Financial analysts and private bankers expect the global economy, with the help of a more dynamic Asian region, to bounce back sometime in 2010, but also anticipate employment prospects, vital in reviving consumer demand, to lag behind.
This story first appeared in the May 7, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“I think 2010 will be the turning point in terms of the global economy,” said Olivier Collombin, executive director of the private bank Lombard Odier, Geneva, one of Europe’s oldest private banks. “And as we all know, the markets will anticipate it,” he said in an interview on the sidelines of a conference by the Convention of Independent Financial Advisors, an umbrella group that represents independent asset managers who oversee more than 20 percent of global wealth.
Pressed if the recovery would come in the first or second half, Collombin said, “It’s hard to say.”
Collombin, who recently returned from business trips to the U.S. and Asia, said even though the American economy went into the financial crisis first, he was doubtful whether it will be the first major one to emerge from the slump. Instead, he anticipates the Asian region may come out of it faster.
“It is a more personal feeling, based on the dynamic spirit behind the region. The United States is so deeply into this crisis, so it can’t be all that easy to get out,” he said.
The International Monetary Fund, in its latest regional outlook for Asia and the Pacific, forecasts overall growth for Asia to decelerate to 1.3 percent in 2009 from 5.1 percent in 2008, and to return to 4.2 percent in 2010. The fund also projects the region’s biggest economy to grow by 6.5 percent this year, down from 9 percent in 2008, and to expand by 7.5 percent in 2010.
Leong Sze Hian, president of the Singapore-based Society of Financial Service Professionals, was upbeat that by the end of 2009 the global economy might start recovering. “I’m personally optimistic governments are really getting their act together. All you have to do is to keep on spending and you will be out of the crisis. It’s a matter of how much,” he said.
Mark Fisher, an American-Swiss asset manager with Wealth Management & Cie, Geneva, was more cautious and expects first a consolidation and stabilization before the U.S. and other economies fully recover. “I believe the global economy will stabilize, but it will not improve in the same way as having a big recovery, but rather more a consolidation.”
He said there are still issues that will continue to recur for some time.
“There will be increased defaults, there will be borrower defaults starting, and there will be some credit card defaults,” he said. Fisher said he’s looking at a turnaround “at the beginning of 2011 or late 2010,” and noted the continuing increase in unemployment is a concern.
“If consumers are going to get us out of this, then they’ve got to start getting jobs again, and they’re not going to get jobs in six months or in one year. They’re going to get jobs in a few years,” he said. He stressed that 70 percent of the U.S. economy is consumer-based, but argued that as it moves forward its pace will be reset, “which will be roughly 5 to 10 percent less than what we’ve seen historically.”
But analysts also expect the dollar’s supremacy to be challenged down the road with major economies such as China, Russia and others trying to diversify away from dependence on the dollar for transactions.
“My view is that gradually they will reduce their exposure to the dollar. Because after this crisis, and the amount of money everybody is spending, payback will come back sometime in the future, and it’s going to be a dollar-based crisis again,” said Leong.