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World economy dominates G20 meeting in Shanghai

Slowing world economy

​Last month saw various world finance chiefs from across the G20 descend on the Chinese city of Shanghai for a meeting to discuss the global economy.

With the backdrop of sluggish growth and a slowdown in China itself, the event took place on the back of several high-profile warnings.

One organisation to voice its concern has been the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which claimed that the world economy was "highly vulnerable" adding that a new approach will be needed in order to safeguard the world's most vulnerable countries.

A report published by the IMF said that slowing world growth could be further derailed by weak financial markets, lower oils prices and even geopolitical conflicts.

The report, which was presented to finance ministers and central bank chiefs in Shanghai, claimed: “Strong policy responses both at national and multilateral levels are needed to contain risks and propel the global economy to a more prosperous path.”

As as result, the IMF claims to have lowered its forecast for global growth in 2016, despite estimating rises of 3.4 per cent just six weeks ago.

Reforms needed

The IMF added that countries needed to boost fiscal stimulus and push for reforms in order to increase demand, adding that central banks need to ensure monetary policies are accommodative in order to prevent growth being held back by tighter financial conditions.

But it also warned that countries cannot rely solely on monetary policies, adding that near-term fiscal policy should be used to "support the recovery where appropriate and provided there is fiscal space, focusing on investment”.

In conclusion, the IMF seems convinced that unified coordination is the only way in order to prevent ‘leakage’ – where stimulus money will be spent by consumers on imported goods (especially in the case of China).

However, the main challenge is that not every government believes in the impact of these stimulus packages, especially if their country's voters favour tighter fiscal control.

China itself has been placed under the spotlight in recent weeks, with trading forced to halt after January's rapid sell-off, which in turn sparked a shaky start to the year for markets around the world.

While analysts almost universally agree with the IMF's assertion that reform is necessary, there is currently little indication about what actions will be taken by a Chinese government that is finding itself under increasing pressure.

Investors get a glimpse

Investors did get the briefest of glimpses into what to expect from China, with Premier Li Keqiang's 'Two Sessions' policy address, which was given shortly after the Shanghai meeting, suggesting growth rate had been further cut from seven to 6.5 per cent.

The move hints at the government implementing constraining stimulus methods while also switching its focus on reforms.  
However, the IMF's hopes of unified action are looking increasingly unlikely, with governments responding to different needs domestically, making the whole idea of widespread coordination an even more distant prospect.

There have even been murmurs that the lack of coordination may be the catalyst that spells the end for the G20, with attention now switching to the summit in Hangzhou this September.

Fears of recession may be going too far

While analysts almost unanimously agree that action is needed in order to get the global economy moving again, fears that another global recession is on the horizon are, according to the RBC Global Asset Management (RBC GAM) investment strategy committee, short of the mark.

In a report outlining its spring outlook, RBC GAM claims that economic growth has been substantially sluggish recently, but has not slowed down enough to spark any serious concerns over a recession.

The report read: "Our economic projections have been almost universally scaled back. The developed world is now expected to grow by just 1.5 per cent in 2016 – putting it on track for the worst performance since 2013, and notably less than 2015 growth of 1.9 per cent. The 2016 emerging-market outlook has also been lowered, with the year now also set for less growth than 2015

"That said, there is a gaping difference between lowering growth forecasts and forecasting a recession. Despite rumours to the contrary, the world is not obviously descending into a recession right now."

Nevertheless, there will be plenty of interest when the world's financial leaders meet again in the autumn.