The European economy in 1999 and 2000: Report
World economic growth this year is likely to remain as weak as in 1998, despite a gradual acceleration in the course of the year. The volume of world trade is estimated to have fallen significantly in the latter half of last year, and to date there are few signs of a rapid recovery. However, there are indications of improved investor sentiment in a number of emerging market economies, and the monetary authorities in many industrial economies have lowered shortterm interest rates significantly since last autumn. In the absence of further financial market turmoil, a modest global recovery is expected to develop this year, led by improved prospects for the Asian economies. World GDP is expected to rise by 3 per cent in 2000, after growth of 2V4 per cent this year (Table 1). The industrial economies as a group are not expected to contribute significantly to the overall rebound. The economy of the United States has remained much stronger than expected, but could experience a soft landing next year, particularly if the Federal Reserve decides to tighten monetary policy. Activity in Japan may at best stabilise next year after two years of declining GDP, with many firms continuing to have excess capacity, and domestic demand expected to remain weak. The continuing weakness of Japan will help to keep the upturn in the emerging markets within bounds. Growth should pick up in Western Europe over the next eighteen months, helped by the present relaxed monetary conditions. However, a recovery this year remains far from assured, with activity likely to be particularly weak in Germany and Italy. The present, historically low, rate of inflation in the industrial world may rise slightly, partly as a result of some recovery in world prices for primary commodities, recently in particular for oil. In the euro area, import prices will also rise as a result of the recent depreciation of the euro against the dollar. The continued strength of the dollar can be partly attributed to the very strong performance of the American economy compared with the European economy, and to the rising interest rate differentials with Europe. We expect that developments in the opposite direction will weaken the dollar again. Section VI of this report illustrates a scenario with a more substantial weakening in the aftermath of a collapse in equity prices. The Western European economy has been strongly affected by the adverse developments in the crisis regions. This has depressed industrial production significantly over the past year. The prospects for Europe are heavily dependent on the timing and extent to which these effects fade away. The American economy has been a strong engine for world economic growth up to now, but there are several imbalances that may lead to a slowdown over the next eighteen months. This could have a substantial impact on the European economy.
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