Tuesday, April 7, 2015

7/4/15: IMF WEO on Global Investment Slump: Part 1: It's Private Sector Issue..

IMF released Chapter 4 of the April 2015 World Economic Outlook update. The chapter covers the issue of lagging growth in private investment.

Titled "PRIVATE INVESTMENT: WHAT’S THE HOLDUP?", IMF paper starts with a simple, yet revealing summary:
"Private fixed investment in advanced economies contracted sharply during the global financial crisis, and there has been little recovery since. Investment has generally slowed more gradually in the rest of the world. Although housing investment fell especially sharply during the crisis, business investment accounts for the bulk of the slump, and the overriding factor holding it back has been the overall weakness of economic activity. In some countries, other contributing factors include financial constraints and policy uncertainty. These findings suggest that addressing the general weakness in economic activity is crucial for restoring growth in private investment."

So the key message is simple: investment contraction is not driven primarily by the failures of the financial system, but rather by the weak growth - a structural, systemic slowdown in growth. Full text available here: http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/weo/2015/01/pdf/c4.pdf

Let's take a closer look at IMF findings that focus on 5 questions:

  1. "Is there a global slump in private investment?"
  2. "Is the sharp slump in advanced economy private investment due just to weakness in housing, or is it broader?"
  3. "How much of the slump in business investment reflects weakness in economic activity?"
  4. "Which businesses have cut back more on investment? What does this imply about which channels—beyond output—have been relevant in explaining weak investment?"
  5. "Is there a disconnect between financial markets and firms’ investment decisions?"

The chapter’s main findings are as follows (in this post, I will cover questions 1-2 with remaining questions addressed in the follow up post):

Q1: "The sharp contraction in private investment during the crisis, and the subsequent weak recovery, have primarily been a phenomenon of the advanced economies." Across advanced economies, "private investment has declined by an average of 25 percent since the crisis compared with pre-crisis forecasts, and there has been little recovery. In contrast, private investment in emerging market and developing economies has gradually slowed in recent years, following a boom in the early to mid-2000s."

Figure 4.1. Real Private Investment (Log index, 1990 = 0)

Q2: "The investment slump in the advanced economies has been broad based. Though the contraction has been sharpest in the private residential (housing) sector, nonresidential (business) investment—which is a much larger share of total investment—accounts for the bulk (more than two-thirds) of the slump. There is little sign of recovery toward pre-crisis investment trends in either sector."

Figure 4.2. Real Private Investment, 2008–14 (Average percent deviation from pre-crisis forecasts)

Spot Ireland in this…

And per broad spread of contraction, see next:

Figure 4.3. Categories of Real Fixed Investment (Log index, 1990 = 0)

But here's an interesting chart breaking down investment contraction by public v private investment sources:

Figure 4.4. Decomposition of the Investment Slump, 2008–14 (Average percent deviation from spring 2007 forecasts)

This, sort of, flies in the face of those arguing that Government investment should be the driver for growth, as it shows that public investment contraction had at most a mild negative impact on some euro area states (Ireland is included in the above under "Selected euro area").

Next post will cover Questions 3-5 and provide top-level conclusions.
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