Report Cautions Against Complacency On Global Economy
With its title, “A hint of spring is in the air,” the last economic outlook from Atradius, the global trade credit insurance, suggested they were cautiously observing signs of a firming recovery in the global economy. As growth started to improve, Atradius saw a wave of economic policy uncertainty after the US elections and ahead of elections in a number of European countries. That uncertainty could have put a dent in spending by companies and individuals, weakening the global recovery.
Six months later, the latest Atradius report sees the signs of firm growth becoming evident. Economic growth has kept solidifying across the regions, forcing a series of upward forecast revisions (including those of Atradius). Global GDP growth is forecast to expand 2.9 percent, an acceleration from the 2.4 percent growth of last year. The 2018 outlook is stable, with 3.1 percent growth expected. Eurozone growth has been stronger than expected and is expected to end the year 2.3 percent growth. The US is forecast to see a 2.2 percent expansion while the UK is expected to slow to 1.5 percent this year and next.
Latin America is forecast to expand 1.1 percent and further to 2.5 percent in 2018. Growth in Eastern Europe is expected to pick up to 3.1 percent this year before moderating to 2.3 percent in 2018. Emerging Asia leads growth with a six percent forecast this year and 5.9 percent next year.
Economic policy uncertainty, in Atradius’ assessment, “has fallen off a cliff in 2017.” The US has become more assertive in trade, but “fears for large-scale US protectionism have faded,” according to the report. In Europe, voters have kept populist parties out of the mainstream, triggering at least a whiff of optimism regarding further European integration. “We are definitely in calmer waters, finally,” says the report.
The key risks to Atradius’ global outlook include misguided Fed policy, a hard landing in China, US protectionism, oil price volatility, geopolitical risk, and financial market correction.
Despite Atradius’s upbeat tone, “complacency is precisely what we do not need at this stage,” the report warns. “What deserves full attention now is awareness that in calmer waters we will certainly not remain. The current upswing, being largely cyclical, will undoubtedly be succeeded by a downturn.”
Atradius wants to the right monetary policy in place to keep the global economy above water, and for the moment, concludes that those economic tools will be available. The Federal Reserve in the US is tightening monetary policy and the European Central Bank will follow suit, Atradius believes. Interest rates are being hiked and money taken out of the market gradually and that tightening should create the correct environment to address the next downturn.
But, the report warns, “At some point in time acceleration will become inevitable. At the same time, accelerating the next downturn by that very tightening should be avoided. The waters we are in are calm, and we should enjoy them. But they are also uncharted.”
Eastern European Outlook