Siamo lieti di ospitare le considerazioni di MARCO ANNUNZIATA ex Chief Economist di Unicredit e oggi in General Electric, di ritorno da Washington, dove ha partecipato ai meeting di IMF/World Bank.
I have just come back to sunny San Francisco from the IMF/World Bank meetings in rainy Washington DC. This annual event brings together an extraordinary concentration of policymakers and market players from all over the world, in a whirlwind of official meetings, informal discussions over breakfasts, dinners, or late night drinks, and serendipitous encounters in the IMF corridors and in the streets. It is always a great opportunity to get the pulse of the global marketplace, and everyone can come back home with his / her own polls and sentiment indicators. So here are my impressions. A caveat: the weather was really depressing, grey and raining almost all the time, so that might have had an impact…keep that in mind…
Even with all the tensions on the US debt ceiling and related alarming headlines, there was no trace of the end-of-the-world-is-nigh mood that characterized the meetings two years ago at the height of the Eurozone debt crisis. There seems to be a growing consensus that tail risks have diminished: everyone agrees (though some reluctantly) that the Eurozone will stay in one piece for the foreseeable future; almost nobody really believes in a US default; China is holding up and geopolitical tensions have abated. I think there is also a bit of “doom-fatigue” at play: after nearly four years, people are getting tired of waiting for the next catastrophe always supposed to be just around the corner.
Expectations on global growth are fairly downbeat, in line with the new IMF forecasts, revised downwards yet again. The normalization of monetary policy will be a long and challenging process, and the government shutdown and debt ceiling discussions make it hard to see much upside in the US short term outlook. There is some excitement about Europe’s exit from recession, as the swing from “very bad” to “not so bad” could give a helpful push to global growth. I would not get carried away: I think the outlook for Germany, the Nordics and parts of Central and Eastern Europe is getting a lot better, but other parts of Europe will struggle to generate fast growth. Some optimism on Japan, which should indeed perform well in the coming quarters; the question is whether Japan will push ahead with the “third arrow” of structural reforms, and here I would argue they deserve the benefit of the doubt, as policymakers seem to understand how high the stakes are.
There was pessimism on Emerging Markets—with a lot of people making the case that the slowdown in EM is structural, that they are moving back to a new normal of much weaker growth than we have seen in past years. I think the picture is much more nuanced, and we should be careful not to become too gloomy. Most EM experienced a synchronized, policy-driven upswing as they reacted to the 2009 global recession; it stands to reason that we are now observing a similarly synchronized loss of momentum. And while some imbalances have built up during the last few years, they are nowhere near as bad as those that led to previous EM crises. The rest depends on policy and fundamentals: if India does not move on liberalization and infrastructure, growth will continue to disappoint; Brazil needs to give its reforms a second wind; but China is humming along nicely, and Mexico is laying the basis for stronger long-term growth. I think financial markets get this: after the initial taper-panic we have seen a lot more differentiation. This is an important element of the normalization process: moving back to a more realistic and differentiated pricing of risk.
Finally, I remain convinced that we are underestimating the potential impact of technology and innovation on economic growth. In the opening panel of the IIF annual conference I pushed the idea that the current wave of innovation is an important reason to be more optimistic about long term growth. The idea got a lot more traction in the discussion than I was hoping for, including in the open Q&A session. There was a fair amount of skepticism, including from my fellow panelists, and quite a bit of concern about the implications for employment and income distribution, but once the issue was on the table, it captured the attention.