“The outlook for the global economy in 2019 has darkened.”
That conclusion came from a new report from the World Bank, citing a variety of data, including softening international trade and investment, ongoing trade tensions, and financial turmoil in emerging markets over the past year. “Storm clouds are brewing for the global economy,” the World Bank warned.
As a result, economic growth in emerging markets could “remain flat” this year, while overall growth could be “weaker than anticipated.”
One of the key backdrops to this assessment is the rate tightening from the U.S. Federal Reserve. “Advanced-economy central banks will continue to remove the accommodative policies that supported the protracted recovery from the global financial crisis ten years ago,” the World Bank report said. After several rate hikes in 2018, the Fed had suggested that two more were on the way in 2019, although the central bank’s chairman Jerome Powell recently softened that tone.
Higher interest rates and a corresponding strengthening of the dollar puts enormous pressure on indebted countries, companies and consumers in emerging markets. Such countries are vulnerable to sudden capital outflows, which could leave them crushed under the weight of dollar-denominated debt. Worse, government debt in low-income countries has surged over the last four years, from 30 percent of GDP to 50 percent of GDP, according to the World Bank. Related: Energy Experts Are Watching This Hotspot In 2019
Growth contracted in Japan, Italy and Germany in the third quarter of last year, and financial turmoil rocked global equities in the final few weeks of 2018.
“At the beginning of 2018 the global economy was firing on all cylinders, but it lost speed during the year and the ride could get even bumpier in the year ahead,” said World Bank Chief Executive Officer Kristalina Georgieva.
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