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Posthaste: Sorry, but the economy isn't over COVID — and won't be for some time – Financial Post

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CIBC economists see long stretch of higher rates and low growth ahead

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Good Morning!

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A lot of weird things have been happening in our economy lately. Roaring inflation that took everybody by surprise, a drum-tight labour market and now the prospect of sputtering growth, if not outright contraction.

The explanation for these unexpected and in some cases unprecedented conditions, argue CIBC economists, is that COVID continues to disrupt the functioning of the economy.

Canada, the U.S. and Europe have tried to move on from the pandemic, lifting vaccine mandates and restrictions on activity, thus resulting in an increase in consumer demand.

“But COVID isn’t fading away as a supply constraint, or as a health issue,” CIBC economists Avery Shenfeld and Andrew Grantham wrote in a recent note.

Variants that spread more rapidly have meant that more people have died of COVID in 2022 than the previous year, even though fewer cases were fatal, they said.

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And while demand has recovered, supply chains have not, partly because of the war in Ukraine, but also because of COVID.

The lockdowns this year in China are the most obvious example. Omicron restrictions here caused exports to fall even more than during the first 2020 lockdown.

In Canada it is showing up in employee illness. “Flights are cancelled when crew members call in sick, hospitals cut back services because staff members are ill and live entertainment shows are postponed for the same reason,” wrote the economists. Omicron has been associated in Canada with a significant increase in working hours lost to illness.

Long COVID has caused some to actually withdraw from the workforce. The numbers are small in Canada, they said, but the U.K. serves as an example of what could happen if we fail to control future waves of the virus.

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In Britain, where public health restrictions have been lighter, 0.6% of the population have been “severely affected” by Long COVID, according to a recent study.

COVID is also impacting capital spending, said the economists. An uncertain outlook due to potential waves of the virus in future may be contributing to businesses’ reluctance to spend, but COVID supply-chain issues have also made getting capital equipment more difficult as well.

“The result is less production capacity in sectors where equipment is on back order, or where COVID uncertainties have forestalled investment,” they said.

The unprecedented COVID recession and recovery is also why there is a mismatch between job availability and hiring in the economy today, argue the economists.

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During the pandemic some work was almost completely shut down and stayed dormant for a long period. Now that the economy has reopened, those employers are scrambling to rehire in great numbers, a situation we have not seen before, they said.

“A typical recession doesn’t see air travel drop by 90% and doesn’t see live theatres close outright. A typical recovery doesn’t see the sudden opening we’re experiencing in these same sectors,” they wrote.

Workers who held these jobs, like restaurant staff and baggage handlers, in 2020 had two years to move on, unlike a typical recession that lasts just two or three quarters.

CIBC believes this mismatch will eventually even out, but the impact of COVID on supply chains and missed work could remain.

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So what does the future hold?

While traders are already talking about rate cuts after the hiking cycle winds up either at the end of this year or early 2023, CIBC sees the Bank of Canada keeping rates at 3.25% through the whole of 2023.

It also sees GDP growth slowing to 0.9% in the fourth quarter of this year and gaining only 1.5% in 2023.

“Even if a recession is avoided, we’re in for a protracted period of sub-par growth,” said the economists.

The policy of dropping COVID mandates meant to improve the economy may actually be working to extend the economics costs of the virus, they said.

“While helping on the demand side, diminished public health restraints, particularly during surges in case counts, are cutting into the economy’s supply capabilities. Their absence is likely elevating the peak levels for COVID cases, and thereby increasing the costs of worker absenteeism, and perhaps, as we’ve seen in the UK, risking longer term labour market damage due to Long COVID,” they said.

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The economists said lockdowns should be behind us, but a push for the use of masks, global vaccination and improvements of indoor air quality would help reduce the economic impact of COVID.

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  • Blockchain Futurist Conference begins in Toronto
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Cryptocurrencies have been having a rough go of it lately, with Bitcoin shedding 47% of its value so far this year. The crypto bear market has become entrenched after a spate of company bankruptcies and the failure of major decentralized finance project Terra in May — and despite small rallies fails to meaningfully recover ground. Fans, however, might take heart from the map below that shows how common cryptocurrencies have become. According to Hellosafe, a comparison site for financial products, 99 out of 195 countries in the world now allow the use of cryptocurrencies, or 50.8% of them. Cryptos are legal in all the European Union countries and in 18 countries or 51.4% of the Americas continent. Only two countries in the world, however, have legalized Bitcoin as legal tender: El Salvador on Sept. 7, 2021 and the Central African Republic on April 27, 2022.

