The International Monetary Fund predicted the world economy will strengthen in 2020, albeit at a slightly weaker pace than previously anticipated amid threats related to trade and tensions in the Middle East.
Global growth will accelerate this year to 3.3 per cent from 2.9 per cent in 2019, the fund said on Monday. That’s the first pickup in three years, but less than the 3.4 per cent projected in October. The 2019 estimate was reduced for a sixth time.
The report, however, contained some modest hope, noting that risks are “less skewed” toward negative outcomes. That outlook will be keenly discussed this week at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. The sense that global growth is stabilising is shared by many economists, as well as some central banks.
“The risk of protracted subpar global growth remains tangible despite tentative signs of stabilizing momentum.”– The International Monetary Fund
For the IMF, which sees growth accelerating to 3.4 per cent in 2021, the positives include signs that the slump in manufacturing and global trade is bottoming out, “intermittent” good news on US-China trade talks and accommodative monetary policy.
It upgraded China’s outlook on the back of the phase one deal with the US, but Chief Economist Gita Gopinath said the key thing is for both countries to push on and come up with a more durable agreement.
“If these tensions return, that will undo all of the improvements in policy uncertainty that we’ve seen recently,” she told Bloomberg Television. “It’s a bit of a wait and watch.”
The Fund also quantified the impact of central banks’ efforts to shore up growth last year. It said expansion in 2019 and 2020 would be 0.5 percentage point weaker without their stimulus.
BlackRock Vice Chairman Philip Hildebrand described that effort as an “extraordinary pivot back to easier monetary policy” that will help growth edge up this year.
The big drag on the new IMF forecasts was India, where the 2020 outlook was slashed by more than a percentage point. There were also very modest downgrades to projections for the US and the euro area. The prediction for global trade volume growth was cut to 2.9 per cent from 3.2 per cent, though that would still be far better than last year’s one per cent.
There’s also a clear impact from the US-China trade pact. According to the IMF, it reduces the cumulative negative effect on output from the battle through 2020 to 0.5 per cent from 0.8 per cent.
While risks have eased, the IMF was clear that that there’s still plenty to worry about. Progress in trade talks is stop-start, simmering US-Iran tensions could hit oil supply, and there’s also social unrest and weather-related disasters.
“The risk of protracted subpar global growth remains tangible despite tentative signs of stabilizing momentum,” it said.
Separately, PricewaterhouseCoopers released a survey which showed the proportion of chief executive officers expecting global growth to slow in the coming year had risen 10-fold since 2018.
That means that over half of the 1,581 CEOs questioned in 83 countries see the pace of expansion slowing, the most since PwC began asking the question in 2012. The survey was conducted last September to October.