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Wednesday November 21, 2012

US fiscal cliff may hamper Malaysian economy, says economist

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia could experience a slower economic growth of between 3% and 4% next year if the US fiscal cliff kicks in by next January, OCBC Bank Bhd's economist Gundy Cahyadi (pic) said.

“It's going to create a huge impact if this were to happen. The fiscal cliff will create a recession in the US where its economy will likely contract by 0.5% and this may lead to a bigger than expected recession in the eurozone. The spill over effects may lead to global trade falling quite significantly.

“On the whole, we expect a growth of between 3% and 4% for next year,'' he said at a press briefing on OCBC's regional and global economic outlook for 2013. Fiscal cliff involves the simultaneous move to increase tax and spending cuts to reduce budget deficit.

He said on the whole OCBC was projecting the country's gross domestic product (GDP) for next year to be at 5.2% year-on-year, adding that at this juncture, the risk posed by the fiscal cliff was expected to be limited as the US government might finalise a new deal.

Gundy said the economic growth would be supported by Malaysia's investment growth, which was more than 20% for the first three quarters of this year, and strong positive momentum in private consumption growth.

However, he added the 20% investment growth would not recur next year but it would still expand by close to double digit, at least in the first half of 2013 as the Government was expected to continue ramping up infrastructure overhaul currently in progress.

The main risk to the bank's projection he said was the possible slump of global demand, especially as exports remained a main drag to Malaysia's growth in 2012.

External demand had continued to be a large drag on the country's economy, he said, noting that in terms of nominal value and its contribution to GDP growth, net exports were at a record low in the third quarter of this year.

Exports growth had been sluggish throughout the year, he said partly on the back of commodity price correction, and falling exports earnings would not only affect growth directly but would have negative spillover effects to households' spending behaviour.

There may be further pressure from the recent slump in crude palm oil prices which could be quite detrimental given the commodity boom seen in the past several years had led to a spike in investment in palm oil related industries, Gundy added.

On inflation, he said OCBC expected it to trend higher next year to about 3% from the likelihood of below 2% this year.

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