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Expert says Canadian economy will improve in 2021, though 'not spectacularly' – CTV News

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TORONTO —
After a tumultuous 2020, those with their eyes on the Canadian and global economies can expect improvements in 2021, according to one expert.

“I actually think the economy is going to do very well in 2021,” Ian Lee, an associate professor at Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business, told CTV News Channel on Friday. “Not spectacularly, but much better than in 2020.”

Lee attributes this in part to Canadians’ saving rate in 2020, which he said has “gone through the roof.”

Lockdown measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 meant that those with disposable income had less to spend it on. Statistics Canada reports that after the first quarter of 2020, Canadians saved an average of 7.6 per cent of disposable income, up from 2.3 per cent in the first quarter of 2019.

But by the second quarter of 2020, Canadians were saving 28.2 per cent, a dramatic increase from the 3.1 per cent they were saving in 2019’s second quarter.

“I cannot remember it being this high,” Lee said.

With vaccines being rolled out in 2021, Lee said there is renewed hope that Canadians will soon be able to leave their homes and make the kinds of purchases that will stimulate the economy.

“I think we’re going to see a very significant increase in spending because people are going to be so grateful and so happy it’s behind us,” he said. “We can get out of our houses, go to restaurants, go out flying and travelling and so forth. So I think we’ll see that pent-up demand express itself in 2021.”

 

WILL SMALL BUSINESSES BOUNCE BACK?

Even with this expected spending ahead, small businesses in Canada are barely holding on, with some already forced to shutter.

“Small businesses always had much smaller profit margins than big business,” Lee said. “I think it’s inevitable we’re going to see a significant increase in failures – small business bankruptcies – over the winter months.”

Lee said he believes this “inevitable” outcome may be why many provinces have not gone into universal lockdowns, instead trying to focus restrictive measures where they were most needed to try to help those whose livelihoods are at stake.

“I don’t think it’s going to be as bad on small businesses,” Lee said of the year ahead. “But it’s still going to be negative, no question about it.”

But he adds if governments continue to make these lockdown considerations in the new year, it could allow small businesses to generate some cash flow.

“Between that and the backstops provided by the government, I think they’re hoping it’ll be enough to carry them through the winter into the spring when the vaccine starts rolling out,” he noted.

 

REAL ESTATE MAY NOT BE NOT AS GOOD AS IT SEEMS

One of the key backstops provided by central banks, including the Bank of Canada, is record low interest rates, which has led some to seek approval for a home mortgage.

And while low rates may be good for those seeking a loan, it’s also led to rising home prices, making the buyer’s market more competitive and pricey.

“I don’t think we’re going to see in 2021 the average increases in real estate prices that we saw in this last year,” Lee said. “It’s not sustainable.”

Lee points to a collapse in immigration levels in Canada due to the pandemic as a contributing factor.

“People don’t realize […] the impact of immigration – the positive impact of immigration,” Lee said.

Immigrants need homes in Canada, Lee said, but can also bring wealth with them to spend in the Canadian economy.

All this, he said, will yield lower real estate prices in 2021: “I think it will be much more modest this year.”

 

U.S. POLITICS COULD IMPACT STOCK MARKET

With several uncertainties still ahead in 2021, a rise in the stock market is anything but a sure thing despite low interest rates, reopening economies and more liquidity.

“I don’t think it’s going to explode,” Lee said, pointing to the changing administrations in the U.S. as a possible “wildcard.”

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden has announced plans for a stimulus for Americans, as well as plans for improving infrastructure, which Lee said could “rev up” the U.S. economy, but Biden’s plans may be constrained by the Republican-controlled Senate.

Democrats have an opportunity to take hold of the Senate Jan. 5, but only if they can win both of the Georgia runoff elections.

“It’s unpredictable, but I don’t think we’re going to see huge increases in the stock market averages for 2021,” Lee said.

