Economics

5 key themes shaping the global economy

Schroders Chief Economist Keith Wade sees five key themes shaping the macroeconomic landscape and supporting risk assets over the next year including energy prices, central bank monetary policy and the hunt for yield.

27/05/2015

Keith Wade

Keith Wade

Chief Economist & Strategist

From an economic perspective we still believe that the full dividend from cheaper energy is yet to be felt. While the challenge for markets will come from Federal Reserve (Fed) tightening, that will be tempered by ongoing liquidity provision from the European Central Bank (ECB) and the Bank of Japan (BoJ).

Lower oil prices mean lower inflation and stronger growth

So far, lower oil prices have fed through into lower inflation in 2015 in the UK, US and eurozone. However, the evidence for stronger growth has been disappointing.

In the US, though, significantly improving real income and wealth should result in a pickup in consumption in the current quarter.

More encouragingly, retail sales volumes in the eurozone are accelerating and it is likely that the euro region will outpace both US and UK GDP in the first quarter.

Oil and currency are rebalancing the world economy

We are seeing more of a convergence in growth this year as the US has slowed while Europe and Japan have picked up.

This is partly because lower energy costs have been supporting growth in the developed world, and because Europe and Japan have been less impacted by energy industry cutbacks than the US.

Furthermore, the stronger US dollar/weaker euro and yen is skewing growth away from the US towards the eurozone and Japan.

Fed to tighten as US economy normalises

Although US growth slowed in the first quarter, we still expect the Fed to raise interest rates in September (we updated our view last month).

The combination of a more normal labour market and a banking system that is beginning to provide credit to the real economy again, underpins the need to move away from emergency monetary policy.

We expect the Fed funds rate to be at 2.5% by end 2016.

Emerging markets: pockets of strength

Although activity remains subdued in the emerging markets, there are pockets of strength to be found.

These include energy importers and manufacturing-oriented countries in Asia (which are well placed to benefit from improved growth in Europe and the US).

With a Fed rate rise on the cards, we would focus on economies with strong balance sheets and low external financing requirements.

We would also favour economies like India, which has seen a significant improvement in its current account and has been able to attract strong capital inflows since the 2013 "taper tantrum".

Liquidity: the search for yield continues

The search for yield has been given fresh impetus by the start of ECB quantitative easing and continued money printing by the BoJ.

Importantly, this action should help temper some of the concerns the Fed has about higher market volatility and a repeat of the 2013 experience when they tighten policy.

More generally, liquidity will continue to drive flows into real estate and equities across Europe as well as keeping the currency weak.