IMF lowers global growth forecast for 2019, warns of downside risks

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International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief economist Gita Gopinath speaks during a press conference in Washington D.C., the United States, on April 9, 2019.  [Photo/Xinhua]

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Tuesday lowered its global growth forecast for 2019 to 3.3 percent in the newly-released World Economic Outlook (WEO) report, down 0.2 percentage point from its estimation in January.

The IMF said the world economy faces downside risks brought by potential uncertainties in the ongoing global trade tensions, as well as other country- and sector-specific factors.

Global growth forecasts

The 3.3 percent projection for 2019 is 0.3 percentage point below the 2018 figure, followed by an expected return to 3.6 percent in 2020.

Growth rate projections for advanced economies are 1.8 percent for 2019 and 1.7 percent for 2020, both below the 2 percent-plus rates recorded in the previous two years, according to the WEO report.

For emerging market and developing economies, the IMF predicted a growth rate down to 4.4 percent for 2019, 0.1 percentage point lower than in 2018, and that expansion will rebound to a rate of 4.8 percent in 2020, leveling the 2017 outcome.

IMF chief economist Gita Gopinath wrote in a blog post that the projected slowdown in 2019 is "broad-based."

"It reflects negative revisions for several major economies including the euro area, Latin America, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia," Gopinath said.

The loss of growth momentum, said Gopinath, dates back to the second half of 2018, when the world economy was hit by "a significantly weakened global expansion." The WEO report said global growth remained strong at 3.8 percent in the first half of 2018, but dropped to 3.2 percent in the second half.

Gopinath blamed the situation largely on global trade tensions, macroeconomic stress in Argentina and Turkey, disruptions to the auto sector in Germany, and financial tightening alongside normalization of monetary policy in the larger advanced economies.

With respect to the perceived recovery in 2020, the economist said it is "precarious," adding that it is based on the assumption that "a rebound occurs in emerging market and developing economies."

Gopinath said the uptick "is supported by significant monetary policy accommodation by major economies, made possible by the absence of inflationary pressures despite growing at near potential."

She also cited a shift toward "a more accommodative stance" in central bank policies of the United States, the European Union (EU), Japan and Britain, plus China ramping up its fiscal and monetary stimulus, as well as a positive outlook for a U.S.-China agreement to resolve their trade disputes.

These policy responses, Gopinath said, have helped reverse the tightening financial conditions to varying degrees across countries, featuring ongoing trends in the emerging markets such as a resumption of portfolio flows, a decline in sovereign borrowing costs, and a strengthening of their currencies relative to the U.S. dollar.

Gopinath told a news conference Tuesday that monetary policy space varies across different countries, and for many advanced economies it remains limited.

"We would expect to see unconventional monetary policy tools being used, for instance, in the euro area," she said, adding that inflation pressure staying low is a "plus" that will make even more accommodative monetary policy possible.

Beyond 2020, the report predicted that global growth will "plateau at about 3.6 percent over the medium term."

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