July 17, 2014 / 2:31 PM / in 3 years

Global growth prospects dim even as asset prices fly higher: Reuters poll

(Reuters) - Global growth prospects have dimmed slightly, with the United States and Britain leading industrialized economies that are not generating much inflation even after years of aggressive monetary stimulus, Reuters polls found.

Triple-E class container ship "Madison Maersk" of Maersk Line loaded with containers is berthed at Nansha port in Guangzhou, Guangdong province June 26, 2014. REUTERS/Alex Lee

While China’s economic growth broadly stabilized in the latest quarter, the threat of a sharp correction in its overextended property market and any aftershocks remains the biggest danger for the world economy.

But the consensus among global economic forecasters polled over the past week was that the historic rally in asset prices spurred by money printing and cash injections from central banks in the United States, Britain, Japan and the euro zone, does not pose a threat to future economic growth.

That confidence is partly based on the knowledge there will be hundreds of billions of euros more of cheap cash on offer from the European Central Bank later this year, along with expectations for more money printing from the Bank of Japan.

“It is a risk, but it’s worse to pull the rug out from under the recovery,” said Alexander Lin, economist at BofAML, explaining the rationale for even more stimulus, which is clearly having the greatest effect on asset price inflation.

The lack of concern among forecasters has an eerie echo of the calm before the financial crisis that set in more than half a decade ago, with most at the time ignoring the dangerous imbalances building up in the global financial system.

But as long as consumer inflation remains dangerously low in the euro zone, trying to get it higher will remain the ECB’s focus, particularly since stable inflation is its policy remit. The euro area increasingly resembles Japan, which has been fighting deflation for a generation.

“I don’t think that cheap loans are the solution to the woes of the euro zone,” said Samuel Slama, economist at Fathom Financial Consulting. “Injecting liquidity in the system is just a legacy from the crisis and will not address the issues.”

Global growth is expected to reach 3.1 percent this year, roughly steady versus 2013 but less than the 3.4 percent seen in the previous poll in April. Some of that reflects a shock contraction in U.S. growth at the start of the year.

Growth is expected to accelerate to 3.7 percent in 2015, unrevised from the previous poll.

Hope the U.S. economy will gain traction is helping to drive optimism in markets, even though the latest data do not point to a strong acceleration in the second quarter. Britain is expected to keep its growth momentum.

Both the Federal Reserve and the Bank of England are expected to raise interest rates by the middle of next year.

Unemployment has fallen in these economies much more quickly than any private forecasters or policymakers had expected - and in sharp contrast to the euro area, which has an unemployment rate that is about twice as high.

And that already high rate masks more shocking levels of unemployment in weaker member countries like Spain and Greece, where more than one in four people is out of work and over half the young population is jobless.

That situation has generated no wage inflation as too many people are competing for too few jobs. Even in the United States and Britain, where hiring has been strong, wages have barely kept up with price rises in the overall economy.

Where inflation has been rampant - apart from in developing economies like Brazil, where growth has slowed rapidly from boom times but inflation is at the top end of the central bank’s comfort range - is in global asset prices.

Central bank cash has found its way into nearly everything up for sale, pushing up many stock markets to record highs, as well as sovereign debt prices, property and fine art.

Officials from these same central banks printing money, as well as the International Monetary Fund and the Bank for International Settlements, are now warning about the “hunt for yield” and say too many asset prices have risen too far.

But over half of the 92 economists who answered an extra question said that didn’t pose a risk to the global economy.

Instead, they said any further faltering in the U.S. recovery, slower economic growth in China and the threat of deflation in the euro zone were the top three dangers.

Emerging markets can’t be counted on to take up the economic slack, either. The poll found Latin American economies will grow at an even slower clip than expected just a few months ago, missing an opportunity to gather momentum before the Fed starts raising U.S. interest rates.

Polling by Reuters Polls Bangalore and Reuters bureaus in Berlin, Paris, Rome, Brasilia with additional reporting from New York; Editing by Catherine Evans

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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