Saturday , July 31 2021

Clouds that gather around the global economy

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Bill Clark / Getty Images

What's in 2019 for the global economy?

Certainly there are clouds on the horizon, but 2018 as a whole was a reasonably strong year.

Global growth is likely to be around 3.7%, when all numbers are in, according to the International Monetary Fund.

The two largest economies in the world are likely to see respectable expansion rates.

The vast majority of the world, the United States, had two very strong neighborhoods in the middle of the year. The data for the last three months will come in late January, and although they might show a slowdown, a fairly strong expansion of nearly 3% will probably be registered all year.

As for China, the deceleration after three decades of incredible growth continues. However, it is likely to be around 6.6% in 2018, which is more than enough to generate significant improvements in average living standards.

Most mainstream forecasts suggest that recovery after a major recession will continue for another year or more.

So what about the clouds?


Growth in the US is likely to be slower. The 2018 growth reflects President Trump's tax cuts. There is a debate over whether the impact will last. Is it a one-time effect that will disappear like sugar, or will it have a lasting impact on incentives for work and investment?

There is also the influence of the central bank, the Federal Reserve, to consider. Will it continue to increase interest rates to keep inflation close to the target of 2% after the four such moves made in 2018?

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President Trump stormed the Fed, while stock markets in the United States fell at the end of last year

President Trump, of course, thinks that the Fed can do a lot of damage. That is, he said, "the only problem our economy has".

He has made similar points on several occasions, to the extent that his Finance Secretary Steve Munchin felt the need to publicly say that the president had no desire to dismiss the chairman of the Federal Reserve System, Jerome Powell. (It is unclear whether he has the authority to do so, but he can certainly refuse to give him another term as president when the current expires in 2022 if he is still president then).

In any case, the president's prospect that many consider undue influence on the Federal Reserve has the potential to distort financial markets. The Fed has received responsibility for the monetary policy, which includes the interest rate policy of the Congress.

A mainstream view among economists is that keeping it away from the center of the political arena is better for long-term inflation control.

There is another direction of President Trump's economic policy, which could undermine economic growth: international trade.

Tariff escalation?

The US is already in a major trade confrontation with China because President Trump calls the theft from China about the technology of US companies doing business there.

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Wang Zhao / AFP / Getty Images

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Will Chinese President Xi retaliate in the trade war with the United States with more tariffs?

Three months per year, the tariffs that its administration has already imposed on a wide range of Chinese goods should increase from 10% to 25%. From China can be expected to retaliate as it did in the first round of tariffs.

It is true that Presidents Trump and Xi held some conversations and it is possible that escalation will be hindered. But, surely, is not certain.

And then there are US tariffs for steel and aluminum, allegedly imposed to protect national security, affecting many US trading partners.

The prospect of continued trade tensions is a significant cloud over economic prospects.

European slowdown

Europe also has its own problems. Economic data for the third quarter of the year showed a significant slowdown in eurozone growth.

Part of this can be very briefly overcrowded due to new procedures for testing vehicle emissions that have disrupted the motor industry. But this may be the beginning of a more significant loss of momentum in recovery that has never been particularly strong.

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Yui Mok / PA

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The issue dominates EU issues at the moment

A survey of the processing industry in the region showed that the slowdown continued in December with a contraction in two individual economies, Italy and France.

Europe also has its own trade issues to take care of: Brexit. The UK is due to leave the EU on March 29th. There is a wide range of possible outcomes, some of which could disrupt trade between the UK and the continent.

Global trade

More than a series of BBC taking an international trade perspective:

Predictors of recession?

Stock markets had a rough ride in late 2018. Many saw strong gains at the beginning of the year, which were more than reversed. Overall, it was the worst year for global markets (and very individual) of the financial crisis.

Lower stock prices can be a warning sign for wider economic problems ahead, sometimes even a recession. But the fall in stock prices is not a sure sign of the next recession.

While the late economist, Nobel Prize winner, Paul Samuelson, joked once: "The Wall Street Indexes predicted nine of the last five recessions." The market can give false alarms.

The bond market, where debt is traded, including government bonds, is also close to blinking a warning to the US prospects.

The phenomenon known as the inverted yield curve is a more reliable indicator of crisis, although it is not very precise about when.

That said, there are economists who believe that the US can move towards a recession, not this year, but in 2020. Nouriel Roubini, who predicted the financial crisis, is one. He also warns that the recession he predicts will be more difficult for the government and the Fed to cope.

China also has things to care – in the form of a growing debt burden on the public and private sectors, which could undermine financial stability. Business surveys show that new orders for producers declined in December for the first time in two years.

All the things I say, there are some pretty clear reasons to consider the look now as a good deal harder to read and more terrified than it was for several years.

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