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IMF Forecasts First Global Economic Contraction In 60 Years

March 19th, 2009
The International Monetary Fund has joined the chorus of organizations and economic think tanks that have concluded that the Global Economic Crisis is unprecedented in its repercussions. In a report prepared in connection with the G20 Finance Ministers meeting held in London, the IMF offered an economic forecast saturated with gloom. For the first time in 60 years, the IMF report states, the entire global economy will experience a net contraction. The current IMF estimate is negative growth in 2009 of between .5 and 1 %, compared to a forecast of only two months ago still projecting net global growth, though at anemic levels. Thus, the IMF mirrors a similar forecast issued by the World Bank only a few weeks ago.

There is not even a glimmer of optimism in the IMF forecast, except in the sense that some regions will contract at slower levels than others. Japan is projected to decline by 5.8 %, with lower but still shattering levels of economic contraction in the United States, the United Kingdom and Eurozone. Emerging markets, especially Eastern Europe, are assessed as being particularly vulnerable to the turbulence being unleashed by the Global Economic Crisis. “The risks are largest for emerging countries that rely on cross-border flows to finance current account deficits,” concludes the IMF in reference to the impact the global financial crisis and credit crunch have had on the debt-dependant economies of Eastern Europe.

Reading between the lines of the IMF forecast, it is clear that the contraction ratios would be even more severe, but are in effect being masked to a certain degree by so-called economic stimulus programs. In effect, future tax money is being borrowed to artificially create employment in the near term. However, the IMF report alludes to the challenges to be faced in 2010, when less stimulus spending is projected, especially in Europe. This is already a source of contention between the United States, which is currently projecting a deficit of 12% of her GDP, and the European Union where, in comparison, a much lower ratio is being allocated within the Eurozone. The UK, however, is forecast by the IMF to have attained a fiscal deficit in 2010 that will comprise 11% of her GDP, nearly the same percentage as is the case with the US federal budget.

With deficits soaring and projections of global economic contraction multiplying, the U.S. Federal Reserve has made its own unique contribution to the toxic brew being stirred in the midst of our worldwide economic catastrophe. As I have previously warned in my earlier blog comments regarding Ben Bernanke and quantitative easing, the Fed has now officially announced that it will fire up the printing presses and conjure out of thin air $1.2 trillion of freshly minted fiat currency, which it will utilize for purchasing Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities. This is an act of desperation, devoid of any long-term strategic framework. In a panic to achieve a short-term reversal of economic fortunes in the U.S., the all-powerful Federal Reserve has embarked upon an experiment in quantitative easing and government debt-monetization that will inevitably unleash the dangerous prospect of hyperinflation. Defenders of the Fed’s reckless gamble with America’s fiscal and monetary health will argue that currently deflation is a much greater danger than hyperinflation. This is accurate only in a very short-term time horizon. If anything, the Global Economic Crisis has shown how powerful financial and economic currents can be turned around on a dime. Last summer, the price of oil skyrocketed, reaching levels of nearly $150 per barrel, with serious financial analysts projecting a much higher price in the near future. Within a matter of weeks, the world witnessed a radical reversal in the price of oil and other commodities. I mention this as a warning that disastrous policy measures being enacted by the Fed can transform deflation into hyperinflation much more rapidly than can presently be envisioned.

Between news bulletins concerning the IMF and World Bank reports that are forecasting the most severe global economic contraction in 60 years, and the $1.2 trillion in make-believe money being manufactured by the Fed, it is inexplicable why major stock markets are undergoing a rally of sorts. Could this be the calm before the storm?




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