The world economy is in its worst shape in two years, with the euro area and emerging markets deteriorating and the danger of deflation rising, according to a Bloomberg Global Poll of international investors.
A plurality of 38 percent of those surveyed this week described the global economy as worsening, more than double the number who said that in the last poll in July and the most since September 2012, when Europe was mired in a recession.
Much of the concern is again focused on the euro area: Almost two-thirds of those polled said its economy was weakening while 89 percent saw disinflation or deflation as a greater threat there than inflation over the next year. Respondents said the European Central Bank and the region’s governments are making the situation worse by pursuing too-tight policies, and fewer expressed confidence in ECB President Mario Draghi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“The euro-zone economy has deteriorated and will get worse if there are no fiscal policy actions from core European countries, mainly Germany,” poll participant Sanwook Lee, a senior portfolio manager at Shinhan Bank in Seoul, said in an e-mail.
Europe isn’t the only source of concern in the global economy, according to the quarterly poll of 510 investors, traders and analysts who are Bloomberg subscribers. More than half of those contacted said conditions in the BRIC economies -- Brazil, Russia, India and China -- are getting worse, compared with 36 percent who said so in July.
China’s slowdown deepened in October, as factory output rose 7.7 percent from a year earlier, the second-weakest pace since 2009, a government report yesterday showed.
The sole bright spot was the U.S. Just under two-thirds said the world’s largest economy is improving while roughly half said U.S. markets would be among those offering the best returns over the next year. China’s and India’s markets were a distant second at 22 percent each.
“In comparison to the other major economies, we are head and shoulders the strongest of them all,” said Brian Dolan, who took part in the poll and is chief market strategist for DriveWealth.com, an online investment broker in Chatham, New Jersey.
Unemployment in the U.S. dropped in October to the lowest level in six years and employers added more than 200,000 workers to payrolls for a ninth consecutive month, based on figures released on Nov. 7 by the Labor Department in Washington.
The U.S., though, wasn’t immune to the growing nervousness among investors about slowing increases in consumer prices. Forty-seven percent said disinflation or deflation was a greater risk for the U.S. than inflation over the next year, up from 31 percent in July.
Inflation was 1.4 percent in the U.S. in September, as measured by the personal-consumption expenditures price index that the Federal Reserve prefers. That was the 29th straight month it had been below the Fed’s 2 percent target. Still, roughly half of those polled described U.S. monetary policy as about right, while 45 percent saw it as too accommodative.
The ECB is having more difficulty than the Fed in meeting its inflation objective. Consumer prices in the euro area rose 0.4 percent from a year earlier in October, up from a five-year low of 0.3 percent in September, based on data from the European Union’s statistics office in Luxembourg. That’s less than a quarter of the ECB’s target of just below 2 percent.
A plurality of 43 percent described the ECB’s monetary policies as too restrictive, up from 31 percent in July. ECB President Draghi’s popularity with investors took a knock in response. Fifty-nine percent viewed him favorably in the latest poll, down from 74 percent in July.
“The ECB measures are coming up too little and too late,” Dolan said.
Draghi last week stepped up efforts to boost inflation back toward the ECB’s goal by suggesting the bank will buy about 1 trillion euros ($1.25 trillion) of assets.
The euro region’s fiscal policies are also too tight, according to 57 percent of those surveyed. Germany, the currency zone’s linchpin economy and its largest, has pushed back against lobbying by French and Italian officials, who want to pursue easier budget policies.
German Chancellor Merkel’s standing plunged in the poll. Forty-five percent saw her policies as favorable to investors, down from 72 percent in July and her lowest rating in almost three years. European investors were the most pessimistic about her policies.
The region’s leaders may come in for another round of criticism at this week’s Group of 20 meeting in Brisbane, Australia. U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew said Nov. 12 that the euro area needed to do more to avoid a “lost decade” and Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said the same day that “the specter of economic stagnation” is haunting Europe.
Japan’s economy was seen as mostly stable by survey respondents, though it too was said to face a danger of disinflation and deflation. Almost three-quarters viewed that as a greater threat to the Asian nation than inflation over the next year, up from 58 percent in July.
The poll of Bloomberg customers was conducted on Nov. 11-12 by Selzer & Co., a Des Moines, Iowa-based firm. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.