Economic outlook

The development for the economy will continue to harbor risks in 2011. On the one hand, the still strained situation on the financial and property markets is expected to dampen growth in the industrial countries. On the other hand, experts expect a slight clouding of the economic outlook for the emerging markets, which have been the world’s growth drivers so far. This is due, among other things, to growing concerns over an abrupt end to the potential bubble in Chinese property prices. In addition, many industrial countries face the task of reducing the sharply increased levels of public as well as private sector debt. The resulting decline in demand, together with still underutilized capacities and high unemployment, increases the risk of deflation in those countries. The already highly expansive monetary policy pursued in many economies leaves little leeway for countering such a risk.

Against this backdrop, the pace of the upturn in the world economy is expected to slacken in 2011. Overall, global GDP growth of about 3.9% is forecast.

EUROPE

The positive trend in most Eurozone economies is expected to continue in 2011. However, for the periphery countries a sluggish development is expected at best. Here, the economic problems in the financial and property markets and on the labor market still weigh too heavily. As capacities are still underutilized, growth in investment is expected to be comparatively modest. Furthermore, the austerity measures such as wage adjustments, tax hikes, and welfare cuts necessary – and already initiated to some extent – in the crisis countries will dampen domestic consumption and investment demand. In addition, fears are rising that additional countries such as Portugal or Spain will have to make use of the rescue package from the European Union.

Despite contractions in GDP in Greece and Portugal, economic output in the Eurozone is expected to grow overall by 1.2% in 2011. The strength of the economy in Germany especially should be a main driver, although the momentum should slacken as demand from the other industrial countries is likely to weaken. Stimulus will probably come increasingly from domestic demand rather than exports. GDP growth of 2.0% is therefore expected for 2011.

UNITED STATES

The development of the U.S. economy will probably further recover in 2011. Investment expenditure should pick up at a slightly stronger pace, supported by the still very favorable interest rate level and an expansive monetary policy. However, the deleveraging process among households and in the financial sector and high unemployment will continue to weigh on private consumption. Still, on the positive side, the increase in the household savings rate makes a sudden plunge in consumption unlikely. Growth expectations are dampened especially by the sluggish trend on the labor market, where unemployment is still high at 9.8%. However, a slight improvement in the jobless rate is expected in 2011.

Overall, GDP growth is likely to increase to about 3.1% in 2011.

ASIA

The growth of the emerging economies in Asia is expected to slow to 7.4% in 2011. Private demand should continue to grow. The lower growth is likely to be due chiefly to a declining rate of growth in exports and weaker growth in the industrial countries. The emerging markets continue to be dependent on the industrial countries, which account for a large part of the exports.

In China, GDP growth of 8.7% is forecast for 2011. There are three reasons for this moderate slowdown versus last year: firstly, lower basis effects, secondly, an expected falloff in external demand and, thirdly, China’s monetary tightening since the first quarter of 2010. It also remains to be seen whether the Chinese government will adopt a more flexible stance on its still undervalued currency.

In Japan, a decline in demand for consumer goods after the fiscal support measures expire and the weakness of the world economy could have a dampening effect. GDP growth will probably be 0.6%.

The emerging Asian economies will continue to grow strongly in 2011. Structural factors, such as the catch-up process versus the industrial countries, the young and still growing population, and improvements in infrastructure, will continue to be growth drivers for the economy. Together with the growth, both increasing inflation and especially a further rise in food prices are expected.

LATIN AMERICA

Although there are some indications pointing to a slowdown, continued robust growth is forecast for Latin America. This is mainly due to the expectation of a continued dynamic development of domestic demand and positive effects from increased commodity prices. Latin America should also continue to benefit from a stable financial and economic environment. Corporate and household debt is relatively low.

Argentina has recently returned to a growth path, but the risk situation remains negative due to political instability. Argentina’s GDP is expected to grow by 5.5% in 2011. For Brazil, experts forecast GDP growth of about 4.5%. The weaker growth outlook is due to the expectation of a somewhat more restrictive fiscal policy. Growth should also slacken in Mexico: 4.0% is forecast as Mexico’s economy is still very dependent on the U.S. economy.


Sources: German Council of Economic Experts – Annual Report 2010/11, bank research

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