The global economy is slow... but steadier than ever

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New research shows global growth volatility has reached new lows, and central banks are partly responsible

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It’s not difficult to come to the conclusion that, economically speaking, we are living in very turbulent times. China’s great slowdown. Europe’s persistent woes. Brexit.
Yet on a bigger scale, all that’s just noise blocking the signal that the global economy is less volatile than any period in the modern era. This is the conclusion of new research led by David Hensley, director of global economics at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in New York.
Hensley’s work measures standard deviations of quarterly, annualized gross domestic product growth for major developed and emerging markets, plus a selection of regions. The sample compares the middle of the business cycle leading up to the Great Recession with the middle of the next cycle, i.e 2013 to 2016.
 
The findings show that whereas some big economies, like the U.S. and Japan are marginally more volatile now than they were during the admittedly very calm “Great Moderation,” others are much less so. The net effect is a global growth pattern less bumpy than any time since 1970.
Hensley says the fact that emerging markets and developed ones now march less in lockstep than in the past helps “cancel out” some of the signals coming from individual economies. But there’s another calming factor: central banks. The U.S. Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan have all found themselves shifting policy in response to risks coming from abroad. From once being purely domestic inflation targeters, they're now global risk managers.
“The mindset is that the level of activity is so far below what they desire, so they’re more mindful of risks of all sorts,” Hensley said. “Central bank policy has helped generate this outcome."

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