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IMF Paints Gloomy World Economic Outlook

FILE: Shopping carts outside a Leclerc hypermarket in Reze near Nantes in France, April 29, 2020.
FILE: Shopping carts outside a Leclerc hypermarket in Reze near Nantes in France, April 29, 2020.

World economic growth is slowing and the prospects for a quick recovery are gloomy, the International Monetary Fund said Tuesday.

The IMF said it expects growth to slow from last year’s 6.1% advance across the globe to 3.2% this year, four-tenths of a percentage point lower than it forecast in April.

“A tentative recovery in 2021 has been followed by increasingly gloomy developments in 2022 as risks began to materialize,” the IMF said. “Global output contracted in the second quarter of this year, owing to downturns in China and Russia, while U.S. consumer spending undershot expectations.”

The Washington-based international finance agency said that “several shocks have hit a world economy already weakened by the pandemic: higher-than-expected inflation worldwide - especially in the United States and major European economies - triggering tighter financial conditions; a worse-than-anticipated slowdown in China, reflecting COVID-19 outbreaks and lockdowns; and further negative spillovers from [Russia’s] war in Ukraine.”

The IMF said the price of consumer goods, especially for food and energy, is increasing throughout the world. The cost is expected to rise by 6.6% in advanced economies this year and by 9.5% in emerging market and developing economies, with both figures up nearly a percentage point from the IMF’s earlier projection.

“The risks to the outlook are overwhelmingly tilted to the downside,” the IMF said.

It said the war in Ukraine “could lead to a sudden stop” of Russia’s export of natural gas to European countries and that “inflation could be harder to bring down than anticipated” if employers cannot find enough workers to meet their labor demands or inflation increases at a faster pace than expected.

The IMF said that a “plausible alternative scenario” to its already diminished forecast would be a world economy “in which risks materialize, inflation rises further, and global growth declines” to about 2.6% and 2% percent in 2022 and 2023, respectively, figures that would put growth in the bottom 10% of outcomes since 1970.

“With increasing prices continuing to squeeze living standards worldwide, taming inflation should be the first priority for policymakers,” the IMF said.

The IMF forecast came as policy makers at the U.S. central bank, the Federal Reserve, began two days of meetings in Washington with the expectation they will announce another three-quarters of a percentage point increase in the Fed’s benchmark percentage rate on Wednesday, an effort to curb rampant inflation in the U.S., the world’s biggest economy.

With June’s 9.1% year-over-year surge in consumer prices in the U.S. – the fastest pace in four decades – the Fed has already boosted its prime lending rate this year from near zero percent to 1.6% and expects to end 2022 at 3.4%.

Increases in the Fed’s interest rate reverberate through the U.S. economy, with higher borrowing costs for car loans and consumer goods. By making it costlier to borrow money, the Fed’s expectation is that consumers and businesses will cut their spending and thus help curb inflation.