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An Economic Recovery From COVID-19 in 2021 Is Possible – But Massive Uncertainty Remains

An Economic Recovery From COVID-19 in 2021 Is Possible – But Massive Uncertainty Remains

COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on human life. But it has also caused widespread economic upheaval for both advanced and emerging market economies as countries shut down to try to stop the spread of the virus. The U.S. for instance is set to see the most severe economic downturn since GDP was first tracked in the 1940s.

This means deep hardship for many businesses of all sizes and across all industries. Shutdowns caused many firms to entirely cease operations for a time. Now, they are grappling with plummeting demand as a result of rising unemployment and uncertainty, on top of supply chain difficulties and uncertainty as to financing resources.

Bad Timing for a Global Crisis

Although there is no “good” time for a pandemic to strike, business conditions in 2020 were already a little shaky prior to the outbreak. At the beginning of the year, the global economy had just finished its weakest year since the Great Recession, global trade was turning sour, trade finance had become more restricted and continued uncertainty from the U.S.-China trade war weighed on businesses everywhere.

If the outlook was stormy at the beginning of the year, it’s now outright bleak. Atradius economists are now forecasting that global trade will decrease approximately 15 percent in 2020, while global GDP will decline about 5 percent. The U.S. will perform below average, with a 6.1 percent decrease in GDP – largely due to its lag in controlling the virus and subsequent record high in number of COVID-19 cases, in addition to soaring unemployment as well as pressure on incomes, leading to a drop in consumption.

Will Government Intervention Be Enough?

Governments and central banks the world over have enacted measures to counteract the pandemic’s economic devastation. Early in the crisis, for instance, the European Central Bank put in place a Long Term Refinancing Operations III program, while the U.S. Federal Reserve increased quantitative easing.

Countries have also put together aid packages, such as the U.S. CARES Act and a number of packages from individual EU economies and the UK. Similarly, China is providing tax relief, state-backed credit guaranteed, and delayed loan and interest payments. Altogether, global government stimulus measures amount to approximately 9 percent of global GDP, or around $7.8 trillion.

But will this be enough? Atradius economists suggest not – not unless countries also enact vigorous policies to revitalize the economy at every level. The EU Pandemic Fund provides a good example: the $750 billion initiative will bestow loans and grants to the areas and sectors hardest hit by the pandemic, allowing for a more even recovery rate across the entire EU.

Although stimulus measures are necessary, soaring government debt levels are also cause for concern – even before the outbreak, many countries had worryingly high debt levels. The most recent baseline scenario from Atradius economists has the U.S. federal budget deficit, as a proportion of GDP, increasing by more than 10 percentage points this year. The UK will fare even worse, seeing a 13 percentage point increase in deficit growth rate. China and India are the only major economies likely to maintain moderate debt ratios through the pandemic.

All that said, low interest rates will likely stick around through the end of 2021 at least – this should help offset some of the concerns over high government debt levels. Moreover, central banks like the Fed and ECB will continue purchasing government bonds, suppressing any financial market stress.

What’s Next?

While the global economy is under undue strain at the moment, Atradius economists predict a recovery could begin as early as this year, continuing into 2021. Our baseline scenario has global GDP rebounding by 5.7 percent in 2021, with the U.S. coming in just under that, with GDP growth of 4.2 percent.

This scenario, however, is shrouded in uncertainty and hinges on a few key assumptions:

-That researchers are able to develop a successful vaccine in the near-term

-That lockdowns will be limited throughout the remainder of the outbreak

-That oil prices will remain low

-That the U.S.-China trade war will remain at a standstill

-That the rise in financing cost for firms, if any, remains limited

Should these assumptions not play out, the global economic recession could be much worse than anticipated – contraction rates could be twice as damaging as those currently predicted, with global GDP contracting 12.2 percent in 2020 and U.S. GDP seeing a 7.9 percent drop. Recovering from a contraction of this size would be a slow, painful process, although we would expect 2021 to see similar growth rates.

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John Lorié is chief economist with Atradius Economic Research. He is also affiliated with the University of Amsterdam as a researcher. Previously, he was Senior Vice President at ABN AMRO, where he worked for more than 20 years in a variety of roles in commercial and investment banking. He started his career at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. John holds a PHD in international economics, master’s degrees in economics and tax economics as well as a bachelor’s degree in marketing. 