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Today’s Posthaste was written by Pamela Heaven (@pamheaven), with additional reporting from The Canadian Press, Thomson Reuters and Bloomberg.

Have a story idea, pitch, embargoed report, or a suggestion for this newsletter? Email us at posthaste@postmedia.com, or hit reply to send us a note.

Listen to Down to Business for in-depth discussions and insights into the latest in Canadian business, available wherever you get your podcasts. Check out the latest episode below:

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Economy

The World Economy Is Slowing More Than Expected, a New Forecast Shows – The New York Times

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Economies around the world are slowing more than expected, as Russia’s war in Ukraine drives inflation and the cost of energy higher, forcing the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development on Monday to scale back its projections for growth in the coming years.

Although it shied away from forecasting a global recession, the organization downgraded its outlook, maintaining its expectation that global economic growth would be a “modest” 3 percent this year, and an even weaker 2.2 percent next year, down from 2.8 percent a few months ago.

“The world is paying a very heavy price for Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine,” said Mathias Cormann, the organization’s secretary general.

The organization lowered its growth forecast in virtually all of the 38 countries it represents, which include most of the word’s advanced economies. It projected growth of just 3.2 percent for China for this year and 4.7 percent for next year, one of the lowest rates for the country since the 1970s, said Álvaro Santos Pereira, the O.E.C.D.’s chief economist.

Comparing its current projection with one issued at the end of last year, a gap of about $2.8 trillion in foregone output for 2023 emerged, a figure that is roughly the size of the French economy. That represented the organization’s rough estimate of the economic toll the war is taking on the global economy.

“The global economy has lost momentum in the wake of Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine, which is dragging down growth and putting additional upward pressure on inflation worldwide,” the report said.

Europe remains the most vulnerable region, with several countries facing the threat of a recession. Germany, the European Union’s largest economy, is projected to contract by 0.7 percent next year, after growing only 1.2 percent this year. Both France and Italy are forecast to see growth of less than 1 percent next year.

In the United States, projected growth was scaled back to 1.5 percent this year, from 2.5 percent forecast in June, and to 0.5 percent in 2023, down from 1.2 percent in the June report.

Soaring inflation, fueled by the high price of energy and food, is driving the slowdown and spreading to other goods and services, weighing heavily on households and businesses. The high cost of energy and the threat of gas shortages in Europe remain key risks, as countries head into winter with storage tanks nearly full, but with uncertainty about how long they will last.

“The risks are very much tilted to the downside,” Mr. Cormann warned.

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The world economy has an ominous August 2007 kind of feeling – Axios

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August 2007 was, on the surface, a fine month for the U.S. and global economy. Unemployment was low. The stock market had a few bumpy days, but nothing too dramatic.

Why it matters: Many consider it to be the beginning of what we now call the global financial crisis. And there are some ominous parallels with what the world is experiencing right now.

  • To be clear, we’re not predicting a new crisis as severe as the one that rocked the world in 2008. Rather, we’re arguing that major (and accelerating) underlying shifts are underway and likely to reverberate for years.
  • How significant the pain will be is hard to predict. It could vary significantly across countries and industries. It’s plausible that the economic damage in most sectors of the U.S. economy will be mild.

In this parallel, the tumult in Britain — where the currency and government bond prices are plunging — is the equivalent of when French bank BNP Paribas experienced funding problems due to mortgage losses.

  • The bank required a liquidity lifeline from the European Central Bank on Aug. 9, 2007, which many date as the beginning of the global financial crisis.
  • As it was then, the U.S. economy remains strong, and the financial disruptions across the Atlantic seem remote. But in that episode, they were in fact early manifestations of profound adjustments that were only beginning, and would eventually affect economies worldwide.

State of play: For a decade-plus after the 2008 crisis, the world was stuck in a low-interest rate, low-inflation, low-growth rut.

  • Central banks searched for novel ways to loosen monetary policy to stimulate demand, including negative interest rates and quantitative easing.
  • They concluded that the “neutral rate” of interest had become much lower, due to seismic forces like demographics and globalization.
  • The widespread view — reflected in bond prices and officials’ comments — was that after the pandemic’s disruptions passed, this low-rate normal would return. Until recently, at least.

What’s happened in the last few months — and with dizzying speed in the last several days — is that markets are adjusting to the possibility that the era of extremely low rates and liquidity is over, and the 2020s will be very different from the 2010s.

