A World Turned Inside Out

NEW HAVEN – Slowly but surely, a bruised and battered global economy now appears to be shaking off its deep post-crisis malaise. If the International Monetary Fund’s latest forecasts are borne out – an iffy proposition, to be sure – the nearly 3.6% average annual growth in world GDP expected over the 2017-2018 period would represent a modest uptick from the 3.2% pace of the past two years. Fully a decade after the Great Financial Crisis, global growth is finally returning to its 3.5% post-1980 trend.

But this round trip hardly signals that the world is back to normal. On the contrary, the overhyped idea of a “new normal” for the world economy overlooks an extraordinary transformation in the global growth dynamic over the past nine years.

At the margin, the recent improvement has been concentrated in the advanced economies, where GDP growth is now expected to average 2% over 2017-2018 – a meaningful pick-up from the unprecedentedly anemic 1.1% average growth of the preceding nine years. Relative strength in the United States (2.4%) is expected to be offset by weakness in both Europe (1.7%) and of course Japan (0.9%). However, annual growth in the advanced economies is expected to remain considerably below the longer-term trend of 2.9% recorded during the 1980-2007 period.

By contrast, the developing world keeps chugging along at a much faster pace. Although the average growth rate expected for these economies over 2017-2018, at 4.6%, is about half a percentage point lower than during the preceding nine years, they would still be expanding at more than twice the pace of the developed world. Unsurprisingly (at least to those of us who never bought into the Chinese hard-landing scenario), strength in the developing world is expected to be concentrated in China (6.4%) and India (7.5%), with growth lagging in Latin America (1.5%) and Russia (1.4%).