Two Questions, 1 & 1/2 Answers
Two questions, at least, are on investors’ mind at the moment. Is the synchronised global upturning turning into a synchronised slowdown? Will the dollar rally be sustained, and if so, will it spark further stress in emerging markets and in the global economy? You would be hard-pressed to argue that the global economy is slowing dramatically, at least based on the most recent headline data. My estimates suggest that global GDP growth was unchanged at 2.9% year-over-year in Q1, thanks mainly to a slight 0.3 percentage point rise in U.S. growth to 2.9%. That said, this number includes the 6.8% headline in China, which no one believes, and we still don’t know what happened in Japan. Finally, this number masks the fact that momentum in Europe slowed across the board. Growth in the euro area is still solid, but it slowed sharply in Q1. And the first indications for Q2 do not promise much in the way of a rebound. After growth of nearly 3% last year, all evidence so far points to somewhat slower growth of 2% in 2018. The picture is even grimmer in the U.K. where growth slid to a five-year low of 1.2% in Q1. Looking beyond the GDP numbers, leading indicators are discouraging, but not yet in panic territory.
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