Tags: Roubini | global | economy | risk

Roubini: Global Economy Looking Better for 2014, But Problems Still Lurk

Friday, 03 Jan 2014 07:30 AM

By Dan Weil

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Global economic performance will improve this year, rebounding from a weak 2013, but obstacles remain, says New York University economist Nouriel Roubini.

"The global economy will grow faster in 2014, while tail risks (low-probability, high-impact shocks) will be lower," he writes in an article for Project Syndicate.

"But, with the possible exception of the U.S., growth will remain anemic in most advanced economies. And emerging-market fragility — including China's uncertain efforts at economic rebalancing — could become a drag on global growth in subsequent years."

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When it comes to tail risk, the dangers have lessened for a "eurozone implosion, another government shutdown or debt-ceiling fight in the United States, a hard landing in China or a war between Israel and Iran over nuclear proliferation," Roubini writes.

He predicts that growth in advanced economies will accelerate about 1.9 percent in 2014 from 1 percent last year.

Developed economies will benefit from "a half-decade of painful private-sector deleveraging (households, banks and non-financial firms), a smaller fiscal drag (with the exception of Japan) and maintenance of accommodative monetary policies," Roubini explains.

"Still, most advanced economies (the U.S., the eurozone, Japan, the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada) will barely reach potential growth, or will remain below it."

Households, banks and some non-financial firms in most advanced economies still face heavy debt burdens that necessitate deleveraging, he argues. And onerous debt burdens in the public sector will "force governments to continue painful fiscal adjustment."

Long-term factors will weigh on economies too, creating a "risk of secular stagnation in many advanced economies, owing to the adverse effect on productivity growth of years of underinvestment in human and physical capital," Roubini notes.

The U.S. economy will benefit this year from the shale-energy revolution, gains in the labor and housing markets and a return of manufacturing from overseas, Roubini maintains.

Downside risks include political gridlock during a mid-term election year that could stall progress on fiscal issues, "a lack of clarity about the Federal Reserve's planned exit from quantitative easing and zero policy rates and regulatory uncertainties," he writes.

In Europe, the risk of financial collapse has lessened, Roubini contends. But, "its fundamental problems remain unresolved: low potential growth; high unemployment; still-high and rising levels of public debt; loss of competitiveness and slow reduction of unit labor costs . . . ; and extremely tight credit rationing."

Many experts say the biggest risks surrounding the global economy and financial markets this year will center on central bank policy.

The Fed already has announced that it will begin paring back its massive easing program, cutting its monthly bond purchases by $10 billion to a total of $75 billion.

Pimco CEO Mohamed El-Erian says central banks will have a tricky time shifting from "policy-induced growth to higher, durable and more inclusive private sector-led growth," he tells the Financial Times.

"In each case — that of the Fed, the European Central Bank and Bank of Japan — the policy transition is complex. It involves changes in an already highly experimental policy mix."

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