Global growth outlook for 2019 dims for first time — poll

US President Donald Trump’s administration threatened duties on $267 billion of Chinese goods on top of tariffs already levied on $250 billion previously . (Reuters)
Updated 22 October 2018
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Global growth outlook for 2019 dims for first time — poll

  • At the start of 2018, optimism about a robust global economic outlook was almost unanimous among respondents
  • But with no let-up in the US-China trade war, growth forecasts point to more pain ahead

BENGALURU: The outlook for global growth in 2019 has dimmed for the first time, according to Reuters polls of economists who said the US-China trade war and tightening financial conditions would trigger the next downturn.
At the start of 2018, optimism about a robust global economic outlook was almost unanimous among respondents.
But Reuters polls of more than 500 economists taken this month showed a downgrade to the outlook for 18 of 44 economies polled, with 23 unchanged. Only three were marginally upgraded.
While risks from trade protectionism have been consistently highlighted by Reuters polls since January last year, the latest indicated that growth in about 70 percent of 44 economies surveyed has already peaked.
“A simple dynamic is playing out in the global economy right now: the US is booming, while most of the rest of the world slows or even stagnates. The stresses caused by this divergence are playing out uncomfortably in many emerging markets,” noted Janet Henry, global chief economist at HSBC.
“A US Federal Reserve that is raising interest rates to prevent the US economy from overheating is constraining the policy options of countries where financial conditions are tightening and trade tensions intensifying.”
The latest shift in growth expectations comes on the heels of a deep sell-off in financial markets, especially emerging ones, largely driven by trade concerns.
A majority out of nearly 150 economists said the top two triggers for the next global downturn were a further escalation of US-Sino trade tensions, and tightening in financial conditions driven by a deep sell-off in global equities or a rapid rise in government bond yields.
“First, there would be no winners from a global trade war. Even if the aggregate costs are modest and skewed toward more open economies, all countries would ultimately be worse off compared to the status quo,” noted Neil Shearing, group chief economist at Capital Economics.
“(it)... would inflict lasting damage to growth and cause a permanent loss of output.”
US President Donald Trump’s administration threatened duties on $267 billion of Chinese goods on top of tariffs already levied on $250 billion previously — amounting to almost all imports. Beijing retaliated.
A majority of economists covering the US economy who were asked an additional question said US economic policy toward China over the next few years would become more confrontational.
Along with faster-than-expected increases in US interest rates compared to the previous poll, that points to a substantial slowdown in the US economy by late next year, even as it remains the current major driver of global growth.
But only a slim majority expect US wage growth to pick up meaningfully before the next recession.
“The risk of a self-inflicted wound in the US is rising. The dominant downside risk to the global outlook remains the Trump Administration’s attempt to rebalance trade with China through tariff policy,” noted Jean-François Perrault, chief economist at Scotiabank.
“The consequences of escalating trade actions are undeniable: higher prices in China and the US, less purchasing power for consumers in these countries, higher input costs, heightened financial market volatility, and possibly higher interest rates. These effects would likely spill over from these countries.”
While global growth this year will hold strong, unchanged at July’s 3.8 percent prediction, the consensus for 2019 was 3.6 percent, a cut for the first time since polling began for that period in July 2017. That was also lower than the International Monetary Fund’s recent 2019 projection of 3.7 percent.
The European Central Bank was not expected to extend its bond-buying program beyond this year, despite additional economic and political concerns from Italy and Brexit negotiations mounting.
But with no let-up in the US-China trade war, growth forecasts point to more pain ahead — not just for developed but also emerging market economies.
From China to Turkey and Africa to Latin America, growth forecasts for the coming year were downgraded.
“There has been an abrupt ‘stop’ of capital flows to EM (emerging markets) over recent months, which has created painful consequences for EM with large external deficits,” said Adam Slater, a lead economist at Oxford Economics.