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European Economy Lags China and U.S. on Pandemic Recovery – Yahoo Canada Finance

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GlobeNewswire

Universal Stainless Reports Fourth Quarter 2020 Results

Total debt reduced by $10.4 million and managed working capital declined by $19.2 million from Q3 2020 Q4 2020 Sales total $31.3 million; Premium alloy sales represent 19.1% of total Q4 salesQ4 2020 Net Loss of $7.3 million, or $0.83 per diluted share; Net loss is $4.6 million, or $0.52 per diluted share, excluding $3.8 million (pre-tax) of fixed cost absorption charges, a $0.3 million (pre-tax) loss on the sale of excess scrap and $0.7 million (pre-tax) gain on insurance proceedsEBITDA is a loss of $3.9 million in Q4 2020; Adjusted EBITDA is a loss of $0.2 million Quarter-end Backlog of $48.0 million versus $54.8 million at end of Q3 2020 BRIDGEVILLE, Pa., Jan. 27, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Universal Stainless & Alloy Products, Inc. (Nasdaq: USAP) today reported net sales for the fourth quarter of 2020 of $31.3 million, a decrease of 16.3% from $37.4 million in the third quarter of 2020, and 43.2% lower than $55.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2019. Sales of premium alloys in the fourth quarter of 2020 were $6.0 million, or 19.1% of sales, compared with $9.2 million, or 24.5% of sales, in the third quarter of 2020, and $7.4 million, or 13.4% of sales, in the fourth quarter of 2019. Chairman, President and CEO Dennis Oates commented: “The fourth quarter was a challenging quarter as expected, and we continued to operate at low activity levels, which negatively impacted profitability. Our focus on liquidity continued, with positive results, as we achieved our cash targets and reduced debt by more than $10 million. While our revenues were down from the third quarter, our bookings activity improved. “Despite the challenging environment, we continue to see positive results within areas of our control, including increased efficiency of our operations as well as our quality programs. These favorable activities will allow for increased facility capacity and provide benefit as volumes increase. Most importantly, our safety performance, as measured by our OSHA recordable rate, marked a record low in 2020. “The pandemic continued to limit air travel worldwide and airlines reduced new plane orders, ultimately depressing aerospace product demand. We did see a bright spot with the return to service of the Boeing 737-MAX, which should begin to benefit new aircraft production into 2022 and 2023. Within the oil and gas markets, customers remain reluctant to place orders even with the rise in oil prices and rig counts. “Demand in the Heavy Equipment market was strong in the fourth quarter, especially for our products used in auto production and metals fabrication. Plate bookings have also remained strong. Growth in our General Industrial end market was especially strong in the quarter, led by semiconductor demand. In fact, sales to that end market for the quarter were at a near record level, and that strength is expected to continue in the coming months. “We saw positive signs in our order entry in the fourth quarter, which has increased each quarter from its 2020 low point in the second quarter. Cancellations further slowed and were at their lowest level in 2020. Fourth quarter premium alloy bookings also improved and were at the highest levels since the 2020 first quarter, with ongoing demand for defense and specialty applications. “Fourth quarter margins continued to be negatively impacted by lower activity levels and included fixed cost absorption direct charges. Margins were also negatively impacted by a $0.3 million loss on the sale of excess scrap, although that generated cash receipts of $0.7 million. Product mix was less favorable in the quarter due to lower shipments of premium alloys. “Our continued focus on working capital reduction in the fourth quarter resulted in continued reductions in inventory and debt levels. Both inventory and debt further declined from the third quarter, with inventory reduced by $9.6 million, and debt reduced by $10.4 million. For the full year, inventory has been reduced by $36.0 million and total debt is down $24.2 million, excluding PPP funds. We also tightly controlled our fourth quarter capital spend, limiting expenditures to $0.7 million. “Looking forward in 2021, we continue to expect measured improvement in activity levels as we move through the year, starting slowly in the first quarter. We will be focused on our strategic growth