Deficits, debt in The Monday Briefing
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Today’s Briefing summarises the findings of the latest Deloitte Survey of Chief Financial Officers which was released overnight. The full report is available at: https://www2.deloitte.com/uk/en/pages/finance/articles/deloitte-cfo-survey.html
There’s no doubt that growth in the West is slowing. The question is whether the slowdown could turn into a recession. Last month the US yield curve, a key gauge of future US growth, temporarily dipped into recessionary territory for the first time in ten years.
With Brexit uncertainty undimmed we start this week’s Briefing with a short recap on the economics of leaving the EU.
The consensus among economists is that the UK will grow by 1.3% this year and 1.5% next year. With activity slowing across the world, particularly in the euro area, and the UK scheduled to leave the EU, growth at these rates looks pretty respectable. Given the uncertainties facing the UK it’s perhaps surprising that its economy is expected to outpace Italy’s or Germany’s this year.
This fairly cheery outlook for the UK comes with a major caveat. Most forecasts are predicated on the UK leaving the EU in an orderly, managed fashion. In the event of an abrupt departure without a deal UK growth forecasts would almost certainly plummet. Leaving the EU without a deal would, according to the OECD and the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, leave the UK growing by around 0.4% this year and next.
Last October the International Monetary Fund warned of the risk of another global financial crisis. The Fund sees a 60% rise in global indebtedness in the last ten years and the exposure of banks to illiquid assets as major risks.
The latest Deloitte survey of UK Chief Financial Officers released today shows that uncertainty over Brexit is driving a marked shift towards defensive strategies among British businesses. With the UK’s growth prospects heavily dependent on the so far uncertain nature of its exit from the EU, corporates are cutting back on capital expenditure and hiring. Cost reduction is the top priority for CFOs who are placing a greater emphasis on it now than at any time in the last nine years.
A boom in low quality mortgage lending in America triggered the Global Financial Crisis. It was a crisis of indebtedness which, courtesy of low interest rates, quantitative easing, government spending and bank bailouts, was resolved by the accumulation of even more debt.
Last year was a tough one for investors, with global equity markets falling 10% overall. For UK investors most major asset classes – equities, bonds and residential property – either fell in value or saw only small gains.
Slowing growth in Europe and emerging markets and October’s equity sell off have got economists pondering when the next recession might strike.
It ended on a high note last week, but overall October was a rotten month for equities. The world equity market has just had its worst month since 2012, with the benchmark MSCI world index down 7% in October. This fall has more than reversed earlier gains, leaving the global index down 3% so far this year.
The financial crisis, recession and a slow recovery played havoc with the UK’s public finances, leaving the government with the largest ever peacetime budget deficit.