Strains in the global economy are easing

Artigo do EIU sobre as perspectivas globais da economia:

February 15th 2012Risks to the global economy are moderating as the crisis in the euro zone eases. The fallout from Europe’s 2011 financial shocks and a rolling wave of austerity will push the euro zone into a recession this year, but the risk of a catastrophic collapse of the single-currency area is, for now, receding. At the same time, growth in the US, although tepid by historical standards, is firming, and the possibility of a recession in the world’s largest economy has all but disappeared. None of this suggests that the global economy will perform at anything approaching a robust level in 2012: growth will slow for a second straight year, and the world’s largest and most advanced economies will, as a group, expand by little more than 1%. But a financial and economic implosion—of the kind triggered by the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, a US investment bank, in late 2008—is less likely than it was several weeks ago.

Central banks have a unique ability to calm financial crises by, in effect, printing money and injecting it into panicked markets. The Economist Intelligence Unit has argued for some time that the euro zone debt crisis would not ease until the European Central Bank (ECB) took decisive action. We expected this to be in the form of purchases of sovereign debt, but the ECB instead offered “unlimited”—and inexpensive—loans to euro zone banks last December. Banks borrowed nearly half a trillion euros, and may borrow a similar amount again when the ECB offers another round of cut-rate, three-year loans later in February.

This injection of funds—the ECB’s version of quantitative easing, a staple of its counterparts the US Federal Reserve and the Bank of England—has, for the moment, stabilised markets and allowed the region to step back from the brink of an economic collapse. This has, in turn, reduced pressures in the US, which shares exceptionally close financial ties with Europe. That said, the weakness in the euro zone’s real economy will damage not only the immediate region but also the rest of the world as European demand for imported goods and services falls and European overseas investment declines. The euro zone’s respite from catastrophe could also prove short-lived if Greece is forced out, or ejected, from the single-currency area because it defaults on its debt. All of this means that 2012 will be an unsettled year for the global economy, further delaying what has already been a slow recovery from the 2008-09 recession.

 

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