Theo Smid is an economist with Atradius Economic Research. His work focuses on business cycle analysis, insolvency predictions, thematic research and country risk analysis for the Commonwealth of Independent States. Before joining Atradius, he worked for five years in the macro-economic research team of Rabobank, focusing on business cycle analysis of the Dutch economy. He holds a master’s degree in economics from Tilburg University.  

experiment

5 Tips to Help You Lead & Experiment During Crisis

As a leader, during COVID-19 (or any crisis) it can be hard to find your feet and to feel confident in your path. You may feel inadequate, unsure, and out of your depth. That is to be expected. This is leadership like we have never seen before. So many businesses are closed or trying to find new ways of doing things. I believe almost every organization feels like a start-up right now. Uncertain times need new kinds of leadership. We don’t have the answers, only questions, and still, we are asked to be leaders. Being experimental in your leadership approach will help you try things, learn from them, and figure out your next experiment.

These tips will help you find a new center for yourself as a leader:

You are not responsible. It should go without saying, but this is not your fault. This is a global challenge that doesn’t have clear answers. Your people may want you to have answers, but you won’t and you can’t. They will want certainty about their jobs, their income, and their lives. You can’t promise them the future. Encourage them to do their job today and let them know you have compassion but cannot be the answer to their future. Give up being an all-knowing leader and be human. Practice compassion and be collaborative to help your team makes sense of the crazy.

Get bad news out of the way fast. If you have lay-offs and reorgs to do, do it quickly. Make a plan–even if it is a bad plan and clear this from your “to do” list. You will be a better leader with clarity. Kudos if you can be compassionate while you do it. There are some businesses that will not survive this. Don’t hide your head in the sand like an ostrich. Embrace information and communication even if it is bad news. Work on being a good leader in bad times. Figure out what being a good leader means to you. Kindness goes a long way when you are delivering bad news.

Think about a timeline. What is important 1 week from now? What is important 1 month from now? What is important 1 year from now? Some organizations need to be extending their timeline (How will we emerge from this crisis?) while others are busy changing to meet day to day needs (What do our clients need today?). Make sure to orient your thinking daily and consider multiple time frames. Make time to consider your leadership path before you face a day of decision making and are faced with the feelings and challenges of others. Find your own true north as a leader.

Be kind and firm. Your team members may be spinning and scared. Be empathetic and then ask them to get back to their jobs and produce good work. Having meaningful work is a privilege in these times and you can ask them to be achievers right now….today. You can deliver groundedness and purpose as long as they are working. There can be compassion for the challenges they face (kids at home, new environment, etc) but don’t let them off the hook. They are being paid to provide work. Your insistence on them delivering work is part of the work of leadership right now.

Practice extreme self-care. You are your own strongest asset. Experiment to strengthen your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Reach for the salad and smoothies instead of the martinis and chocolate cake. Exercise. Sleep. Meditate if that works for you. Journal or sit and think. Pause. Ask for help and love from friends. Schedule a virtual happy hour with friends or colleagues. Try and go deeper than you ever have before with your self-care. You have never needed to care for yourself as you do today. Experiment with giving yourself what you need.

You will get through this. You will learn from this. You will do your best and you will do your worst in this. As an experimental leader, it is important that you stay engaged in the struggle of leadership. Try and fail and dust yourself off. Figure out the change you want to see and what the barriers are. Figure out an experiment. Collect data. Figure out what you just learned. Ask, “What is my next experiment?” Go experiment again.

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Melanie Parish is a public speaker, author, and Master Coach. An expert in problem-solving, constraints management, operations, and brand development, Melanie has consulted and coached organizations ranging from the Fortune 50 to IT start-ups. She is the author of The Experimental Leader: Be A New Kind of Boss to Cultivate an Organization of Innovators. For more information, please visit, www.melanieparish.com, and connect with her on Twitter, @melanieparish.

portfolio

Is It Time To Play Defense with Your Investment Portfolio?

The bull market has been charging ahead for more than a decade now, but financial professionals are starting to wonder whether the good times are about to come crashing down on the American public’s prosperous portfolios.

That means it could be time to become a bit more defensive with your investments, says Dr. Joseph Belmonte, an investment strategist and author of Buffett and Beyond: Uncovering the Secret Ratio for Superior Stock Selection(www.buffettandbeyond.com).

“People will talk about having good luck or bad luck in the market, and you never want to depend on blind luck,” says Dr. Belmonte says. “But another definition of luck is when opportunity meets preparation. And if a recession is coming, as so many people fear, then you want to make preparations.”

One suggestion for doing that, he says: Stay away from cyclical stocks, which are stocks that perform well when the economy is humming along, but struggle when things turn sour. These are companies that provide something that’s not essential to daily living or that consumers can at least postpone purchasing when times are tough.

Examples are car manufacturers, higher-end retail stores, and mortgage companies. Specific examples are Ford, General Motors, Caterpillar and Macy’s.

With the potential for a recession looming, Dr. Belmonte says, it’s vital that you review your portfolio, examine whether you have cyclical or non-cyclical stocks, and decide whether you need to make adjustments.