  • Consider that at the start of the year, a 30-year U.S. Treasury bond yielded 1.92%. That’s up to 3.62% as of 10:45am EDT this morning.
  • The effects of that repricing are only beginning to ripple through the economy. It’s most visible now in housing, but could eventually affect everything from the sustainability of large budget deficits to the viability of any business relying on lots of leverage.

Flashback: Donald Kohn, who played a key role in fighting the global financial crisis as the No. 2 official at the Fed, had some prescient comments last year.

  • “It’s possible that [the natural rate of interest] is higher than backward-looking models now suggest,” he said at the 2021 Jackson Hole symposium, noting loose fiscal policy and pent-up savings.
  • “But the transition to a higher rate environment could be pretty bumpy given that a lot of asset values and assessments of debt sustainability are built on very low interest rates for very long.”

What they’re saying: In a note out this morning, Joseph Brusuelas, chief economist at RSM, said that dollar funding markets have shown some of the strains they have in crises past (though not as severe.).

  • He writes that it is likely economies that have been “characterized by insufficient aggregate demand and low inflation over the past two decades, will now be characterized by insufficient aggregate supply, negative supply shocks, geopolitical tensions and higher inflation,” which require different monetary and fiscal policies.
  • “Fixed income markets are signaling a shift in perceptions of financial stability and raising a caution flag for investors,” he added.

The bottom line: We’re in the early days of seeing how a world of tighter money will play out across sovereign nations, real estate, the corporate sector and more.

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Energy, inflation crises risk pushing big economies into recession, OECD says – Reuters

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PARIS, Sept 26 (Reuters) – Global economic growth is slowing more than was forecast a few months ago in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as energy and inflation crises risk snowballing into recessions in major economies, the OECD said on Monday.

While global growth this year was still expected at 3.0%, it is now projected to slow to 2.2% in 2023, revised down from a forecast in June of 2.8%, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development said.

The Paris-based policy forum was particularly pessimistic about the outlook in Europe – the most directly exposed economy to the fallout from Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Global output next year is now projected to be $2.8 trillion lower than the OECD forecast before Russia attacked Ukraine – a loss of income worldwide equivalent in size to the French economy.

“The global economy has lost momentum in the wake of Russia’s unprovoked, unjustifiable and illegal war of aggression against Ukraine. GDP growth has stalled in many economies and economic indicators point to an extended slowdown,” OECD Secretary-General Mathias Cormann said in a statement.

The OECD projected euro zone economic growth would slow from 3.1% this year to only 0.3% in 2023, which implies the 19-nation shared currency bloc would spend at least part of the year in a recession, defined as two straight quarters of contraction.

That marked a dramatic downgrade from the OECD’s last economic outlook in June, when it had forecast the euro zone’s economy would grow 1.6% next year.

The OECD was particularly gloomy about Germany’s Russian-gas dependent economy, forecasting it would contract 0.7% next year, slashed from a June estimate for 1.7% growth.

The OECD warned that further disruptions to energy supplies would hit growth and boost inflation, especially in Europe where they could knock activity back another 1.25 percentage points and boost inflation by 1.5 percentage points, pushing many countries into recession for the full year of 2023.

“Monetary policy will need to continue to tighten in most major economies to tame inflation durably,” Cormann told a news conference, adding that targeted fiscal stimulus from governments was also key to restoring consumer and business confidence.

“It’s critical that monetary and fiscal policy work hand in hand”, he said.

Though far less dependent on imported energy than Europe, the United States was seen skidding into a downturn as the U.S. Federal Reserve jacks up interest rates to get a handle on inflation.

The OECD forecast that the world’s biggest economy would slow from 1.5% growth this year to only 0.5% next year, down from June forecasts for 2.5% in 2022 and 1.2% in 2023.

Meanwhile, China’s strict measures to control the spread of COVID-19 this year meant that its economy was set to grow only 3.2% this year and 4.7% next year, whereas the OECD had previously expected 4.4% in 2022 and 4.9% in 2023.

Despite the fast deteriorating outlook for major economies, the OECD said further rate hikes were needed to fight inflation, forecasting most major central banks’ policy rates would top 4% next year.

With many governments increasing support packages to help households and businesses cope with high inflation, the OECD said such measures should target those most in need and be temporary to keep down their cost and not further burden high post-COVID debts.

Reporting by Leigh Thomas, additional reporting by Tassilo Hummel; editing by Richard Lough, William Maclean

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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