The Next Global Boom – and Bust

WASHINGTON, DC – The mood at the International Monetary Fund-World Bank spring meetings here earlier this month was grim. The latest IMF forecast for global growth has been revised downward yet again – suggesting the world will grow at an annual rate of just over 3% this year and again in 2017.

If realized, this would be a dismal performance. Before 2007, global growth (using the IMF’s methodology) was in the 4.5-5% range, based on steady productivity improvements in industrial countries and rapidly rising living standards in large emerging markets such as China, Brazil, and Russia.

Now the US faces the uncertainty of a presidential election, weaker parts of the eurozone continue to struggle, and Japan is teetering on the edge of outright economic contraction. Brazil is in the midst of a political crisis, China is dealing with the aftereffects of prolonged fiscal expansion and explosive growth in its shadow banking system, and lower commodity prices are undermining economic performance in many other emerging markets. On top of all this, the British may vote in June to leave the European Union.

Economic activity is affected by confidence: Do consumers believe their incomes are likely to rise (or even prove secure), and do companies believe that future growth will be buoyant enough to warrant current investment? And today’s macro mood is shared pessimism.