Sunday, December 10, 2017

Tightly linked global economy suffering

WASHINGTON — The global economy is in the worst shape since the dark days of 2009.

Six of the 17 countries that use the euro currency are in recession. The U.S. economy is struggling again. And the economic superstars of the developing world — China, India and Brazil — are in no position to come to the rescue. They're slowing, too.

The lengthening shadow over the world's economy illustrates one of the consequences of globalization: There's nowhere to hide.

Economies around the world have never been so tightly linked — which means that as one region weakens, others do, too. That's why Europe's slowdown is hurting factories in China. And why those Chinese factories are buying less iron ore from Brazil.

As a result of this global economic slowdown, the International Monetary Fund has reduced its forecast for world growth this year to 3.5 percent, the slowest since a 0.6 percent drop in 2009. Some economists predict the global economy will grow a full percentage point less.

For now, few foresee another global recession. Central banks in China, Britain, Brazil, South Korea and Europe have cut interest rates in the past month to try to jolt growth. European leaders have begun to focus more on promoting growth, not just shrinking debt and cutting budgets.

But many economists say European policymakers aren't moving fast enough to strengthen European banks and ease borrowing costs for Italy and Spain. They fear the global impact if Europe's economy deteriorates further.

Stock prices in the United States and elsewhere are fluctuating almost daily depending on the outlook for a resolution of Europe's debt crisis.

The United States has long pulled the global economy out of slumps. Now it needs help. Three years after the Great Recession officially ended, the American economy can't maintain momentum. For the third straight year, growth has stalled at midyear after getting off to a promising start.

Unemployment stood at 8.2 percent in June — the 41st straight month it's been above 8 percent. Americans spent less at retail businesses for a third straight month in June, the longest losing streak since the recession. Economists are downgrading their estimates of economic growth in the April-June quarter. When the government releases its first estimate on Friday, many think it won't even match the first quarter's sluggish 1.9 percent annual pace.

The global slowdown is squeezing U.S. exports, which have accounted for an unusually large 43 percent share of U.S. growth since the recession officially ended in June 2009.

Consumer confidence has fallen four straight months in the face of scant hiring and weak economic growth. U.S. companies are nervous about the threat of tax increases and spending cuts that are scheduled to kick in at year's end unless Congress breaks a deadlock. The IMF has warned of a spillover to the rest of the world if the U.S. economy falls off the so-called fiscal cliff.

The slowdown in the developing world could make it harder for the economies of Europe and the United States to climb out of their ruts. And the weaker the rich countries get, the harder it will be for developing economies to regain their old fast pace.

"In today's interconnected world, we can no longer afford to look only at what goes on within our national borders," IMF managing director Christine Lagarde said earlier this month. "This crisis does not recognize borders. This crisis is knocking at all our doors."

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