Coronavirus Testing Our Global Outlook

Mike explains how our global outlook has evolved with the developing coronavirus outbreak.

We still expect the global growth to edge higher this year, even as the coronavirus outbreak has introduced uncertainties, as detailed in the February update of our Global Outlook. V-shaped recoveries in economic activities have often followed past epidemics – and we expect a repeat of this pattern. Yet the depth and width of the “V” this time are highly uncertain. This outbreak could be more disruptive than past ones because it could be more severe, and because of greater reliance on global supply chains.

Growth prospects have started to improve in key developed economies since late 2019. Our BlackRock Growth GPS, which aims to give a read of where consensus forecasts of real economic growth may stand in three months’ time, has shown an inflection in growth expectations for the U.S., the euro area, Japan and the UK. See the chart above. Growth momentum was also starting to recover in emerging markets (EM) late last year. The coronavirus outbreak has emerged as a principal risk to our global growth outlook. Historically the post-outbreak recoveries have often been fueled by the pent-up demand in retail and a restart of manufacturing sector. Yet key uncertainties around this outbreak may make history an unreliable guide. It is still too soon to gauge the magnitude and duration of this outbreak as well as its overall impact on the global economy.

The short-term impact from the coronavirus outbreak – thus far mostly stemming from China’s containment measures – will likely play out in coming quarters. Based on what we now know, we see it delaying, but not derailing, a growth uptick that should take root this year. China’s central bank has already started to ease policy, and we are likely to see more support from Chinese authorities to shore up growth, yet an ongoing desire to rein in financial excesses leaves open the size and shape of the stimulus. Another key development to watch: How extensively will the outbreak spread beyond China?