He says a few things worth remembering as you shift your portfolio to the defensive mode include:

-Look for efficiency. The companies you seek for your portfolio should be efficient. “They must have a relatively high return on equity and a consistent return on equity,” Dr. Belmonte says. “If the ROE is high and consistent, we know the firm has the capacity to create value because it is already doing so.”

-Examine a company’s history. Dr. Belmonte says that Warren Buffett likes to look at a company’s average return on equity over a 10-year period, most likely because over any 10-year period the economy goes through recessions and also economic expansions. “As the economy goes through these cycles, expectations about a company’s future will rise and fall with the mood of all of us,” Dr. Belmonte says. “Buffett probably feels that over a 10-year period, we see the average of at least one complete economic cycle, and of course, the ensuing mood swings that accompany both the good and bad times.”

-Consider value. Price follows value, Dr. Belmonte says, so invest in stocks that increase their value “every minute of every day.” He says McDonald’s is one example. The stock’s price may drop in tough times, but eventually the price catches back up to the company’s overall value. To find such companies, he says, look at how a stock performed during the last recession from June 30, 2008, to March 30, 2009. Value-added stocks didn’t fall as far as the overall market, and recovered much more quickly.

-Focus on businesses you understand. A company might sound good in theory, but if you don’t really have a good grasp of what it does and how the market for it might develop over the long haul, then it could be a risk for you. Dr. Belmonte suggests looking at businesses you have a good understanding of, so you can make an educated guess of where they likely are headed. “If you take a business you understand, and that company has a high and relatively consistent ROE, you are probably looking at a pretty good contender for your stock portfolio,” he says.”

“I always tell people to remember the good, the bad and the ugly,” Dr. Belmonte says. “The good stocks should be in our portfolios; the bad stocks should be in someone else’s portfolios; and the ugly stocks should be in nobody’s portfolio.”

 

 

Dr. Joseph Belmonte, author of Buffett and Beyond: Uncovering the Secret Ratio for Superior Stock Selection (www.buffettandbeyond.com), is an investment strategist and stock market consultant. He is fond of saying, “If you want to live on the beach like Jimmy Buffett, you’ve got to learn how to invest like Warren Buffett.” Dr. Belmonte has developed hedged growth income strategies for family offices, and has lectured to numerous professional and investment groups throughout the country. His weekly video newsletter is sent to thousands of investors, money managers, and academics both nationally and internationally.

Japan’s Trade Deficit ‘Narrowly’ Declines in October

Los Angeles, CA – A weak yen and lower oil prices combined to boost Japan’s export volume and cut the country’s massive energy bill, narrowly reducing Japan’s trade deficit in October.

The development was a bright spot among otherwise gloomy data, including recent GDP figures that showed the country – the world’s number-three economy – had slipped into recession.

Japanese exports, led by mainly autos and steel, jumped nearly 10 percent last month with imports climbing by a modest 2.7 percent.

All in all, the new activity translated into a monthly trade deficit of $6 billion.

According to the new figures, the value of shipments to China rose 7.2 percent, while exports to North America climbed 8.5 percent and those to the European Union were up 5.4 percent.

The October boost in exports, say analysts, could be a flash-in-the-pan as Japan is facing tepid growth in the European Union and an overall slowdown in China’s economy, both key export markets.

Last week, the government released figures showing that Japan’s gross domestic product figures contracted 0.4 percent for the second straight quarter after suffering a 1.9 percent contraction in the previous three months.

11/24/2014

Brazil’s BRIC Cracks on Disappointing Growth Figures

Los Angeles, CA – There’s a serious fissure developing in the BRIC wall as the latest government figures show that Brazil has slipped into recession, with the Latin American giant’s gross domestic product (GDP) contracting for a second consecutive quarter.

According to the official government statistics bureau in Brasilia, the country’s GDP stands at about $567 billion, down 0.6 percent from the previous three months, while revised figures for the first quarter showed a drop of 0.2 percent.

The government had initially had reported first-quarter growth of 0.2 percent.

The country last experienced a recession in late 2008 and early 2 009, when a world economic crisis slashed demand for steel, minerals, farm goods and other key Brazilian exports.

The BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – together represent 18 percent of the world total, are all experiencing slowdowns in their once fast-paced rates of growth. Exacerbating the economic difficulties is Russia’s volatile activity in Ukraine, which has sparked a rash of sanctions on Moscow by the US and the European Union.

Last month, leaders of the five countries met in Brazil and decided to create their own development bank as a counterweight to what they perceive are “western-dominated financial organizations like the US-based World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

The new development bank will reportedly be based in Shanghai and is expected to be functional within two years. It will be capitalized at $50 billion, a figure that could grow to $100 billion to fund infrastructure projects. The fund would also have $100 billion at its disposal “to weather economic hard times.”

08/29/2014