03/01/2019

Growing pains

Markets act. They don’t stop to explain. But the rotten performance of stockmarkets last year, which has been maintained at the start of this one, can be traced in part to growing worry about the state of the world economy, and to its two biggest economies in particular.

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), our sister company, America will grow by 2.3% this year. That is substantially down on an estimated growth rate of 2.9% for last year, as the Federal Reserve tightens monetary policy and as the effects of last year’s tax cuts ebb. China’s forecast growth rate is much higher, at 6.3%, but that is still down on its estimated 2018 performance—and plenty fear worse because of the trade war with America and China’s campaign to rein in debt.

Europe presents a gloomier picture still. Britain, which is due to leave the European Union in March, is forecast to grow by a tepid 1.5%; France faces less uncertainty but fares no better. Italy, a perennial economic disappointment, is tipped to notch up growth of just 0.4%. That makes it the seventh-worst performer in the EIU’s table of forecasts. Those below it are all forecast to contract in 2019, none more precipitously than Venezuela, which has been in freefall for years.

It’s not all doom and gloom. Some countries are projected to have bouncy years. India will again be the fastest-growing big economy, maintaining its estimated 2018 rate of 7.4%. A continuation of the China-US trade war would suit some places: Vietnam, which offers an alternative to China as a manufacturing location, is forecast to expand by 6.7%. But the economy that is expected to perform best in 2019—Syria, with forecast growth of 9.9%—is a sobering reminder that a high number can reflect the worst of starting-points.

This article is from our Graphic detail section.