By Brian Love
PARIS (Reuters) – The global economy is recovering faster than expected from recession with Asia leading the way, but it is at risk from huge debts in developed countries and possible overheating in countries such as China, the OECD said on Wednesday.
In a twice-yearly report, the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development raised its forecast for global growth to 4.6 percent in 2010 and 4.5 percent in 2011. Last November it predicted growth of 3.4 percent this year and 3.7 percent in 2011, after a 0.9 percent contraction in 2009.
It was also much more optimistic about job markets globally, saying unemployment in its 31 member countries may have peaked at around 8.5 percent — much lower than its previous prediction of almost 10 percent.
The new forecasts are higher than the average annual rate of growth in the decade before the financial crisis that spilled out of the United States in 2007 — an average of 3.7 percent per annum over 1997-2006, according to OECD figures — but the OECD said the bounce was uneven and risk-prone.
The developed economies where the 2009 recession exacted the biggest toll were getting a lift from resurgent international trade, propelled primarily by export demand from rising economies in Asia, the OECD said.
It raised its forecast for U.S. growth this year and next to 3.2 percent each time, from 2.5 and 2.8 percent in its forecasts of last November.
It predicted Japanese growth of 3.0 percent in 2010 and 2.0 in 2011, up from 1.8 and 2.0 percent previously, and forecast the euro zone to lag with growth of 1.2 percent and 1.8 percent this year and next, still marginally more than forecasts of 0.9 and 1.7 percent last November.
The biggest challenge the advanced economies faced right now was cutting post-recession debts and containing financial market instability that had spread recently from Europe.
That requires a juggling of austerity measures that are vital but likely to hurt growth, while keeping sight of the need to wean economies off rockbottom interest rates and government support put in place when many believed the downturn could degenerate into a second Great Depression.
“The global policy challenge, to make an understatement, is complicated,” OECD chief economist Pier Carlo Padoan said in an interview with Reuters.
The OECD highlighted a very different threat to the emerging market economies such as China and India, saying:
“A boom-bust scenario cannot be ruled out, requiring a much stronger tightening of monetary policy in some non-OECD countries, including China and India, to counter inflationary pressures and reduce the risk of asset-price bubbles.”
In China, the OECD forecast economic growth of 11.1 percent this year and 9.7 percent in 2011, saying that there was a danger that measures to cool property markets and curb land prices would not see off the risk of overheating. Back in November, the OECD was forecasting Chinese growth of 10.2 percent in 2010 and 9.3 percent in 2011.
The report said it expected world trade to grow 10.6 percent in 2010 and 8.4 percent in 2011, after an 11 percent plunge in 2009 that was largely concentrated in the months following the demise of Wall Street banking giant Lehman Brothers.
“Strong growth in emerging-market economies is contributing significantly,” said the OECD, whose 31 member countries are mostly developed economies.
“The spillover from growth in non-OECD Asia could be stronger than expected, especially in the United States and Japan. From this point of view, the overall environment is relatively auspicious.” the Paris-based organization said.
The forecasts are marginally higher than the International Monetary Fund’s predictions of 4.2 percent and 4.3 percent expansions in global gross domestic product this year and next.
The OECD said another 16 million people had lost their jobs across its 31 members in the two years to the end of the first quarter of 2010. Bad as that was, it appeared to be less severe than initially expected and the OECD-wide jobless rate may have peaked as just over 8.5 percent, it said.
The OECD said back in September it feared the jobless rate might run as high as 9.9 percent before any turnaround.
Debt and debt market instability was the most immediate of the two risks highlighted by the OECD, and European governments were being forced to “respond by the minute” with policies to calm market fears that htings could spin out of control.
“It’s not just a European story,” said Padoan.
Washington, London and Tokyo faced similar challenges after the recession, even if the euro zone had been forced to deal with the matter more urgently, Padoan said.
Central banks, which along with governments are waiting to see if they can remove the rockbottom interest rates and other support that helped engineer a recovery but can afford in most cases to hold off on policy interest rate rises for most if not all of this year in the major regions, the OECD said.