Charting the global economy – Easing G7 inflation will be uneven

A view of the Grand Hotel et des Iles Borromees where the G7 meeting was held. — Reuters

INFLATION is set to ease across Group of Seven (G7) economies, according to those countries’ central bankers, but the progress will be uneven.

G7 leaders meeting in Italy are weighing the durability of America’s growth momentum against the perennial sickliness of Europe’s expansion.

However, the softer inflation outlook could be challenged by an ageing global population as more old people are spending and fewer young people are producing.

In the UK, figures on inflation, migration, private-sector activity, retail sales and consumer confidence have all been published since last Wednesday morning, hours before Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called a snap general election.

An announcement on household energy bills highlighted the political divide.

Here are some of the latest developments in the global economy, markets and geopolitics:

> World

A two-speed global economy skewed by US strength is overshadowing this week’s G7 meeting as officials confront the prospect of less synchronised monetary policies. G7 central bankers present know too well that the contrast is matched by differing prospects for consumer prices as a once-in-a-generation inflation shock fades asymmetrically.

The impact from an ageing global population on financial markets will be felt across asset classes and geographies, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution.

But many of the strategies being put in place to trade the graying of the world reflect inflationary concerns: Fewer bonds, more stocks and commodities. What’s also clear is that it’s a challenge that can’t be postponed.

The world’s three dominant economies are entering a new, combative phase as the United States increasingly uses trade weapons borrowed from China’s playbook.

That’s threatening to deepen international fractures and to challenge decades of free-market orthodoxy – and it leaves Europe with big decisions to make.

Copper surged to its highest-ever level, extending a months-long rally driven by financial investors who’ve piled into the market in anticipation of deepening supply shortages. Tight supply of copper ore fuelled talk of output cuts by smelters, and investors are betting that surging usage in fast-growing sectors including electric vehicles, renewable energy and artificial intelligence will offset the drag from traditional sectors like construction.

Hungary cut its benchmark rate, with the central bank vowing to stick to a “careful” and “cautious” monetary policy, while Georgia and Chile also lowered rates.

New Zealand, Paraguay, Indonesia, Turkiye, South Korea and Egypt left rates unchanged. Nigeria raised its key interest rate to a new record high to curb persistent inflation and boost the nation’s bruised currency.

> UK

Stronger-than-expected British inflation prompted traders to sharply pare back bets on interest rate cuts and denied Prime Minister Rishi Sunak a totemic economic victory.

While the data put the Bank of England’s 2% inflation target within reach and was the lowest level since a cost-of-living crisis began to take hold almost three years ago, it was at the upper end of what economists had been anticipating.

The first wave of UK economic data published since Sunak called a snap general election is already revealing the key dividing lines that separate the two main parties. While the Tories say things are getting better, Labour argues it is simply too late and it’s time for a change.

> Emerging Markets

One after another, Latin American nations are following in the footsteps of the United States and Europe by imposing prohibitive tariffs on Chinese imports – a strain in what’s been an otherwise cozy relationship.

Mexico, Chile and Brazil have hiked – and in some cases more than doubled – duties on steel products from China over the past several weeks. Colombia may be about to follow suit.

Mexican central bankers see sticky services price inflation and a strong jobs market as reasons to cut interest rates only cautiously.

At least one board member discounted another cut over the next meetings if core inflation data don’t improve, according to the minutes of the bank’s May meeting published last Thursday.

> US

As Federal Reserve officials stare down the last mile in their campaign against inflation, one key question is becoming increasingly central to the debate: Will goods prices continue to fall?

Whether supply chains are fully healed from pandemic and war-related disruptions or not has policymakers divided on the outlook.

> Asia

The decline in China’s sales of new homes accelerated in recent months, with households increasingly preferring to buy in the secondary market.

That’s pushed up the stock of unsold homes and empty land to the highest level in years, discouraging new construction and threatening more defaults by developers – including large state-owned firms. — Bloomberg

Molly Smith and Vince Golle write for Bloomberg. The views expressed here are the writers’ own.

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G7 , geopolitics , monetary , policy , tariffs


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