Winners and losers in a year of muted global growth

HONG KONG • When the final numbers are tallied, 2015 will probably count as another disappointing year for global growth.

The muted performance came even as central banks continued to pump in liquidity, oil prices plunged again and inflation was moderate.

It was also a year of divergent performers. While tumbling commodity prices took the shine off big emerging markets Russia and Brazil, other emerging economies like India and Vietnam surprised on the upside.

In the developed world, robust US jobs growth prompted the Federal Reserve to tighten monetary policy for the first time since 2006, while the gloom around neighbouring Canada deepened.

As the new year arrives, here is a look at some of the winners and losers for 2015:

ADVANCED ECONOMIES

Smaller European nations were among the best performers. Ireland's economy grew by 7 per cent in the third quarter - faster than China - and well ahead of the euro area's 1.6 per cent growth in the same period.

By contrast, the picture was more subdued in Finland. The northernmost euro member, which was among the most vocal critics of Greece during its crisis bail-out negotiations, is suffering as key industries like paper-making and consumer electronics struggle. Weak export demand from Russia is also hurting.

EMERGING MARKETS

Clear standouts included Vietnam, Tanzania and, wait for it, China. Even after a US$5 trillion (S$7.1 trillion) stock market rout and what is tipped to be the slowest growth in 25 years, China's overall gross domestic product growth remains relatively robust compared to its peers.

India's economy also expanded faster than expected in the third quarter when GDP rose 7.4 per cent from a year earlier, after a 7 per cent expansion in the previous quarter.

The weakest performers included the usual suspects.

Russia is on track for its longest slump in two decades, mostly because of lower oil prices. Brazil has been dogged by the commodities slump, political turmoil, a corruption scandal and a widening budget gap.

Goldman Sachs warned that the nation is sinking into "an outright depression".

A notable absentee from the list is Venezuela: That is because the central bank has not published its latest GDP data yet.

HONORARY MENTION

Japan gets a special mention for the recession that never was. A data revision meant that GDP expanded in the third quarter rather than contracting as previously thought, meaning the world's third-largest economy avoided a second recession in three years.

Some economists say the performance shows Japan's economy is on an overall improving track, even if significant challenges remain.

EMPLOYMENT

Away from the GDP numbers, employment data around the world paints a mixed picture.

The lowest jobless rates can be found in nations such as Japan, Switzerland, Thailand or Singapore, but western Europe remains stricken by high levels of joblessness.

Double-digit unemployment in places like Greece and Spain underscore the challenges ahead.

BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 01, 2016, with the headline 'Winners and losers in a year of muted global growth'. Print Edition | Subscribe