larger-than-expected slowdown in China, political turmoil and rising protectionism. Analysts cut the Eurozone’s GDP forecast for the sixth consecutive month in May as downbeat economic data continues to roll in.

United Kingdom| Economy losing momentum in Q2

The economy likely performed better than previously anticipated in Q1, although this was partly due to a favorable base effect and firms stockpiling in preparation for a potential no-deal Brexit at end-March. Solid GDP growth in January and February was supported by manufacturing and construction. Moreover, in December-February the unemployment rate remained at a multi-decade low, while wage growth was robust. This was likely behind buoyant retail sales in the first quarter, despite anemic consumer confidence. However, the economy is likely losing momentum so far in Q2 as the boost from stockbuilding unwinds. On the political front, the EU recently agreed to delay Brexit until 31 October after MPs failed to agree on a way forward. A resolution to the impasse does not appear imminent, and the ongoing uncertainty will continue to hamper business confidence and investment going forward.

Growth this year will be held back by muted business investment and ebbing momentum in key trading partners such as the EU and U.S. However, the strong labor market should prop up private consumption, while the fiscal stance will turn more supportive. The highly uncertain outcome of Brexit remains the key risk to the outlook.

Japan Economic| Uncertain economic outlook weigh on household spending

Growth momentum likely moderated in Q1, mostly on the back of cooling global demand, which traditionally fuels activity in the all-important manufacturing sector and shores up business investment. Against this backdrop, industrial production fell on a monthly basis in March and sentiment among large manufacturers declined to a two-year low in Q1 2019. An uncertain economic outlook could have started to weigh on household spending, as consumer confidence fell to an over three-year low in March. In an attempt to rekindle economic growth, in late March the parliament approved a record JPY 101 trillion (USD 920 billion) budget for FY 2019 (April 2019–March 2020), which increases spending on welfare, public works and defense. The budget also allocates resources to mitigate the negative impact of a planned sales tax hike in October.

Economic growth is expected to decelerate further this year as subdued global demand will take its toll on the country’s external sector and the October sales tax hike will put a dent in consumer spending. However, a boost in fiscal stimulus and a potential recovery in global demand in H2 should cushion the economy against a sharp slowdown.

China| Despite growth momentum in Q1, Q2 will decelerate

Although the economy expanded robustly in the first quarter of the year, growing 6.4% on an annual basis to match the previous quarter’s outturn, weak data for April suggests that growth will decelerate in Q2. All retail sales, investment, industrial production, and exports deteriorated markedly in April, increasing the likelihood that authorities will unveil further stimulus measures in the coming weeks. Against this backdrop, trade tensions with the United States have flared in recent weeks, which will likely further erode activity. On 10 May, the U.S. hiked trade tariffs for USD 200 billion of Chinese imports to 25%, to which China retaliated by increasing tariffs on USD 60 billion of U.S. imports. With Trump threatening to tax the remainder of Chinese imports in response, the conflict seems far from over. 

Economic growth is projected to slow this year due to weak global demand, domestic economic imbalances and financial deleveraging. Escalating trade tensions with the United States will add further downward pressure on growth. On the upside, authorities remain committed to easing fiscal and financial conditions in order to keep growth afloat.

East Asian economies| Expected to slow this year compared to last year. 

East Asian economies are expected to slow this year compared to last year. Notably, these highly export-driven economies will face headwinds from weaker global growth and rising trade protectionism. That said, Chinese fiscal policy stimulus and accommodative monetary policy across the region should support activity in the months ahead.

South Asia economies| Set to slow in 2019

Economic growth is set to slow this year on weakness in Pakistan as its government adopts a tighter fiscal stance and implements structural reforms in line with its new IMF deal. In addition, Bangladesh is expected to post softer growth this year. Economic dynamics in India, however, should remain broadly stable thanks to generous government support.

Sub-Saharan Africa| The overall expansion is seen only slightly above last year’s modest outturn

Growth prospects were again cut this month, largely reflecting weak incoming data from heavyweight South Africa and oil-rich Angola. The overall expansion is thus now seen only slightly above last year’s modest outturn. Elevated global trade tensions, commodity-price volatility, adverse weather shocks and policy uncertainty represent key downside risks to the outlook.

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