Must-Read: Olivier Blanchard et al.: Reality Check for the Global Economy: "After five years of disappointing recovery throughout the major economies...

...almost everyone is ready to believe the worst. The widespread large declines in global asset prices indicate a significant divergence between what financial markets fear and what most mainstream macroeconomic forecasts are showing for the world economy. Having some clarity to distinguish between the more solid underlying economic outlook and the shadows thrown by financial puppetry is critical to avoid an unnecessary recession.

In this Briefing, a group of PIIE scholars came together to provide a reality check for the global economy. They set out what is known, both about macroeconomic dynamics and policy capabilities, in a context where distrust of both mainstream economic analysis and policymakers' credibility has become excessive. Global economic fundamentals today are not so grim, though there is room for improvement in key areas including China, the United States, European banks, Brazil and Latin America, oil markets, global trade, and monetary policy options.

In particular, we argue: The relative forecasting ability of financial markets for the real economy has probably gone down postcrisis (Adam S. Posen). The US economy remains at a relatively low, though slightly elevated, risk of recession (David Stockton). The positive effects of the decline in the price of oil on the US economy have taken longer to materialize than was expected, but they will strengthen looking forward (Olivier Blanchard and Julien Acalin). Chinese economic growth is, at a minimum, well above current fear-driven estimates, and that growth is predominantly service sector–based and therefore sustainable (Nicholas Lardy). The slowdown in growth of global trade reflects weak global investment and a medium-term adjustment to the past creation of global supply chains and is not a harbinger of further contraction (Caroline Freund). The European banking system is in transition to a stronger state, and the problems evident in Italy are not enough to throw Europe’s economy off course (Nicolas Véron). Brazil’s economy while dysfunctional is far more likely to experience years of higher inflation than any overt fiscal or balance of payments crisis (Monica de Bolle). Latin America more generally has run into problems of slow productivity growth but is not doomed by the commodity cycle (José De Gregorio). Monetary policy remains potent, with multiple possible avenues for additional stimulus if needed, starting with effective quantitative easing on private assets (Joseph Gagnon).