As U.S. GDP Chugs Along, Global Growth in 2020 Looks Muted from China, India and Elsewhere

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It wasn’t that long ago that the financial media and mainstream media were touting an imminent recession. While the media was just absolutely wrong collectively about the recession calls, and will probably never apologize about it, a lot of issues are going to weigh on the global economy in 2020 as 2019 data and forecasts keep coming in. The big issue to consider is that pesky growth in a muddle-on scenario currently seems more likely than a global recession. There are multiple issues which can change, but muddling still seems better than flailing.

24/7 Wall St. has been reviewing several releases during the Thanksgiving week which are focused on GDP releases and 2020 forecasts. These are of course subject to change, but some of the world’s top growth economies are expected to underperform while only a modest expansion is expected to be seen elsewhere.

Third quarter GDP in the United States was given its first revision on Wednesday and the unofficial tally was revised up to 2.1% growth from a prior 1.9% growth. While the Commerce Department’s estimate was adjusted for inflation and seasonality issues, inventory investment and a strong consumer managed to offset business investment. There continue to be longer-term issues around potential impeachment issues and the 2020 election cycle, but the outcomes and impact remain in the distance.

There is a slow GDP story for both Europe and Japan at the same time that China and India are continuing to disappoint on their growth readings. Trade issues and internal issues may continue to weigh on that global growth story. All things equal, this still might not add up to anything worse than slower growth continuing in the coming year.

China has long been considered the growth engine of the world, but its growth has been and looks to continue to be sub-par. Moody’s recently forecast that 2020 GDP growth would be 5.8% for the world’s second largest economy. China’s national statistics agency said this week that Chinese industrial companies saw their October profits fall by 9.9% from a year earlier. A drop in prices, and a pesky trade war with the U.S., are weighing on the nation. Manufacturing and services were under the breakeven level and business confidence has been at the lowest level in more than a year. Preliminary data in recent weeks suggested that China’s GDP growth fell to 6% in the third quarter after growth of 6.1% in the second quarter of this year.

A fresh report out of India’s state statistics agency showed that GDP growth fell to 4.5% in the third quarter of 2019 after having grown by about 5% in the second quarter of 2019. That was the slowest growth rate in about 6 years. The nation has the manufacturing sector to blame as its output was down 1% versus 6.9% growth a year earlier. The statistics agency blamed consumer demand, private investment, and a global slowdown all weighing on the nation’s exports.

Canada released its assessment of third quarter GDP on Friday morning showing a sharp deceleration to just 1.3% after posting a sharp 3.5% gain in the second quarter of 2019.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) most recent forecast for global growth was calling for just 3.0% growth in 2019 but a small recovery to 3.4% in 2020. The IMF sees China growing at just 5.8% in 2020 after an expected 6.1% gain in 2019 and versus a 6.6% gain in 2018.

One of the obvious risks for Europe will be the continued Brexit woes, and all eyes are on the December outcome there. A recent report from Commerzbank in Europe issued 2020 forecasts of 0.9% in the Eurozone. While Germany has been teetering around recession in 2019, the forecast there was for growth of 0.4% in 2020. Italy’s GDP growth rose by just 0.1% in the third quarter of 2019.

South America continues to have serious concerns as 2020 approaches. That said, many of the local economies are less of a macro story and the world seems to live on regardless of how those nations perform. And grouping Latin America and South America remains elusive when it comes to their weighting on the global economy.

Goldman Sachs has panned the idea of a recession and sees the U.S. economy continuing to grow in 2020, and its strategy team is now forecasting for global GDP growth to rise to 3.4% next year after 3.1% growth this year. Societe Generale took the other side of the coin and has joined in on the recession camp with a forecast of a very mild U.S. recession starting in 2020.

The most recent November forecast from the National Association for Business Economics, which is due to be updated next week, showed that its surveyed respondents all are still expecting the United States to continue to see expansion in 2020.

While stocks were soft on Friday and as global markets slid on Thursday, it’s important to consider that this week brought all-time highs as the S&P 500 broke above 3,150 and that the Dow Jones Industrial Average was nearing 28,200 for the first time ever.

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