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China growth mystery scares global economy in weakest shape in years

Low inflation continues to befuddle central bankers the world over.

Mar 15, 2019, 10.30 AM IST
The growing mystery of where China’s rapid slowdown is headed may become the biggest risk on the horizon, even as Brexit and a solution to U.S.-China trade tensions are kicked into the long grass.

Here’s our weekly wrap of what’s going on in the world economy.

Recession watch
The global economy’s in its weakest shape since the financial crisis a decade ago, Bloomberg Economics analysis shows. And the reminders are all around: China got more affirming evidence of its big slowdown, with industrial output and retail sales softening and a jump in unemployment. The question now is how big that slowdown will be, and what China’s stimulus — and the U.S.-China negotiations — will do to put a floor under it. Japan got more bad news on manufacturing sentiment and in the hard investment data. Germany, Europe’s growth driver, can’t hide from the daunting external risks. And Turkey just entered its first recession in a decade. Still, here are a few reasons to believe things won’t be all bad.


Despite claims of progress in talks by both sides, a hoped-for summit between President Donald Trump and President Xi Jinping to sign an agreement to end their trade war will now take place at the end of April — if it happens at all. That comes after the Chinese central bank chief hailed movement on many “crucial” issues and Trump attempted to soothe Chinese concerns that he’d do to Xi what he did to Kim Jong Un. Meanwhile in Europe, uncertainty over how and when the U.K. will exit the European Union persists and no matter the path ahead, damage already has been done to the British economy.


Low inflation continues to befuddle central bankers the world over. Even as it gives relief to some emerging markets that rushed to tighten last year, it’s maddening Federal Reserve officials in its mystery and engendering mixed feelings among Indian policy makers ahead of the election there. The Fed chief offered some fresh relief for global peers in reiterating his understanding of the word “patience.” Bank of Japan observers are gloomy enough that they still see potential for stimulus as the Fed and ECB turn more dovish. The BOJ offers longer-term cautionary tales for other central banks as they eye the next downturn.
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