initiatives, which include strategic capital investment in our premium alloy production assets, including adding a vacuum arc remelt furnace and an 18-ton crucible to expand our capabilities and reduce costs.” Mr. Oates concluded: “Once again I want to commend our team for their efforts and the results they achieved during a prolonged period of difficult challenges. With the support of our customers and our commitment to producing the critical products required by our markets, we are fully focused on making tangible progress in 2021.” COVID-19 Response Summary Each of the Company’s facilities is an essential operation and continues to remain operational in accordance with the laws of the states in which the facilities are located.The Company continues to monitor the pandemic’s impact on the markets the Company serves, including the aerospace and oil & gas markets. The Company’s sales to the aerospace market have declined due to the reduction in air travel caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as a sharp decline in aftermarket sales due to the significant reduction in air travel. The Company also has experienced extreme pressure in demand from the oil & gas market.On April 15, 2020, the Company entered into a $10.0 million term note pursuant to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. The Company applied for full forgiveness of the PPP term note in the 2020 third quarter, and the PPP loan forgiveness process is currently underway.While the Company expects the effects of the pandemic and the related responses to continue to negatively impact its results of operations, cash flows and financial position, the uncertainty over the duration and severity of the economic and operational impacts of COVID-19 means the Company cannot reasonably estimate the related future impacts at this time.The Company continues to adapt its operations due to lower activity levels. As a result, the Company’s measures to align its cost structure with current forecasted revenue and operating levels are ongoing. Quarterly and Full Year Results of Operations For full year 2020, net sales totaled $179.7 million, compared with $243.0 million in full year 2019. Premium alloy sales in 2020 were $35.2 million, or 19.6% of sales, compared with $37.6 million, or 15.5% of sales, in 2019. The Company’s gross margin for the fourth quarter of 2020 was a loss of $5.1 million, or (16.2%) of sales, compared with a loss of $4.4 million, or (11.8%) of sales, in the third quarter of 2020, and a gross margin of $5.9 million, or 10.6% of sales, in the fourth quarter of 2019. Fourth quarter gross margin included $3.8 million of fixed cost absorption charges incurred due to reduced production levels, and $0.3 million loss on excess scrap sales. Excluding these charges, fourth quarter 2020 gross margin was a loss of $1.0 million, or (3.1%) of sales. Selling, general and administrative expenses were $4.2 million, or 13.4% of sales, in the fourth quarter of 2020, compared with $4.2 million, or 11.1% of sales, in the third quarter of 2020, and $5.3 million, or 9.5% of sales, in the fourth quarter of 2019. The net loss for the fourth quarter of 2020 was $7.3 million, or $0.83 per diluted share, compared with a net loss of $7.0 million, or $0.79 per diluted share, in the third quarter of 2020, and net income of $0.2 million, or $0.02 per diluted share, in the fourth quarter of 2019. The fourth quarter 2020 net loss, excluding $3.8 million (pre-tax) of fixed cost absorption charges, a $0.3 million (pre-tax) excess scrap sale loss, and gains of $0.7 million (pre-tax) from insurance proceeds, totaled $4.6 million, or $0.52 per diluted share. For full year 2020, the net loss was $19.0 million, or $2.16 per diluted share, compared with net income of $4.3 million, or $0.48 per diluted share, for 2019. Full year 2020 net loss, excluding $8.3 million (pre-tax) of fixed cost absorption charges, $0.7 million (pre-tax) of losses on excess scrap sales, $0.6 million (pre-tax) of employee severance costs and $1.0 million (pre-tax) of gains on insurance proceeds, totaled $12.4 million, or $1.40 per diluted share. The Company’s EBITDA for the fourth quarter of 2020 was a loss of $3.9 million, compared with a loss of $3.6 million in the third quarter of 2020, and positive EBITDA of $5.