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World Bank expects global economy to expand by 4% in 2021

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Policy makers must move decisively, according to January’s Global Economic Prospects, and although it is already growing again following the 4.3 per cent contraction of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused “a heavy toll of deaths and illness, plunged millions into poverty, and may depress economic activity and incomes for a prolonged period”, said a press release issued by the World Bank – a key financial institution within the United Nations system.

Immediate policy priorities should now focus on controlling the spread of coronavirus and ensuring rapid and widespread vaccine deployment. “To support economic recovery, authorities also need to facilitate a re-investment cycle aimed at sustainable growth that is less dependent on government debt”, the Bank advises.

‘Formidable challenges’

“While the global economy appears to have entered a subdued recovery, policymakers face formidable challenges—in public health, debt management, budget policies, central banking and structural reforms—as they try to ensure that this still fragile global recovery gains traction and sets a foundation for robust growth”, said World Bank Group President, David Malpass.

“To overcome the impacts of the pandemic and counter the investment headwind, there needs to be a major push to improve business environments, increase labour and product market flexibility, and strengthen transparency and governance.”

Less severe contraction

The collapse in global economic activity in 2020 due to the onset of the pandemic, is estimated to have been slightly less severe than previously projected, mainly due to shallower contractions in advanced economies overall, and a more robust recovery in China, the forecast states.

However, for most emerging market and developing economies, the impact was more acute than expected.

“Financial fragilities in many of these countries, as the growth shock impacts vulnerable household and business balance sheets, will also need to be addressed”, said Vice President and World Bank Group Chief Economist, Carmen Reinhart.

Known unknowns

The variables in the near-term remain “highly uncertain” the World Bank warned, and a continuing rise in infections coupled with a delayed vaccine rollout, could limit global expansion this year to just 1.6 per cent.

“Meanwhile, in an upside scenario with successful pandemic control and a faster vaccination process, global growth could accelerate to nearly five per cent”, according to the press statement.

In the United States, GDP, or gross domestic product, is forecast to increase by around 3.5 per cent this year, after an estimated 3.6% contraction in 2020. In the Eurozone, output is anticipated to grow 3.6%, following a 7.4% decline in 2020. Activity in Japan, which shrank by 5.3% during 2020, is forecast to grow by 2.5% in 2021.

Aggregate GDP in emerging market and developing economies, including China, is expected to grow 5% in 2021, after a contraction of 2.6%, according to the World Bank prospects.

Near 8% growth forecast for China

China’s economy is expected to expand by 7.9% this year following 2% growth last year.

Excluding China, emerging market and developing economies are forecast to expand 3.4% in 2021 after a contraction of 5% in 2020. Among low income economies, activity is projected to increase 3.3% in 2021, after a contraction of 0.9% in 2020.

Debt concerns

The Prospects also examine how the pandemic has amplified risks around taking on increasing debt and its impact on long term growth.

“The pandemic has greatly exacerbated debt risks in emerging market and developing economies; weak growth prospects will likely further increase debt burdens and erode borrowers’ ability to service debt,” World Bank Acting Vice President for Equitable Growth and Financial Institutions Ayhan Kose said.

“The global community needs to act rapidly and forcefully to make sure the recent debt accumulation does not end with a string of debt crises. The developing world cannot afford another lost decade.”

Long-lasting effects

The pandemic is expected to leave long lasting adverse effects on global activity, the World Bank warns, with a likely slowdown in global growth stretching through the next decade, due to underinvestment, underemployment, and labour force declines in many advanced economies.

The global economy could be heading for a decade of “growth disappointments unless policy makers put in place comprehensive reforms to improve the fundamental drivers of equitable and sustainable economic growth”, said the World Bank press release.

Policy solutions

Policymakers need to continue to sustain the recovery, gradually shifting from income support to growth-enhancing policies, the World Bank said.

In the longer run, in emerging market and developing economies, policies to improve health and education services, digital infrastructure, climate resilience, and business and governance practices will help mitigate the economic damage caused by the pandemic, reduce poverty and advance shared prosperity, while in the context of reduced public spending and elevated debt, institutional reforms to spur organic growth are particularly important.

Source: – UN News

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Biden's rescue plan will give U.S. economy significant boost: Reuters poll – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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By Indradip Ghosh and Richa Rebello

BENGALURU (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden’s proposed fiscal package will boost the coronavirus-hit economy significantly, according to a majority of economists in a Reuters poll, and they expect it to return to its pre-COVID-19 size within a year.

Biden has outlined a $1.9 trillion stimulus package proposal to jump-start the world’s largest economy, which has been at the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic having lost over 400,000 lives, fueling optimism and sending Wall Street stocks to record highs on Thursday.

Hopes for an upswing in U.S. economic growth, helped by the huge stimulus plan, was reflected in the Jan. 19-22 Reuters poll of more 100 economists.

In response to an additional question, over 90%, or 42 of 46 economists, said the planned fiscal stimulus would boost the economy significantly.

