HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK
- Our updated economic forecast anticipates a slowdown in global growth to 3.2% in 2019, roughly at trend.
- A weak handoff from 2018 and start to 2019 motivates much of the downgrades in advanced economies, while growth in emerging markets is anticipated to perk up slightly later in the year.
- Growth in the U.S. is expected to slow, but still remain at an above-trend pace this year. That said, lingering economic uncertainty could weigh further on the domestic and global outlook.
Ahead of the (Slowing) Pack
In a year marked by high expectations for deals, 2019 is shaping up to be a rough year for the global economy, and advanced economies in particular. Our new quarterly economic forecast expects global growth to slow to 3.2% in 2019 from 3.6% last year (Chart 1). That’s down about 0.2 ppts from our December outlook.
This outlook is consistent with global demand growing roughly at the same pace as capacity, and, correspondingly, subdued inflation pressures. However, the headline print itself masks the disparate regional challenges. For example, a soft end to 2018 and a disappointing start to 2019 results in a much weaker growth outlook for G7 economies this year. Add a global manufacturing slump, and you have the impetus for a relatively weak economic expansion relative to past years. Downgrades like this justify the pivot to patience by G7 central banks. Interest rate hikes are effectively cancelled through the end of 2019.
In contrast, economic activity in the developing world is expected to heat up later this year. An anticipated improvement in global manufacturing activity, weaker inflation and lower global interest rates all support a firmer outlook in emerging market economies. That said, a slowing Chinese economy and elevated trade policy uncertainty vis à vis the U.S. could weigh further on major trading partners, stifling any sort of rebound in global economic activity.
The U.S. economy is expected to prove more resilient than its G7 peers (Chart 2). Although it too will see growth slow in 2019, the decline is largely due to the waning impulse from fiscal stimulus. Growth for 2019 is still expected to average an above-trend pace of 2.4%, half a point shy of last year’s strong performance. The government shutdown and continued phenomenon of residual seasonality weigh heavily on the first quarter, bringing down the annual average. However, both consumer and business spending fail to rebound to the heady quarterly growth rates observed in 2018 through the remainder of this year.
Spending on consumer durables, such as automobiles, is expected to decelerate. Moreover, although a rebound in housing activity is expected later this year, very weak momentum acts to ensure that residential investment contracts for a second consecutive year. Net trade is also expected to weigh on growth again this year, with import demand outpacing exports.
The data this week acted to support this outlook. January retails sales staged a solid rebound from December lows. Combined with solid wage gains in February’s employment report, this sets the table for an uptick in economic activity later this quarter. That said, geopolitical events this week proved less constructive. Trade talks between Presidents Trump and Xi have been punted to at least April, and Brexit will likely be delayed at least through June. This suggests that elevated political and trade policy uncertainty will continue to weigh on global economic activity for at least a couple more months.
Fotios Raptis, Senior Economist | 416-982-2556
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