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2019. Fourth quarter 2020 adjusted EBITDA, excluding the fixed cost absorption charges, excess scrap sale losses, and insurance gain, was a loss of $0.2 million. Managed working capital was $114.1 million at December 31, 2020, compared with $133.3 million at September 30, 2020, and $141.3 million at the end of the fourth quarter of 2019. The 14.4% sequential decrease in managed working capital compared to the 2020 third quarter was due mainly to reduced inventory and accounts receivable levels. Inventory totaled $111.4 million at the end of the fourth quarter of 2020, a decrease of $9.6 million, or 7.9%, from $120.9 million at the end of the third quarter of 2020. Inventories have been reduced by $36.0 million, or 24.4%, since year-end 2019. Backlog (before surcharges) at December 31, 2020 was $48.0 million, compared with $54.8 million at September 30, 2020, and $119.1 million at the end of the 2019 fourth quarter. The Company’s total debt at December 31, 2020 was $50.2 million, a decrease of $10.4 million, or 17.1%, from September 30, 2020, and a decrease of $14.2 million, or 22.0%, from the end of 2019. Total debt at December 31, 2020 includes a $10.0 million term note, issued on April 15, 2020, pursuant to PPP. The Company has applied for full PPP loan forgiveness, and the forgiveness process is currently underway. Capital expenditures for the fourth quarter of 2020 totaled $0.7 million, compared with $1.3 million for the third quarter of 2020, and $4.0 million in the fourth quarter of 2019. Full year 2020 capital expenditures totaled $9.2 million. The Company expects capital expenditures in 2021 to approximate $11.0 million to support its strategic growth initiatives. Conference Call and Webcast The Company has scheduled a conference call for today, January 27th, at 10:00 a.m. (Eastern) to discuss fourth quarter 2020 results. Those wishing to listen to the live conference call via telephone should dial 706-679-0668, passcode 9091458. A simultaneous webcast will be available on the Company’s website at www.univstainless.com, and thereafter archived on the website through the end of the first quarter of 2021. About Universal Stainless & Alloy Products, Inc. Universal Stainless & Alloy Products, Inc., established in 1994 and headquartered in Bridgeville, PA, manufactures and markets semi-finished and finished specialty steels, including stainless steel, nickel alloys, tool steel and certain other alloyed steels. The Company’s products are used in a variety of industries, including aerospace, power generation, oil and gas, and heavy equipment manufacturing. More information is available at www.univstainless.com. Forward-Looking Information Safe Harbor Except for historical information contained herein, the statements in this release are forward-looking statements that are made pursuant to the “safe harbor” provision of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Forward-looking statements involve known and unknown risks and uncertainties that may cause the Company’s actual results in future periods to differ materially from forecasted results. Those risks include, among others, the Company’s ability to maintain its relationships with its significant customers and market segments; the Company’s response to competitive factors in its industry that may adversely affect the market for finished products manufactured by the Company or its customers; uncertainty regarding the progress of the return to service of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft; the Company’s ability to compete successfully with domestic and foreign producers of specialty steel products and products fashioned from alternative materials; changes in overall demand for the Company’s products and the prices at which the Company is able to sell its products in the aerospace industry, from which a substantial amount of our sales is derived; the Company’s ability to develop, commercialize, market and sell new applications and new products; the receipt, pricing and timing of future customer orders; the impact of changes in the Company’s product mix on the Company’s profitability; the Company’s ability to maintain the availability of raw materials and operating supplies with acceptable pricing; the availability and pricing of electricity, natural gas and other sources of energy that the Company needs for the manufacturing of its products; risks related to property, plant and equipment, including the Company’s reliance on the continuing operation of critical manufacturing equipment; the Company’s success in timely concluding collective bargaining agreements and avoiding strikes or work stoppages; the Company’s ability to attract and retain key personnel; the Company’s ongoing requirement for continued compliance with laws and regulations, including applicable safety and environmental regulations; the ultimate outcome of the Company’s current