“There are crosswinds to begin 2021 as fiscal stimulus helps to offset the virus and targeted lockdowns. The vaccine rollout will neutralize the latter over the course of the year,” said Michelle Meyer, U.S. economist at Bank of America Securities.

“And upside risks to our…growth forecast are building if the Democrat-controlled government can pass additional stimulus. The high level of virus cases is extremely disheartening but the more that the virus weighs on growth, the more likely that stimulus will be passed.”

For a Reuters poll graphic on the U.S. economic outlook:

https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/polling/oakveynqovr/Reuters%20Poll%20-%20U.S.%20economy%20outlook.png

The U.S. economy, which recovered at an annualized pace of 33.4% in the third quarter last year from a record slump of 31.4% in the second, grew 4.4% in the final three months of the year, the poll suggested.

Growth was expected to slow to 2.3% in the current quarter – marking the weakest prediction for the period since a poll in February 2020 – amid renewed restrictions.

But it was then expected to accelerate to 4.3%, 5.1%, 4.0% in the subsequent three quarters, a solid upgrade from 3.8%, 3.9% and 3.4% predicted for those periods last month.

On an annual basis, the economy – after likely contracting 3.5% last year – was expected to grow 4.0% this year and 3.3% in 2022, an upgrade from last month.

For a graphic on Reuters Poll – U.S. economy and Fed monetary policy – January 2021:

https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/polling/azgpoljbkvd/U.S.%20economy.PNG

Nearly 90%, or 49 of 56 economists, who expressed a view said that the U.S. economy would reach its pre-COVID-19 levels within a year, including 16 who expected it to do so within six months.

“Even without the stimulus package, we had already thought the economy would get back to pre-COVID levels by the middle of this year,” said Jacob Oubina, senior U.S. economist at RBC Capital Markets.

“With the new stimulus package there will be more direct money in people’s pockets, easily boosting the economy, provided a vaccine rollout progresses in a constructive manner.”

But unemployment was not predicted to fall below its pre-pandemic levels of around 3.5% until 2024 at least.

When asked what was more likely for inflation this year, only one said it would ease. The other 40 economists were almost evenly split between “a significant pickup” and price pressures remaining “about the same as last year.”

Still, the core Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) price index – the Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge – was forecast to average below the target of 2% on an annual basis until 2024 at least, prompting the central bank to keep interest rates unchanged near zero over the forecast horizon.

“I don’t think it will be an increase in underlying (inflation) trend, it is sort of a rebound in prices that have been depressed during the pandemic,” said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James.

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

(Reporting by Indradip Ghosh and Richa Rebello; Additional reporting by Manjul Paul; Polling by Mumal Rathore; Editing by Rahul Karunakar and Hugh Lawson)

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The U.S. economy likely grew 4.1% at the end of 2020, but GDP seen masking weakness in some sectors – MarketWatch

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The U.S. economy may have grown about 4% in the final three months of 2020, a great showing even in the best of times.

These are not the best of times.

The economy still has lots of ground to make up, for one thing, after the deepest recession on record. And growth slackened off toward the end of 2020 after the coronavirus pandemic roared back and caseloads reached a record high, pointing to a loss of momentum in the economy early in the near year.

Read: The U.S. lost 140,000 jobs in December. How bad was it?

The U.S. fourth-quarter report on gross domestic product, due on Thursday, will still offer a useful diagnosis of the economy. It will tell us which parts have mostly recovered and which are still ailing.

Wall Street
DJIA,
-0.57%

economists polled by the Dow Jones/The Wall Street Journal predict a 4.1% increase in fourth-quarter GDP on an annualized basis. While that would mark a steep drop from the 33.4% increase in the third quarter, it still shows the economy forging ahead even as the coronavirus pandemic spiked again.

The details are unlikely to look quite as good.

The biggest component of the U.S. economy, consumer spending, almost certainly softened to mediocre 3% growth or less. Most government aid for the economy had faded away by the start of the quarter and businesses facing new government restrictions laid off more workers at the end of the year.

Business investment in structures such as oil rigs or office buildings was also weak.

Other drags on the economy included lower state and local spending and a bigger international trade deficit.

The economy got some sizzle from a surprising boom in the housing market. Low mortgages rates and people seeking more space outside the cities have lifted sales of previously existing homes to a 14-year high.

Businesses also started to rebuild their inventories — goods for future sale, that is — after letting them draw down early in the pandemic. That’s a good sign for 2021 since it suggests companies are expecting stronger sales.

Indeed, a pair of surveys of business executives in January suggest companies are banking on a better 2021, mostly because of rollout of coronavirus vaccines.

How soon the vaccinations levels are high enough to really help the economy, however, is still an open question.

Read: Fauci says two more COVID-19 vaccines could be approved within ‘weeks’

“We only expect vaccination rates to be high enough to accelerate the economic recovery from mid-2021 onward,” said Cailin Birch, global economist at The Economist Intelligence Unit.

