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When emerging economies sneeze, world economy shivers

World markets' reaction to recent signs of a slowdown in emerging economies has highlighted the importance of these new engines of global growth to the financial system, say analysts.

business Updated: Mar 14, 2012 10:43 IST
world economy,recession,hindustan times

World markets' reaction to recent signs of a slowdown in emerging economies has highlighted the importance of these new engines of global growth to the financial system, say analysts.

Markets were destabilised on Monday by Chinese data showing that China, the world's leading exporter, posted a huge trade deficit last month, largely because of slowdown in exports to advanced economies.

"Slowing emerging market growth is very consequential for global growth in general," UBS economist Bhanu Baweja noted.

Some good news came from the OECD though, which said on Monday that tentative signs of economic upturn had appeared in the eurozone even as business activity showed signs of flagging in China and Brazil.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development said the United States and Japan had the most improved growth prospects.

"Stronger, albeit tentative" signals were evident in major economies and in the eurozone. But figures for China and Brazil were now below trend.

China, the second-biggest economy in the world, has cut its 2012 growth target to 7.5% from a previous estimate of 8.0%, as it swung into a trade deficit of $31.48 billion in February.

Brazilian growth slumped to 2.7% last year from 7.5% in 2010, while India's economy expanded by 6.1% in the last three months of 2011, the weakest pace in three years.

They have been hit by several factors, including economic slumps in markets such as the United States and Europe, and the rising cost of energy.

But even Russia, which relies on providing natural resources such as oil and gas for much of its economic growth, expects 3.7% growth this year, down from 4.3% in 2010.

Moscow's main market, the 17-nation eurozone, has been held back by a chronic debt crisis and is now in a "mild recession" according to European Economic Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn.

However, the latest trend indicators for Russia, and for India, point to a possible upward turning point for growth.

The latest forecast by the European Central Bank says that the eurozone economy will contract by 0.1% this year, and then grow by 1.1 % in 2013.

Italy, the third-biggest eurozone economy which has approved austerity measures to battle heavy debt, entered recession late last year with a fourth-quarter contraction of 0.7%, the state statistics office said on Monday.

OPEC has trimmed its 2012 global oil demand growth forecast for the second time owing to the slowdown in major economies and higher crude oil prices.

Indicators from developed economies have presented a fairly gloomy picture, with consumer confidence falling in Japan and France, and a eurozone purchasing managers index slipping back in February.

Other data is a little more promising however, such as that for German and Indian industrial output which rebounded in January, and news from the United States which also give reason for hope.

The US economy created 227,000 new jobs in February, and US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke says growth this year will stay close to or slightly above the 2.25% pace of late 2011.

A study by the consulting group Grant Thornton noted a growing dependence of "BRIC" economies, those of Brazil, Russia, India and China, on the rest of the planet.

Three-fourths of business leaders from those countries said they were concerned about a possible global slump in the coming year.

Those most worried were in India at 96%, but all forecast stiff headwinds for exports.

Baweja at UBS nonetheless felt the worst might have passed.

"The slowdown in emerging markets is not new, they have been slowing down since June" of last year, he noted, in part because of restrictive policies aimed at keeping those economies from overheating.

"Now the story may be the opposite, that emerging countries may be close to bottoming out," though he forecast "a very, very modest" rebound.

Indian finance minister Pranab Mukherjee has also estimated that the point of the sharpest slowdown in growth has passed, as the Reserve Bank of India was set to cut its key interest rates on Wednesday.

Brazil's central bank is expected to do the same.

First Published: Mar 14, 2012 10:05 IST