Global Risk and Reward in 2011

So far, the downside and upside risks for the global economy in 2011 are balanced. But if sound government policies in advanced and major emerging economies contain the downside risks that are more prevalent in the first half of this year – which derive from political and policy uncertainty – a more resilient global economic recovery could take hold in the second half and 2012.

NEW YORK – The outlook for the global economy in 2011 is, partly, for a persistence of the trends established in 2010. These are: an anemic, below-trend, U-shaped recovery in advanced economies, as firms and households continue to repair their balance sheets; a stronger, V-shaped recovery in emerging-market countries, owing to stronger macroeconomic, financial, and policy fundamentals. That adds up to close to 4% annual growth for the global economy, with advanced economies growing at around 2% and emerging-market countries growing at about 6%.

But there are downside and upside risks to this scenario. On the downside, one of the most important risks is further financial contagion in Europe if the eurozone’s problems spread – as seems likely – to Portugal, Spain, and Belgium. Given the current level of official resources at the disposal of the International Monetary Fund and the European Union, Spain now seems too big to fail yet too big to be bailed out.

The United States represents another downside risk for global growth. In 2011, the US faces a likely double dip in the housing market, high unemployment and weak job creation, a persistent credit crunch, gaping budgetary holes at the state and local level, and steeper borrowing costs as a result of the federal government’s lack of fiscal consolidation. Moreover, credit growth on both sides of the Atlantic will be restrained, as many financial institutions in the US and Europe maintain a risk-averse stance toward lending.

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