The International Monetary Fund made a fifth-straight cut to its 2019 global growth forecast, citing a broad deceleration across the world’s largest economies as trade tensions undermine the expansion.
The world economy will grow 3 per cent this year, down from 3.2 per cent seen in July, with the 2020 estimate lowered to 3.4 per cent from 3.5 per cent, the fund said Tuesday in its latest World Economic Outlook. The forecast for this year would be the weakest since 2009, when the world economy shrank, as the fund chopped projections from the US and Europe to China and India.
"With a synchronized slowdown and uncertain recovery, the global outlook remains precarious," IMF Chief Economist Gita Gopinath wrote in the report."There is no room for policy mistakes and an urgent need for policy makers to cooperatively de-escalate trade and geopolitical tensions."
The latest dimming of the outlook, just before annual meetings of the IMF and World Bank in Washington this week, reflects the economic costs of higher tariffs. Officials from around the world will convene as President Donald Trump’s trade policies remain one of the biggest global threats. Investors are awaiting more clarity on whether a breakthrough in the US-China talks last week will ease global uncertainties.
The global growth estimate for 2019 was as high as 3.9 per cent in mid-2018. The IMF cited subdued economic momentum and weaker investment, slashing its estimate for the growth in trade volume to a “near standstill” pace of just 1.1 per cent from 3.6 per cent last year, though it also sees a pickup to 3.2 per cent in 2020.
The IMF report said "risks seem to dominate the outlook,” but recent monetary easing in many countries “could lift demand more than projected, especially if trade tensions between the US and China ease and a no-deal Brexit is averted."
Those threats and others have prompted warnings from both leaders of the global institutions as new leadership takes over. Bulgarian economist Kristalina Georgieva, previously World Bank chief executive officer, took over as IMF chief Oct. 1, succeeding Christine Lagarde. World Bank President David Malpass was selected in April.
Georgieva painted a downbeat picture in her first major address last week, saying a deeper slowdown could require coordinated fiscal stimulus. She has said her first priority is to help member nations lower the risk of crises and cope with potential downturns.
Business leaders are more circumspect too. JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon also took a cautious tone on the global economy Tuesday, calling out trade tensions and geopolitical issues as the bank reported its third-quarter earnings.
IMF economists dimmed their views across the largest economies. The fund cut its US 2019 growth estimates by 0.2 percentage point to 2.4 per cent, but raised it by the same margin to 2.1 per cent next year.
Euro-area growth was reduced this year and next, to 1.2 per cent and 1.4 per cent. Estimates for Germany, France, Italy and Spain were lowered for both years. This year’s UK growth forecast was reduced to 1.2 per cent. China projections were reduced for both years, to 6.1 per cent and 5.8 per cent respectively.
The IMF says continued policy support in major economies and stabilization in some stressed emerging economies are expected to lift growth modestly over the rest of 2019 and into 2020.
“The world economy faces difficult headwinds,” the outlook said. “Despite the recent decline in long-term interest rates creating more fiscal room, the global environment is expected to be characterized by relatively limited macroeconomic policy space to combat downturns and weaker trade flows, in part reflecting the increase in trade barriers and anticipated protracted trade policy uncertainty.”