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IMF foresees global economy accelerating to 3.5%. in 2017

Published:Tuesday | April 18, 2017 | 9:31 AM

A resilient China, rising commodity prices and sturdy financial markets are offering a sunnier outlook for the global economy and helping dispel the gloom that has lingered since the Great Recession ended.

That's the picture sketched Tuesday by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which predicts that the world economy will grow 3.5 per cent this year, up from 3.1 per cent in 2016. The IMF's latest outlook for 2017 is a slight upgrade from the 3.4 per cent global growth it had forecast in January.

The IMF expects the US economy to grow 2.3 per cent, up from 1.6 per cent in 2016; the 19-country Eurozone to expand 1.7 per cent, the same as last year; Japan to grow 1.2 per cent, up from 1 per cent; and China to expand 6.6 per cent, down from 6.7 per cent in 2016.

The fund's latest outlook comes in advance of spring meetings in Washington this week of the IMF, the World Bank and the Group of 20 major economies. The meetings come against the backdrop of a gradually strengthening international picture, especially in many emerging economies, despite resistance to free trade and political unrest in some countries.

For years after the 2008 financial crisis and the Great Recession ended, the global economy remained trapped in what IMF's managing director, Christine Lagarde termed "the new mediocre". Banks were weak and reluctant to lend and deeply indebted governments made growth-killing budget cuts.

The once-super-charged Chinese economy began a long slowdown, driving down global commodity prices and hurting countries from Australia to Zambia that fed raw materials to the world's second-biggest economy. Plummeting oil prices forced energy companies to slash production.

Now Lagarde and others say the outlook is brightening. China's economy has steadied, thanks to government spending and an easy-money credit boom. Beijing said on Monday that its economy grew at a 6.9 per cent annual pace from January to March, the fastest in more than a year. Thanks in part to relief over China's prospects, global commodity prices have stabilised after plummeting from mid-2014 to early 2016.

Oil prices have surged nearly 40 per cent in the past year partly because oil-producing countries agreed to curb production.

Financial markets have marched upward. Investors expect the Chinese government to continue supporting economic growth. They also expect United States President Donald Trump to deliver tax cuts and infrastructure spending that could help boost US economic growth.

The IMF does warn of downside risks to its optimistic forecast. They include the threat of deepening geopolitical tensions, the possibility that rising US interest rates will squeeze economic growth and rattle financial markets and the threat that protectionist measures will damage global trade.

Wealthy economies also face deeper problems, in particular chronically weak growth in productivity - the output produced per hour of work - and ageing workforces.

- AP