and future litigation matters; the Company’s ability to meet its debt service requirements and to comply with applicable financial covenants; the ultimate outcome of the Company’s PPP loan forgiveness application; risks associated with conducting business with suppliers and customers in foreign countries; public health issues, including COVID-19 and its uncertain impact on our facilities and operations and our customers and suppliers and the effectiveness of the Company’s actions taken in response to these risks; risks related to acquisitions that the Company may make; the Company’s ability to protect its information technology infrastructure against service interruptions, data corruption, cyber-based attacks or network security breaches; the impact on the Company’s effective tax rates from changes in tax rules, regulations and interpretations in the United States and other countries where it does business; and the impact of various economic, credit and market risk uncertainties. Many of these factors are not within the Company’s control and involve known and unknown risks and uncertainties that may cause the Company’s actual results in future periods to be materially different from any future performance suggested herein. Any unfavorable change in the foregoing or other factors could have a material adverse effect on the Company’s business, financial condition and results of operations. Further, the Company operates in an industry sector where securities values may be volatile and may be influenced by economic and other factors beyond the Company’s control. Certain of these risks and other risks are described in the Company’s filings with the SEC, including the Company’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2019 and the subsequent Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q for the quarters ended March 31, 2020, June 30, 2020 and September 30, 2020, copies of which are available from the SEC or may be obtained upon request from the Company. Non-GAAP Financial Measures This press release includes discussions of financial measures that have not been determined in accordance with U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). These measures include earnings (loss) before interest, income taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) and Adjusted EBITDA. We include these measurements to enhance the understanding of our operating performance. We believe that EBITDA, considered along with net earnings (loss), is a relevant indicator of trends relating to cash generating activity of our operations. Adjusted EBITDA excludes the effect of share-based compensation expense and noted special items such as impairments and costs or income related to special events such as periods of low activity or insurance claims. We believe that excluding these costs provides a consistent comparison of the cash generating activity of our operations. We believe that EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA are useful to investors as they facilitate a comparison of our operating performance to other companies who also use EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA as supplemental operating measures. These non-GAAP financial measures supplement our GAAP disclosures and should not be considered an alternative to the GAAP measures. These non-GAAP measures may not be entirely comparable to similarly titled measures used by other companies due to potential differences among calculation methodologies. A reconciliation of these non-GAAP financial measures to their most directly comparable financial measure prepared in accordance with GAAP is included in the tables that follow. [TABLES FOLLOW]UNIVERSAL STAINLESS & ALLOY PRODUCTS, INC.FINANCIAL HIGHLIGHTS(Dollars in Thousands, Except Per Share Information)(Unaudited) CONSOLIDATED STATEMENTS OF OPERATIONS Three Months Ended Year Ended December 31, December 31, 2020 2019 2020 2019 Total net sales 31,324 55,171 179,731 243,007 Cost of products sold 36,399 49,317 182,387 215,369 Gross margin (5,075) 5,854 (2,656) 27,638 Selling, general and administrative expenses 4,203 5,252 19,752 20,347 Operating (loss) income (9,278) 602 (22,408) 7,291 Interest expense 552 956 2,784 3,765 Deferred financing amortization 56 56 225 227 Other (income), net (730) (53) (1,123) (474) (Loss) income before income taxes (9,156) (357) (24,294) 3,773 (Benefit) from income taxes (1,851) (557) (5,247) (502) Net (loss) income $(7,305) $200 $(19,047) $4,275 Net (loss) income per common share – Basic $(0.83) $0.02 $(2.16) $0.49 Net (loss) income per common share – Diluted $(0.83) $0.02 $(2.16) $0.48 