The promise of more federal financial aid from the Biden White House is also adding to the optimism, but the stimulus could take awhile to reach households and businesses. It’s also unclear how much aid Congress will approve.

What could also help the economy after a rocky start in the new year is rising consumer confidence. Americans historically spend more when they are confident and push the economy to greater heights.

A pair of surveys this coming week, consumer confidence and consumer sentiment, will give another glimpse into whether the hopes inspired by the vaccines are outweighing the angst caused by the record number of coronavirus cases.

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Biden Seeks to Juice Economy as Congress Spars Over Stimulus – BNN

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(Bloomberg) — President Joe Biden is discovering the limits of his power to boost the world’s largest economy on his own, as congressional opposition to his sweeping stimulus plan hardened soon after he was inaugurated.

While publicly urging Congress to swiftly pass his $1.9 trillion proposal — warning of rising unemployment, hunger and homelessness if lawmakers don’t act — Biden issued more than a dozen executive actions in his first three days in office, some aimed at propping up the economy and containing the coronavirus to allow its reopening.

While moderate Republicans including Susan Collins of Maine see little need for a big new spending bill after last month’s dose, Biden’s making the case that the crisis is deepening, not fading, and urgent action is needed. But top Biden aides acknowledge that unilateral action can only accomplish so much.

“If we don’t act now, we will be in a much worse place, and we will find ourselves needing to do much more to dig out of a much deeper hole,” Biden’s top economic adviser, Brian Deese, said of the stimulus plan at a press briefing on Friday.

Record Covid-19 death tolls and renewed lockdowns have battered the economy this winter. A government report for December on Friday is expected to show the worst back-to-back monthly declines in personal spending since the dark days of last spring. And while U.S. stocks hit record highs the past week, some of that optimism has been based on assumptions of new stimulus getting passed.

Biden’s executive actions can at least signal his intentions, but he’ll need cooperation from Congress to validate financial markets’ confidence and make a real difference for the economy and the 11 million unemployed Americans. The legislature’s sign-off is required for the scale of spending needed to notably boost growth.

Biden signed two orders on Friday that expand food stamp benefits for low-income families, direct the Treasury Department to ensure Americans eligible for stimulus checks received them and reinstate protections and collective bargaining rights for federal workers. Next week, he’s expected to sign additional actions urging federal agencies to buy goods and services from U.S. companies, directing regulatory action to fight climate change and strengthening Medicaid.

“It is perfectly reasonable and necessary to start with a strong statement of intent from the administration, and it sounds like that is how they will use the executive orders — as ammunition in the battles to come,” said Thea Lee, president of the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning thinktank.

GOP Skepticism

“But when we talk about the $1.9 trillion Covid relief package or the big investments in infrastructure, climate change or the ‘care economy,’ those are things that will need the finance and power of the U.S. Congress to succeed,” she said.

Biden’s plan has so far sparked little enthusiasm from congressional Republicans. They have complained his first legislative proposal is too expensive, not targeted enough or is too much of a laundry list of liberal goals, including a minimum wage increase.

Not a single Republican has indicated support for Biden’s stimulus plan as presented, with Senators Mitt Romney, Chuck Grassley and Collins questioning the urgency since the government is still enacting a $900 billion stimulus from December.

“It’s hard for me to see, when we just passed $900 billion of assistance, why we would have a package that big,” Collins said this week about Biden’s proposal. “I’m not seeing it right now, but again, I’m happy to listen.”

Piecemeal Approach?

Parts of the plan could get traction, however. Republican Senator Todd Young of Indiana called the total package a “non-starter, but it’s something that we will scrutinize and hopefully, find some common ground on.”

He said he might support a proposal to add funding for coronavirus vaccinations, as an example, and said he and Vice President Kamala Harris had spoken about finding a compromise.

The Biden team has said it would prefer to pass the relief package with Republican votes. Deese is scheduled to speak with a bipartisan group of senators on Sunday at 3 p.m. Biden is making his own calls to lawmakers, though the White House has declined to specify with whom he’s speaking.

During her confirmation hearing on Tuesday, Treasury Secretary-designate Janet Yellen defended Biden’s proposal against Republicans who raised concerns about the deficit — an issue that practically evaporated in Washington while Donald Trump was president.

Yellen’s Case

She said Congress needs to “act big” to revive the economy.

“Right now, short term, I feel that we can afford what it takes to get the economy back on its feet, to get us through the pandemic,” Yellen told the Senate Finance Committee, highlighting that interest rates are historically low and that debt-servicing payments as a share of the economy are lower today than before the 2008 financial crisis.

She said doing too little to sustain the economy now could lead to “scarring.”

Presidents Barack Obama and Trump both made liberal use of executive orders and other actions to make policy, particularly when the opposing party controlled a chamber of Congress.

“Executive orders are the trend. It began almost 30 years ago, and they are becoming more and more the practice because Congress has been unable and unwilling to address these challenges through statute,” said former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle.

Daschle said Biden has no choice but to use the executive-authority tools: “He has an ambitious agenda.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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