So what do we expect to see? Here are the highlights from the 28 February webinar.
The outlook on Sino-US trade talks over tariffs has brightened recently, with the risk of escalation receding.
That said, the focus of negotiations looks set to mutate from the macro level to the micro, with the US playing hardball on the specific issue of Chinese investment in US tech companies, possibly imposing more stringent controls.
For its part, China appears to be toning down its ‘Made in China 2025’ rhetoric while remaining steadfast in its determination to move up the tech value chain.
China is refocusing and to some extent boosting its easing measures to address growth concerns. Local governments will get earlier approval for bond issuance – and look likely to be allowed to issue more.
Further guidance to banks to channel more credit to the private sector, further tax cuts, particularly in VAT, and lower reserve requirement ratios should all help to plant the seeds for growth recovery by Q2 2019.
For 2019, the outlook for growth in the US is a mixed bag, with consumption remaining solid (although momentum is flagging somewhat), and government spending probably at a peak. Weaker trade and residential investment could drag on growth. That said, while the slowdown bears watching, business and consumer activity levels remain healthy. Will there be recession? So far, productivity gains have lifted profit margins by keeping unit labour costs down, but unless those gains go further, margins could falter, leading to a scale-back of hiring and capex. Banks are also tightening lending standards on corporate loans.
Struggling to hit its inflation target – and with populism and recession making it challenging to resort to conventional quantitative easing, the Fed is considering changing its strategy to average inflation targeting (AIT). This could also be supplemented with a revised policy toolkit so as to better able to manage the next recession.
The Fed is also searching for ways to support supply-side improvements in the economy and sees some encouraging evidence in productivity and labour data, as well as the likelihood that President Trump will fill the two current Fed board vacancies with supply-side sympathisers.