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Three Scenarios for the Global Economy

The International Monetary Fund, which in recent years had characterized global growth as the “new mediocre,” recently upgraded its World Economic Outlook. But is the IMF right to think that the recent growth spurt will continue over the next few years, or is a temporary cyclical upswing about to be subdued by new tail risks?

NEW YORK – For the last few years, the global economy has been oscillating between periods of acceleration (when growth is positive and strengthening) and periods of deceleration (when growth is positive but weakening). After over a year of acceleration, is the world headed toward another slowdown, or will the recovery persist?

The current upswing in growth and equity markets has been going strong since the summer of 2016. Despite a brief hiccup after the Brexit vote, the acceleration endured not just Donald Trump’s election as US president, but also the heightening policy uncertainty and geopolitical chaos that he has generated. In response to this apparent resilience, the International Monetary Fund, which in recent years had characterized global growth as the “new mediocre,” recently upgraded its World Economic Outlook.

Will the recent growth spurt continue over the next few years? Or is the world experiencing a temporary cyclical upswing that will soon be subdued by new tail risks, like those that have triggered other slowdowns in recent years? It is enough to recall the summer of 2015 and early 2016, when investor fears of a Chinese hard landing, an excessively fast exit from zero policy rates by the US Federal Reserve, a stall in US GDP growth, and low oil prices conspired to undercut growth.

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