IMF trims global GDP estimates 2020-21 but sees improving outlook

 Sharp slowdown in India a drag on world economy: IMF

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva says during a press conference in Davos that the IMF is "revising slightly downwards" its global growth forecast for 2020 and 2021

Improving US-China trade tensions have eased uncertainty and the world economy may have hit bottom but a sharp slowdown in India is creating a drag worldwide, the International Monetary Fund said Monday.

In the latest update to the World Economic Outlook, the IMF cut the global growth estimate for 2020 by one tenth compared to the October report, dropping it to 3.3 percent, and lowered the 2021 forecast by a bit more, to 3.4 percent.

The sharp drop for India "accounts for the lion's share of the downward revisions," the IMF said.

The reductions reflect the IMF's reassessment of economic prospects for a number of major emerging markets, notably India, where domestic demand has slowed more sharply than expected amid a contraction of credit and stress in the non-bank sector.

The IMF also said it marked down growth forecasts for Chile due to social unrest and for Mexico, due to a continued weakness in investment.

The Fund said that an easing of tensions between the United States and China, which had stunted GDP growth in 2019, had boosted market sentiment, amid "tentative" signs that trade and manufacturing were bottoming out.

"These early signs of stabilization could persist and eventually reinforce the link between still-resilient consumer spending and improved business spending," the IMF said. The fund has cited uncertainty over tariffs and its negative effects on business investment as the biggest factor in limiting growth.

"However, few signs of turning points are yet visible in global macroeconomic data," the Fund added.

Boost for China, not US

IMF cautious outlook assumes that there are no additional flare-ups in U.S.-China trade tensions, and that Britain executes an orderly exit from the European Union at the end of January.

The IMF upgraded China's 2020 growth forecast by 0.2 percentage point to 6.0% because the U.S. trade deal included a partial tariff reduction and canceled tariffs on Chinese consumer goods that had been scheduled for December. These tariffs had been built into the IMF's previous forecasts.

But the Fund did not give a boost to its U.S. growth forecast for China's pledges to increase purchases of U.S. goods and services by $200 billion over two years. Instead, the IMF said 2020 U.S. growth would be 0.1 percentage point lower than forecast in October, at 2.0% because of the fading stimulus effects from 2017 tax cuts and the Federal Reserve's monetary easing.

Eurozone growth also was marked down 0.1 percentage point from October, to 1.3% for 2020, largely due to a manufacturing contraction in Germany and decelerating domestic demand in Spain.

India saw a sharp, 1.2 percentage point cut to its 2020 growth forecast to 5.8%, the IMF's biggest markdown for any emerging market, because of the domestic credit crunch. Monetary and fiscal stimulus is expected to lift India's growth rate back to 6.5% in 2021, although this is still 0.9 percentage point lower than forecast in October.

"The growth markdown largely reflects a downward revision to India’s projection, where domestic demand has slowed more sharply than expected amid stress in nonbank financial sector and a decline in credit growth," said the World Economic Outlook report.

Other emerging markets saw forecast downgrades, the IMF said, including Chile, which has been hit by social unrest. Mexico will grow just 1.0% in 2020, down from 1.3% forecast in October.

Although downside risks had diminished in the wake of the U.S.-China trade deal, the IMF said they were still considerable.

"Rising geopolitical tensions, notably between the United States and Iran, could disrupt global oil supply, hurt sentiment and weaken already tentative business investment," the IMF said. "Moreover, intensifying social unrest across many countries - reflecting in some cases, the erosion of trust in established institutions and lack of representation in governance structures - could disrupt activity, complicate reform efforts and weaken sentiment, dragging growth lower than projected."

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