2018 Outlook – Welcome to Annapurna

Summary – Current economic trends seem particularly favorable, but after taking a step back, we are inclined to be more circumspect than the consensus of economists on the outlook for 2018. Our worldwide scenario has changed little since September. Our global GDP growth forecast for 2017 remains the same, at 3.6%, and we have lifted our 2018 scenario slightly to 3.3% from 3.2%. Upward revisions to our 2017 estimates for the developed world offset the declines we project in emerging markets. Meanwhile, we continue to foresee a modest global slowdown in economic activity next year as a result of reduced US and Chinese growth.

In this context, and amid the structural changes underway, worldwide inflation does not look ready to accelerate. It should fall from 2 % on average this year to 1.8% next year, in the wake of declining raw material prices. With no inflation on the horizon, central banks will maintain their very accommodative bias. Restricted by a persistent flat yield curve, the Fed will have trouble carrying out the three key interest rate increases it has planned. The ECB will remain particularly conservative and is unlikely to have an opportunity to take a position on a future increase in key rates.

The dollar is set to disappoint and maintain pressure on other countries. Japan, now benefiting from a more promising environment, is probably the country best placed to absorb the market’s wariness with regard to the US currency. Our exchange-rate scenario remains unchanged from our September projections and includes a substantial appreciation in the yen.

In the short run, we think exposure to risk is still a viable strategy, so long as it is focused on developed markets. But the current environment requires investors to be ready to change direction at a moment’s notice. For this reason, we have developed a fundamental allocation to complement our short-term, tactical recommendations.

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Our 2013–2014 Scenario: A Situation Under Control

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  • Global GDP up 3.1 percent in 2013, 4.1 percent in 2014. With difficult conditions prevailing through the first half of 2013, the world economy will not grow any faster than the 3.2 percent registered in 2012. It will take until 2014 for global growth to exceed 4 percent—a level not seen since 2010. 
  • 50–50. Over the next two years, emerging economies will add $4 trillion to their combined GDP (at constant 2010 prices and exchange rates), contributing four times as much to global output as developed countries. By 2014, global GDP should therefore be evenly distributed between the emerging and developed worlds. 
  • Inflation. All quiet on this front in 2013, but will start to edge up in 2014. Weak growth and receding commodity prices in early 2013 should keep a lid on inflation throughout the year. However, more vigorous recovery in 2014 will push commodity prices up (with oil reaching $130) and accelerate inflation in emerging markets.
  • Sovereigns. Budget deficits should ease slightly in 2013; public debt will continue to swell in 2013 and 2014. Countries that have structurally weakened and whose reform policies have yet to kick in will still be at risk. Italy tops the list, followed by Spain; France is balanced on the razor’s edge; and the future of Japan will depend on how successful the new prime minister’s stimulus program is.
  • The U.S. unemployment rate will diminish to 6.5 percent in the first half of 2014. The Fed’s quantitative easing program will be over. Expectations that interest rates will revert to normal levels will bring the period of low long-term rates in the Western world to an end.
  • 10-year U.S. Treasury Note yields will hit 3.5 percent by end-2014. The rise in U.S. long-term yields will go from gradual in the latter half of 2013 to more pronounced in 2014. Europe will follow suit, with a moderate widening of the T-Bond/Bund spread.
  • The euro will trade at $1.35 in 2013. The Fed’s vastly expanded balance sheet, combined with the elimination of extreme risk in the euro area, will keep the dollar low against the euro in 2013. But the trend will reverse in 2014 when the Fed abandons its unconventional policy tools.