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Fitch Ratings: World Growth Forecast Cut on US-China Trade Battle

Link to Fitch Ratings’ Report(s): Global Economic Outlook – September 2018

Fitch Ratings-London-21 September 2018: Protectionist US trade policies have now reached the point where they are materially affecting what remains a strong global growth outlook, with the US-China trade battle prompting us to downgrade our 2019 global GDP forecast, says Fitch Ratings in its new Global Economic Outlook (GEO).

"The trade war is now a reality," said Fitch Chief Economist Brian Coulton. "The recently announced imposition of US tariffs on a further USD200 billion of imports from China will have a material impact on global growth and, even though we have now included the 25% tariff shock in our GEO baseline, the downside risks to our global growth forecasts have also increased," Coulton added.

Our forecasts now encompass the recent significant escalation in US-China trade restrictions, resulting in a 0.2pp reduction in our 2019 China growth forecast to 6.1% and a 0.1pp reduction in our 2019 global growth forecast to 3.1% since the June GEO.

Despite these forecast adjustments, near-term global growth prospects remain strong with growth forecast to reach 3.3% this year, up from 3.2% in 2017, well above the long-run (post-1990) historical average of 2.6% pa.

But growth is also now becoming less balanced and less synchronised. Aggregate demand is accelerating most rapidly in the economy with the smallest margin of spare capacity, namely the US. This is intensifying the divergence of global monetary policy settings and adding to exchange rate volatility. Against the backdrop of an expected shift to global quantitative tightening (QT) next year, the rising cost of funding in US dollars is likely to continue to create pressures for borrowers in global credit markets given the dollar’s outsized role in international financing. This will take a toll on emerging market (EM) growth, where our forecasts have also been downgraded.

One reason for the divergence in growth prospects is fiscal policy, which is aggressively expansionary in the US but much closer to neutral in the eurozone. Our US growth forecast for 2018 has been revised upwards by 0.1pp to 2.9%. But as US near-term prospects improve, it has become clearer that eurozone growth has peaked and our eurozone 2018 growth forecast has seen a further mark down of 0.3pp in this GEO to 2%.

While China’s recent headline GDP growth numbers have held up well – recording 6.7% yoy in 2Q18 – there is increasing evidence of earlier credit tightening measures dampening domestic demand. We do not expect further policy easing to fully offset the drag from new US tariffs and now see China’s growth slowing to 6.1% next year from 6.6% this year. Our aggregate EM growth forecast for 2018 has been revised down by 0.1pp since the last GEO to 5.2% and for 2019 by 0.3pp to 4.8%.

Slowing global growth in 2019 will be accompanied by an important transition in global monetary policy. Fitch now expects the combined QE asset holdings of the four QE central banks (Fed, ECB, BOJ and BOE) to decline in 2019.

"With the four QE central banks having purchased over USD1 trillion of assets per annum on average since 2009, the prospect of an outright decline in central bank liquidity is likely to have significant ramifications. These could include upward pressures on global bond yields – as the compression of term premiums that followed QE is unwound – and a ratchet up in financial market volatility," Coulton noted.

The new Global Economic Outlook is available at the above link, or at www.fitchratings.com

Notes for Editors: Fitch’s Economics team, led by Chief Economist Brian Coulton, analyses global macroeconomic trends and their impact on credit markets around the world. The team publishes global macroeconomic research, forecasts and commentary focusing on 20 major advanced and emerging economies. The Global Economic Outlook, the flagship publication of Fitch’s Economics team, and other global economic research and commentary are available at www.fitchratings.com/site/economics.

Contact:
Brian Coulton
Chief Economist
Managing Director
+44 20 3530 1140
Fitch Ratings Limited
30 North Colonnade
London E14 5GN

Media Relations: Peter Fitzpatrick, London, Tel: +44 20 3530 1103, Email: peter.fitzpatrick
Elizabeth Fogerty, New York, Tel: +1 212 908 0526, Email: elizabeth.fogerty
Leslie Tan, Singapore, Tel: +65 6796 7234, Email: leslie.tan

Additional information is available on www.fitchratings.com

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