Widespread Weakness Continues

Xe Corporate Europe

February 19, 2020 4 min read

Widespread weakness continues to weigh on a huge number of countries with an array of recession forecasts in the wake of global weakness due to pandemic, trade wars and trade deleveraging.

Hong Kong having slipped into recession last year seems as if this is likely to be repeated in the wake of the Coronavirus and months of political unrest. Hong Kong GDP already contracted at an alarming 3.2% in the middle of 2019 and key signals from economic data are already pointing at a continued slow-down of their fiscal situation. Japan is widely believed to enter a recessive environment as well suffering a huge typhoon and then a big tax increase and straight away afterwards the virus also affected their growth. There is a chance the UK could slip into recession following a protracted Brexit process and, if trade deals are not as positive as expected, the additional costs will threaten growth during the course of the year. Germany produced a string of contracting economic figures during the end of 2019 as it wore a sustained decline in manufacturing sector and auto sales. Italy was in a technical recession for half of 2018 and has not really recovered where they have seen weak productivity, big debt figures and unemployment and these do not appear to be being restored quickly. China continued to slow during the trade war and this led to a forecast of GDP growth of 5.8% which sounds very high, but when compared to the figures of 6.6% and 6.1% in the last two years respectively it is certainly a big reduction. Add to these, significant stresses in the economies of Turkey, Argentina, Iran, Mexico and Brazil and the picture for global growth could be gloomy.

In the UK, the situation is finely balanced and after the prolonged Brexit situation our attention returns to stalwart economic data production. Yesterday, we saw prints in jobs and earnings data and there are small positive signs there as earnings rose slightly. This morning we are waiting for inflation data which will be a potent conversation in context of the UK’s buoyancy. Expectations are a significant rise in Retail Price Index figures year on year but a reduction month on month. Consumer Price Index figures are pointing at a slight increase year on year but a big reduction month on month. Lastly, Producer Price Index looks set to largely balance out so that is good news for the near future if forecasts proves to be accurate.

Looking over the pond at the US inflation and housing data due today, there appears a mixed bag of results expected. Housing starts seem to have an expectation of a big contraction but there looks as if the Producer Price Index data will be a move higher, which will push an increase in costs to consumers over time and increase inflation more generally but this has a likelihood to manifest in the requirement of tools to mute this price pressure, namely interest rate hikes. This would need to be a sustained factor for this conversation to play out in this way within the Federal Reserve.

The key figures at the time of writing:

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