Palestinians in financial crisis after Israel, US moves

Updated 22 March 2019
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Palestinians in financial crisis after Israel, US moves

  • A Ramallah-based economics professor said the Palestinian economy more generally, remain totally controlled by and reliant on Israel
  • Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts have been at a standstill since 2014

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories: The Palestinian Authority faces a suffocating financial crisis after deep US aid cuts and an Israeli move to withhold tax transfers, sparking fears for the stability of the West Bank.
The authority, headed by President Mahmud Abbas, announced a package of emergency measures on March 10, including halving the salaries of many civil servants.
The United States has cut more than $500 million in Palestinian aid in the last year, though only a fraction of that went directly to the PA.
The PA has decided to refuse what little US aid remains on offer for fear of civil suits under new legislation passed by Congress.
Israel has also announced it intends to deduct around $10 million a month in taxes it collects for the PA in a dispute over payments to the families of prisoners in Israeli jails.
In response, Abbas has refused to receive any funds at all, labelling the Israeli reductions theft.
That will leave his government with a monthly shortfall of around $190 million for the length of the crisis.
The money makes up more than 50 percent of the PA’s monthly revenues, with other funds coming from local taxes and foreign aid.

While the impact of the cuts is still being assessed, analysts fear it could affect the stability of the occupied West Bank.
“If the economic situation remains so difficult and the PA is unable to pay salaries and provide services, in addition to continuing (Israeli) settlement expansion it will lead to an explosion,” political analyst Jihad Harb said.
Abbas cut off relations with the US administration after President Donald Trump declared the disputed city of Jerusalem Israel’s capital in December 2017.
The right-wing Israeli government, strongly backed by the US, has since sought to squeeze Abbas.
After a deadly anti-Israeli attack last month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would withhold $138 million (123 million euros) in Palestinian revenues over the course of a year.
Israel collects around $190 million a month in customs duties levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through its ports, and then transfers the money to the PA.
Israel said the amount it intended to withhold was equal to what is paid by the PA to the families of prisoners, or prisoners themselves, jailed for attacks on Israelis last year.
Many Palestinians view prisoners and those killed while carrying out attacks as heroes of the fight against Israeli occupation.
Israel says the payments encourage further violence.
Abbas recently accused Netanyahu’s government of causing a “crippling economic crisis in the Palestinian Authority.”
The PA also said in January it would refuse all further US government aid for fear of lawsuits under new US legislation targeting alleged support for “terrorism.”

Finance Minister Shukri Bishara announced earlier this month he had been forced to “adopt an emergency budget that includes restricted austerity measures.”
Government employees paid over 2,000 shekels ($555) will receive only half their salaries until further notice.
Prisoner payments would continue in full, Bishara added.
Nasser Abdel Karim, a Ramallah-based economics professor, told AFP the PA, and the Palestinian economy more generally, remain totally controlled by and reliant on Israel.
The PA undertook similar financial measures in 2012 when Israel withheld taxes over Palestinian efforts to gain international recognition at the United Nations.
Abdel Karim said such crises are “repeated and disappear according to the development of the relationship between the Palestinian Authority and Israel or the countries that support (the PA).”
Israel occupied the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including now annexed east Jerusalem in the Six-Day War of 1967 and Abbas’s government has only limited autonomy in West Bank towns and cities.
“The problem is the lack of cash,” economic journalist Jafar Sadaqa told AFP.
He said that while the PA had faced financial crises before, “this time is different because it comes as a cumulative result of political decisions taken by the United States.”
Abbas appointed longtime ally Mohammad Shtayyeh as prime minister on March 10 to head a new government to oversee the crisis.
Abdel Karim believes the crisis could worsen after an Israeli general election next month “if a more right-wing Israeli government wins.”
Netanyahu’s outgoing government is already regarded as the most right-wing in Israel’s history but on April 9 parties even further to the right have a realistic chance of winning seats in parliament for the first time.
Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts have been at a standstill since 2014, when a drive for a deal by the administration of President Barack Obama collapsed in the face of persistent Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank.