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ECONOMY | 26-01-2021 12:32

IMF boosts world growth outlook as vaccines outweigh risks

IMF improves forecast for global growth this year to 5.5%, betting the rollout of coronavirus vaccines and more fiscal stimulus will offset the immediate challenge posed by the resurgent pandemic.

The International Monetary Fund raised its forecast for global growth this year, betting the rollout of coronavirus vaccines and more fiscal stimulus will offset the immediate challenge posed by the resurgent pandemic.

Global gross domestic product will soar 5.5 percent this year, faster than the 5.2 percent projected in October, the Fund said Tuesday. It credited improvement in the United States for much of the upgrade, which was offset by cuts to its predictions for the euro area and United Kingdom.

Such an expansion would match 2007 as the best in four decades of data and follow an upwardly revised 3.5 percent contraction last year, which would still be the worst peacetime decline since the Great Depression. The IMF projected a 4.2 percent global expansion for 2022.

Vaccine-powered strengthening

“Much now depends on the outcome of this race between a mutating virus and vaccines to end the pandemic, and on the ability of policies to provide effective support until that happens,” IMF Chief Economist Gita Gopinath wrote in a blog post accompanying the World Economic Outlook.

The pandemic is exacerbating inequality, with close to 90 million people likely to fall into extreme poverty in 2020 and 2021, the Fund said. It sees the global economy losing US$22 trillion in output from 2020-2025 relative to pre-pandemic projected levels.

The Fund sees major central banks holding their policy-rate settings through 2022, with financial conditions remaining at current levels for advanced economies and improving for emerging-market and developing nations.

The United States saw one of the biggest upgrades after approving a US$900-billion relief plan. The IMF forecasts the world’s largest economy may grow 5.1 percent this year, versus 3.1 percent in October. The projection doesn’t incorporate US President Joe Biden’s proposal for US$1.9 trillion more in aid, which the IMF preliminarily estimates would add another 1.25 percent to output this year and five percent over the next three years, Gopinath said in a briefing Tuesday.

Global rebound

Japan, which has announced its own stimulus of more than US$700 billion, also saw a significant upward revision. The fund now projects 2021 economic growth at 3.1 percent compared with 2.3 percent previously.

Those upbeat outlooks contrast with Europe, where a deluge of cases has spurred new restrictions. The euro-area growth forecast was cut by a full percentage point, to 4.2 percent, on the expectation that the cooling at the end of last year will continue. The United Kingdom was cut by almost a point and a half to 4.5 percent.

Overall, advanced economies will see output losses compared to pre-pandemic projections that are relatively smaller than elsewhere thanks to fiscal and monetary policy support and earlier, widespread access to vaccines.

The projections assume broad vaccine availability in advanced economies and some emerging markets this year and across most countries by the second half of next year. They also incorporate potential new lockdowns before inoculation is widespread, and that social distancing continues until the pandemic is tamed.

Still, forecasters face many unknowns. They include how restrictions to curb infection affect the economy before widespread inoculation, how vaccine rollout expectations and policy support influence activity, and changes in financial conditions and commodity prices.

For global trade, the IMF sees import and export volumes rising by 8.1 percent this year, slightly less than the 8.3 percent increase seen in October, after an estimated 9.6 percent decline last year.

Other highlights:

– 2021 China growth estimate eased to 8.1 percent from 8.2 percent, with India’s lifted to 11.5 percent from 8.8 percent
– Canada’s projection for this year was cut to 3.6 percent from 5.2 percent
– The US and Japan will regain their end-2019 activity levels in the second half of this year, while the euro area and UK will remain below those levels into 2022
– More than 150 economies are expected to have per-capita income levels in 2021 that are below 2019, and about 110 economies in 2022
– Social unrest amid higher inequality or unequal vaccine access could further complicate the recovery
– World leaders should work together closely to speed vaccination in nations with low health-care capacity and provide debt relief for low-income and developing countries with unsustainable burdens

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by Eric Martin, Bloomberg


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