Weighted average shares of common stock outstanding Basic 8,834,146 8,788,380 8,818,974 8,778,753 Diluted 8,834,146 8,867,040 8,818,974 8,873,719 MARKET SEGMENT INFORMATION Three Months Ended Year ended December 31, December 31, 2020 2019 2020 2019 Net Sales Service centers $22,245 $36,331 $126,122 $166,327 Original equipment manufacturers 4,159 5,413 20,783 24,731 Rerollers 2,316 7,220 15,928 27,236 Forgers 2,217 5,036 14,244 20,444 Conversion services and other sales 387 1,171 2,654 4,269 Total net sales $31,324 $55,171 $179,731 $243,007 Tons shipped 5,669 9,805 30,821 41,462 MELT TYPE INFORMATION Three Months Ended Year ended December 31, December 31, 2020 2019 2020 2019 Net Sales Specialty alloys $24,969 $46,609 $141,838 $201,120 Premium alloys * 5,968 7,391 35,239 37,618 Conversion services and other sales 387 1,171 2,654 4,269 Total net sales $31,324 $55,171 $179,731 $243,007 END MARKET INFORMATION ** Three Months Ended Year ended December 31, December 31, 2020 2019 2020 2019 Net Sales Aerospace $17,214 $37,627 $121,900 $170,445 Power generation 956 2,942 6,879 11,530 Oil & gas 2,287 6,256 13,065 25,023 Heavy equipment 6,036 4,752 22,400 22,725 General industrial, conversion services and other sales 4,831 3,594 15,487 13,284 Total net sales $31,324 $55,171 $179,731 $243,007 * Premium alloys represent all vacuum induction melted (VIM) products. ** The majority of our products are sold to service centers rather than the ultimate end market customer. The end market information in this press release is our estimate based upon our knowledge of our customers and the grade of material sold to them, which they will in-turn sell to the ultimate end market customer. CONDENSED CONSOLIDATED BALANCE SHEETS December 31, 2020 2019 Assets Cash $164 $170 Accounts receivable, net 18,101 35,595 Inventory, net 111,380 147,402 Other current assets 7,471 8,300 Total current assets 137,116 191,467 Property, plant and equipment, net 164,983 176,061 Other long-term assets 947 871 Total assets $303,046 $368,399 Liabilities and Stockholders’ Equity Accounts payable $12,632 $40,912 Accrued employment costs 1,826 4,449 Current portion of long-term debt 16,713 3,934 Other current liabilities 2,722 830 Total current liabilities 33,893 50,125 Long-term debt, net 33,471 60,411 Deferred income taxes 5,725 10,962 Other long-term liabilities, net 4,277 3,765 Total liabilities 77,366 125,263 Stockholders’ equity 225,680 243,136 Total liabilities and stockholders’ equity $303,046 $368,399 CONSOLIDATED STATEMENTS OF CASH FLOW Year Ended December 31, 2020 2019 Operating activities: Net (loss) income $(19,047) $4,275 Adjustments to reconcile net (loss) income to net cash (used in) provided by operating activities: Depreciation and amortization 19,449 19,133 Deferred income tax (5,231) (517)Share-based compensation expense 1,455 1,390 Changes in assets and liabilities: Accounts receivable, net 17,494 (2,977)Inventory, net 34,326 (14,965)Accounts payable (25,282) (1,412)Accrued employment costs (1,983) (3,490)Income taxes 243 84 Other, net 2,387 (5,930) Net cash provided by (used in) operating activities 23,811 (4,409) Investing activity: Capital expenditures (9,157) (17,354)Net cash used in investing activity (9,157) (17,354) Financing activities: Borrowings under revolving credit facility 115,876 174,907 Payments on revolving credit facility (136,877) (153,632)Proceeds from Paycheck Protection Program Note 10,000 – Payments on term loan facility, capital leases, and notes (3,809) (3,904)Issuance of common stock under share-based plans 150 471 Net cash (used in) provided by financing activities (14,660) 17,842 Net increase in cash and restricted cash (6) (3,921)Cash and restricted cash at beginning of period 170 4,091 Cash and restricted cash at end of period $164 $170 RECONCILIATION OF NET INCOME TO EBITDA AND ADJUSTED EBITDA Three Months ended Twelve Months Ended December 31, December 31, 2020 2019 2020 2019 Net (loss) income $(7,305) $200 $(19,047) $4,275 Interest expense 552 956 2,784 3,765 Benefit from income taxes (1,851) (557) (5,247) (502)Depreciation and amortization 4,728 4,898 19,449 19,133 EBITDA (3,876) 5,497 (2,061) 26,671 Share-based compensation expense 326 290 1,455 1,390 Loss on sale of excess scrap 300 – 654 – Fixed cost absorption direct charge 3,819 – 8,284 – Employee severance costs – – 620 – Insurance-related (benefit) expense (740) – (1,047) – Adjusted EBITDA $(171) $5,787 $7,905 $28,061 CONTACTS:Dennis M. OatesChristopher T. ScanlonJune Filingeri Chairman,VP Finance, CFOPresident President and CEOand TreasurerComm-Partners LLC (412) 257-7609(412) 257-7662(203) 972-0186

