IMF likely to downgrade global growth due to coronavirus: spokesman

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The fast-spreading coronavirus will have an impact on global economic growth and the International Monetary Fund is likely to downgrade its growth forecast as result, an IMF spokesman said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) logo is seen outside the headquarters building in Washington, U.S., as IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde meets with Argentine Treasury Minister Nicolas Dujovne September 4, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo

IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva flagged the expected downgraded on Saturday during a meeting of finance officials from the world’s 20 largest economies in Riyadh. In a statement, she said the virus outbreak would likely lower China’s economic growth this year to 5.6%, down 0.4 percentage point from its January outlook, and shave 0.1 percentage point from global growth.

“We are likely to downgrade our growth projections for the world,” IMF spokesman Gerry Rice told a regular briefing. He added that he had no new numbers beyond those in Georgieva’s statement, but said more details would emerge as the IMF prepared to release a new World Economic Outlook in April.

U.S. financial markets took a hit on Thursday, as the rapid spread of the coronavirus outside China intensified fears about the impact on economic growth and corporate earnings. The S&P 500 .SPX and Nasdaq .IXIC are now more than 10% below their intraday record highs hit on Feb. 19, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI is 10% off its Feb.12 peak.

“Clearly the virus is going to have an impact on growth. A lot just depends on the speed of recovery in China and other countries, the spillover effects, the effects on supply chains, and the extent to which other countries may be significantly affected,” Rice said.

He said he expected a decision soon on the impact of the coronavirus for the IMF and World Bank meetings in April, noting that several format options were under consideration.

Reuters reported Wednesday that officials were considering scaling back the meetings or holding them by teleconference.

Rice said the IMF was in constant contact with officials from the World Health Organization, the World Bank, regional development banks and others about the impact of the virus.

The Fund has said that coordinated or synchronized action by the international community would be helpful if the impact worsened, but Rice said that point had not yet been reached.

“This is something that really can only be tackled via international cooperation. It is not something that stops at international borders,” Rice said.

He said the IMF supported a range of economic measures taken by China to offset the negative impact of massive work stoppages caused by the virus.

Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Dan Grebler