Cooperation in a three-speed recovery

By Emily Kaiser

WASHINGTON (BestGrowthStock) – The synchronized global recession has given way to a three-speed recovery, raising questions about how well the world will work together to ensure the recovery stays on track.

First and fastest to recover were big emerging economies such as China, which is expected to report on Thursday that its economy grew 11.5 percent year-over-year in the first quarter.

That would be the swiftest growth rate since the third quarter of 2007, sparking questions about whether the economy risks overheating — and whether Beijing ought to tighten policy or allow its currency to rise to cool things down.

Next comes the United States, where the recovery picked up speed at the tail end of 2009 but probably slackened a bit to start this year. With unemployment high and inflation low, economists widely believe the Federal Reserve is in no hurry to lift interest rates from near zero.

Bringing up the rear is the euro zone, where growth looks likely to be lackluster at least through 2010. Greece-fueled government debt fears are compounding a variety of other ills, including high unemployment and a still-shaky housing market in countries such as Spain.

But with figures on Friday expected to show euro zone inflation picking up, the European Central Bank may be under increasing pressure to act sooner rather than later.

Larry Kantor, an economist with Barclays Capital Markets in New York, said typically the United States leads the world out of recession and it falls to the Fed to set the path for monetary tightening.

“This time around, a number of developing economies including China, Brazil, India and Korea led the recovery and are or will likely be tightening policy before the Fed. Since this has not happened before, it will be interesting to see how the respective central banks manage the process,” he said.

So far, he said they seem cautious and tentative, and the risks were tilted toward authorities falling behind the tightening curve rather than being too aggressive.

ALL TOGETHER NOW

One year ago, when the Group of 20 rich and emerging economies met in England to try to find a way out of crisis, they pledged $5 trillion in fiscal stimulus and agreed to triple resources for the International Monetary Fund in a show of solidarity that economists say helped end the recession.

However, the uneven recovery means countries have different priorities now, and that G20 unity appears to be fading.

“I think we have seen the height of multilateralism at the (G20) Summit last year,” Domenico Lombardi, president of the Oxford Institute for Economic Policy, said in an interview in Washington.

“Clearly, at that point, the world was on the brink of an economic depression, therefore all the parties had a really strong incentive in coming together. Now the situation looks much better in a number of countries — not all — and therefore the incentives to cooperate are much less.”

For China, the priority is to ensure that a rapid recovery does not run too fast, a topic that is likely to be up for more discussion if this week’s data shows both the economy and inflation picking up speed.

For the United States, inflation is nowhere near the top of the list of concerns. Indeed, economists polled in Blue Chip’s monthly survey predicted that core inflation — which excludes volatile food and energy prices — may slip to a record low.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, who is scheduled to testify before a congressional committee on Wednesday, will probably reiterate that the central bank is in no rush to raise rates, particularly with unemployment only barely below a 26-year high of 10.1 percent notched in October.

As for Europe, the recovery path looks difficult. Nariman Behravesh, chief economist with IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts, listed tight credit, rising unemployment, and heavy government debt burdens among the causes for concern.

“A lot of countries are tightening, and will have to continue to tighten, fiscal policy, not only Greece but Portugal, Spain, Italy, Ireland, even the UK,” he said.

“The question is, who is going to expand? Are the Germans going to offset this? They keep saying absolutely not and so you have to take them at their word. All this is bad news in terms of growth.”

Stock Market News

(Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

Cooperation in a three-speed recovery