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Indian economy to get shot in the arm from federal budget: Reuters poll – The Guardian

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By Tushar Goenka and Shaloo Shrivastava

BENGALURU (Reuters) – India’s path to economic recovery will be stronger than previously thought as fiscal expansion and vaccine hopes help the country heal from COVID-19, a Reuters poll of economists showed.

The world’s second-most populous country has begun a huge vaccination drive and a steep fall in new coronavirus cases over the past few months is supporting a recovery in Asia’s third-largest economy.

Alongside that, nearly 60% of respondents, 18 of 31, who responded to an additional question in the Jan. 13-25 poll said India’s federal budget, due on Feb. 1, would help a significant economic recovery in financial year 2021/22 and has already sent stocks to record highs.

“We expect global economic activity to return to normality in fiscal Q2 and India to grow in fiscal 2021/22, with government stimulus packages expecting to contribute,” said Hugo Erken, head of international economics at Rabobank.

“There is a strong sentiment the budget will aim to continue expenditure as growth is the only way India can come out of recent setbacks.”

The poll of over 50 economists showed the economy would grow 9.5% next fiscal year – the highest since polling began for the year in March 2020 – after contracting 8.0% in the current fiscal year.

It was expected to grow 6.0% in fiscal year 2022/23. The poll predicted the economy would grow 21.1%, 9.1%, 5.9% and 5.5% in each quarter of the 2021/22 fiscal year, largely upgraded from a poll taken two months ago.

But when asked how long it would take for the economy to recover to its pre-COVID-19 level, 26 of 32 respondents said it would take up to two years, including six analysts said longer than that. Twelve analysts said within a year.

“There is a lack of fiscal space to boost growth sufficiently and India is unlikely to reach its pre-COVID-19 levels any time soon despite policy support,” said Sher Mehta, director at Virtuoso Economics.

“Economic momentum will struggle to gain traction as there are fears of stagflation and the possible end of monetary policy easing.”

The Reserve Bank of India, which has slashed its main repo rate by 115 basis points since March 2020 to cushion the shock from the coronavirus crisis, was expected to keep its benchmark lending rate at 4.0% through at least 2023.

That was a shift in expectations from a survey taken two months back when a 25 basis point cut to 3.75% was predicted in the April-June period.

WILL BORROW MORE

India’s government will focus on fiscal expansion in next week’s budget and revise its borrowing target higher for the 2021/22 fiscal year, prompted by the expected economic slowdown and weak jobs growth, according to the latest poll.

Government borrowing has ballooned due to pandemic spending while revenues have severely dampened.

The median forecast showed the government would revise its fiscal deficit target for next fiscal year up to 5.5% from 3.3% of gross domestic product.

Around 55% of economists, 18 of 33, who answered an additional question about the focus of the budget said it would be more on fiscal expansion than prudence.

“Tight fiscal policy can do lasting damage by hurting potential growth that would have been negatively affected on account of the pandemic,” said Abhishek Upadhyay, senior economist at ICICI Securities PD.

(For other stories from the Reuters global long-term economic outlook polls package:)

(Reporting by Tushar Goenka and Shaloo Shrivastava; Polling by Vivek Mishra and Md. Manzer Hussain; Editing by Jonathan Cable and Steve Orlofsky)

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South Korea Sees One of Strongest Recoveries Among Major Economies – BNN

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(Bloomberg) — President Moon Jae-in expects South Korea’s economy to rebound to pre-pandemic levels in the first half of the year, saying it will have one of the strongest recoveries among major economies.

“South Korea managed to minimize the economic damage of Covid last year,” Moon told the World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda on Wednesday. “The combined growth rate last year and this year is expected to be the highest among the OECD nations,” Moon added, referring to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Moon said South Korea will begin its Covid-19 vaccination program next month. Although it’s later than many advanced economies, South Korea has posted relatively low infection and death rates after it slowed the virus’s initial spread without a lockdown, relying instead on rapid testing and contact-tracing to mitigate flareups.

South Korea ended the pandemic year of 2020 with a 1% contraction in gross domestic product, likely to be the smallest among OECD members. Government spending that included four extra budgets helped limit the damage from a slump in consumer spending, with exports powering the recovery from the second half of the year.

Korea Economy Shrinks Just 1% in 2020 on Exports, Virus Control

The Bank of Korea expects the economy to expand 3% this year. The government’s plan to increase housing supply is helping the construction industry, while policies to provide more pandemic relief are being mulled.

The small annual contraction leaves South Korea in better shape than most developed economies. Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki said in a Facebook post Tuesday that the country’s performance stood out when considering that the world’s 10 biggest economies probably shrank between 3-10%.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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