Saturday, 2 April 2016

Economic Outlook: v30 issue 3 March 2016

Overview: Markets rally but risks still to the downside
  • Our growth forecast for 2016 is steady this month at 2.3% but the forecast for 2017 has been cut again, to 2.7% from 2.9%.
  • The near-term growth outlook has been supported by a decent rally in financial markets. Since mid-February, world stocks have gained around 8%, US high yield spreads have narrowed around 140 basis points and a number of key commodity prices – including oil – have also risen.
  • Another supportive trend is still-healthy consumer demand in advanced economies including the US and Eurozone. Although there has been some slippage in consumer confidence, it has been modest compared to either 2012–13 or 2008–09.
  • So overall, the global economy still looks likely to avoid recession and strengthen a touch next year. But risks to the outlook remain skewed to the downside.
  • Despite the recent market rally, world stocks still remain below their levels at end-2015 and well below last May's peak. Financial conditions more broadly also remain significantly tighter than in mid-2015, and inflation expectations somewhat lower.
  • And there are still negative signals from incoming data. The global manufacturing PMI for February showed output flat while the services PMI showed only very modest growth – both were at their lowest since late 2012.
  • Economic surprise indices for both the G10 and emerging markets also remain in negative territory, and our world trade indicator suggests no improvement from the dismal recent trends.
  • Notable growth downgrades this month include Germany, Japan, the UK, Canada and Brazil.
  • In our view, policymakers still have scope to improve the outlook. The latest ECB moves – more negative rates and more QE – will help a little. Widening of QE to corporate bonds also hints that more radical policy options are coming into view. But policies such as central bank equity purchases or money-financed fiscal expansions will probably require global growth to weaken further before they become likely.
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