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Emerging markets could prosper as growth slows

Emerging markets could prosper as growth slows

Global economic growth could slow in the coming years and emerging market assets could be the beneficiaries, according to Keith Wade, chief economist at Schroders.

Mr Wade said he expects global growth to be about 2.9 per cent in 2019, compared with 3.3 per cent in 2018.

He expects a sharp slowdown in US economic growth to be central to the decline as a result of the policy of repeated interest rate rises being pursued by the US Federal Reserve.

If that happens, Mr Wade said the dollar would weaken relative to other currencies, which in turn would boost emerging markets.

This is because many emerging market countries and companies must borrow in dollars, so a weaker dollar means they have more cash to spend or return to shareholders.

Mr Wade said: "We see US GDP growth at 2.4 per cent in 2019, as the boost from tax cuts fades while interest rates move higher and the effects of a prolonged trade war with China are felt. While the recent 90-day truce is welcome, we remain sceptical on the prospects for a longer-term agreement on issues such as intellectual property rights. We see a further slowdown in global growth to 2.5 per cent for 2020."

He added: "For the emerging markets, a weaker dollar could be the silver lining in the outlook. Although an escalation of the trade wars and the prospect of slower global growth does not bode well, a weaker dollar would help ease pressure on the region."

Mr Wade said in 2018, rising US interest rates and a stronger dollar had squeezed dollar borrowers outside the US, put pressure on emerging market currencies and forced local central banks to tighten monetary policy.

The dollar strength also weakened commodity prices and hurt world trade. But in 2019, there was scope for some of these factors to unwind, and thereby ease financial conditions and support emerging market assets, he added.

He said the global economy had in recent years been in a situation where economic growth rose but inflation was low, and he expects that in 2019 the opposite will happen, as the impacts of trade disputes push inflation up around the world.

Neil Williams, senior economic adviser at Hermes, said he expects governments to increase spending in order to to placate populations that have turned towards populism, and this would have an inflationary effect.

david.thorpe@ft.com