Global growth for 2018–19 is projected to remain steady at its 2017 level, but its pace is less vigorous than projected in April and it has become less balanced. Downside risks to global growth have risen in the past six months and the potential for upside surprises has receded. Global growth is projected at 3.7 percent for 2018–19 – 0.2 percentage point lower for both years than forecast in April. The downward revision reflects surprises that suppressed activity in early 2018 in some major advanced economies, the negative effects of the trade measures implemented or approved between April and mid-September, as well as a weaker outlook for some key emerging market and developing economies arising from country-specific factors, tighter financial conditions, geopolitical tensions, and higher oil import bills. Beyond the next couple of years, as output gaps close and monetary policy settings begin to normalize, growth in most advanced economies is expected to decline to potential rates well below the averages reached before the global financial crisis of a decade ago. Medium-term prospects remain generally strong in emerging Asia but subpar in some emerging market and developing economies, especially for per capita growth, including in commodity exporters that continue to face substantial fiscal consolidation needs or are mired in war and conflict.

The balance of risks to the global growth forecast has shifted to the downside in a context of elevated policy uncertainty. Several of the downside risks highlighted in the April 2018 World Economic Outlook (WEO) – such as rising trade barriers and a reversal of capital flows to emerging market economies with weaker fundamentals and higher political risk – have become more pronounced or have partially materialized. Meanwhile, the potential for upside surprises has receded, given the tightening of financial conditions in some parts of the world, higher trade costs, slow implementation of reforms recommended in the past, and waning growth momentum. While financial market conditions remain accommodative in advanced economies, they could tighten rapidly if trade tensions and policy uncertainty intensify, or unexpectedly high inflation in the United States triggers a stronger-than-anticipated monetary policy response. Tighter financial conditions in advanced economies could cause disruptive portfolio adjustments, sharp exchange rate movements, and further reductions in capital inflows to emerging markets, particularly those with greater vulnerabilities.

The recovery has helped lift employment and income, has strengthened balance sheets, and has provided an opportunity to rebuild buffers. However, with risks shifting to the downside, there is greater urgency for policies to enhance prospects for strong and inclusive growth. Avoiding protectionist reactions to structural change and finding cooperative solutions that promote continued growth in goods and services trade remain essential to preserving and extending the global expansion. At a time of above-potential growth in many economies, policymakers should aim to enact reforms that raise medium-term incomes for the benefit of all. With shrinking excess capacity and mounting downside risks, many countries need to rebuild fiscal buffers and strengthen their resilience to an environment in which financial conditions could tighten suddenly and sharply.

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