Economic forecasting is known as "The Dismal Science"...and for
That's because many economists look at a small slice of data and
come up with bold forecasts. Sometimes they nail an economic
forecast with dead-on accuracy, but they can also be profoundly
The only way to get it right: Amass huge amounts of data to
analyze and then recheck that data frequently.
That's why the only economic forecasts I trust are generated by
theInternational Monetary Fund (
) . The organization is a collective effort on behalf of 188
countries around the world, and its hundreds of economists have
deep ties into economic trends taking place worldwide.
Every quarter, theIMF 's economists give a fresh look at the
worldeconomy , and a
confirms that the global economy is likely to improve in 2013 and
do even better in 2014.
Though they don't look out beyond next year, a perkier global
economy in the next eightquarters could set the stage for a
virtuous cycle of growth into the second half of the decade, as
trading partners start to boost demand for one another's goods and
The 2012 pullback
One of the most notable aspects of the report is the
assessment that the rate of growth in global economic output fell
by nearly a full percentage point last year (from 3.9% in 2011 to
3.2% in 2012), yet few deep economic shocks occurred as a
European economies, which collectively account for more than a
quarter of global economic activity, only dented but didn't break
the global economy. And this is why global markets are now
breathing a sigh of relief.
The IMF expects eurozone economies to shrink further in the
first half of 2013, and then start growing anew this summer and
into 2014. It's worth noting that the IMF repeatedly
underestimated the depth of Europe's woes in 2012, continually
lowering its outlook as the year progressed. So expectations of a
mid-year upturn may be premature.
However, comments from European policy leaders have taken on a
different tone recently.
EuropeanCentral Bank President Mario Draghi recently noted
that Europe is now benefiting from a "positive contagion."
Indeed, the Purchasing Manager's Index for the eurozone rose 47.2
in December 2012 to 48.2 in January (and would need to rise above
50 to signal an economic expansion).
This is one reason why my colleague Elliott Gue, author
investments before that region is back in growth
[See also: Yield From One of The World's Most
"Europeanstocks have already seen their lows and are beginning
to rally in anticipation of a return to growth in 2013. If
history is any guide, the gains are likely to be significant over
the coming years as the cycle turns higher again," he wrote in
the Januaryissue of the advisory.
Remember the BRICs?
The IMF report also highlights another important economic trend
investors may be missing as they focus on the U.S. and European
economies. The world's four largest emerging economies -- Brazil,
Russia, India and China -- collectively stumbled a bit in 2012, but
are poised for growth in the next two years.
Here's what the IMF foresees...
If you haven't invested inemerging markets yet, then now is a
fine time to get started.
These and other emerging economies appear poised for
relatively stronger growth thanwill be seen in advanced economies
for the foreseeable future.
All eyes on the United States
Of course, there's the old adage that "when the U.S. economy
sneezes, the world catches a cold." Yet it's pretty clear we may be
on the cusp of a virtuous global cycle in which the U.S. economy
benefits from higher trade with key partners. These partners will
also benefit from increased U.S. demand.
The IMF says the U.S. economic growth rate will actually dip,
from 2.3% in 2012 to 2% in 2013, before hitting about 3% in 2014.
Notably, many U.S. economists anticipate our economy will grow at
a firmer pace this year, especially in the second half of 2013.
The IMF still says the global economy has yet to land on solid
ground, especially with several economic land mines still in
place in Europe and the United States. But "If crisis risks do
not materialize and financial conditions continue to improve,
global growth could be stronger than projected."
The best and the worst
Which country is expected to have the toughest year ahead? The IMF
says the Spanish economy will shrink by 1.5% in 2013 before
expanding about 1% in 2014.
The fastest-growing region: Asia, which is expected to grow
roughly 7%, thanks to China's impressive 8% forecasted growth. (I
recently looked at China's economy, which you can read
Sub-Saharan African economies should continue their impressive
recent gains, with the region's economies growing nearly 6% in
2013 and 2014, according to the IMF. Latin American economies are
expected to grow at a more modest pace between 3.5-4%, but that
region is well-positioned for impressive (relative) long-term
growth as well.
Lastly, the IMF says oil prices will fall a bit in 2013 and
2014, which helps explain why it says the globalinflation will
remain in check.
Risks to Consider:
The IMF remains concerned about Europe and the United States,
which collectively account for more than half of global economic
output. The organization is particularly concerned that
Washington will come up with a solution for the budget mess that
could create too much of a drag on the U.S. economy. Right now,
the odds of a solid long-term fix seems remote in 2013, so that
IMF concern may be moot.
Action to Take -->
Barring any unforeseen impediments, the global economy may
prove increasingly resilient and robust in coming years. That
makes this a good time to analyze companies that are in deeply
cyclical industries. The construction industry is a great
example, and companies like crane maker
or aerial lift firm
typically see a sharp and steady rise in sales and
profits whenever the global economy strengthens. Investors may
prefer to take the exchange-tradedfund route, so the
Materials Select SectorSPDR (
is a popular choice, trading roughly 8 millionshares
The business trends in cyclical industries, including the
stocks I just mentioned, may look somewhat tepid during the
next few quarters, but the IMF report points to a more
impressive economic path as we move towards mid-decade.
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