SME Spotlight

Fed 'may swiftly reverse rate hike'

Global growth so slow that expected rate hike may not last through 2016: Economist

Global growth is so slow that the United States may well reverse the interest rate hike tipped to kick in next month and start cutting again before 2016 is up, said Mr David Mann, chief Asia economist at Standard Chartered Bank.

Mr Mann told the annual SME Development Conference yesterday: "It's a relatively subdued growth environment because there's no unsustainable credit boom going on in any major market any more.

"It's payback for those credit excesses in the past.

"The US Federal Reserve seems determined to get rates off the zero lower bound, but judging how things go, they may realise that (they've made a mistake)."

Mr Mann noted that the Fed has consistently guided the market to be over-optimistic with its growth forecasts for the US every year over the past five years.

"In 2011 (to 2014), the consensus has always said 3 per cent growth, and the reality has always been nearer to 2. And we have seen the exact thing happen again in 2015," he added.

Mr Mann tips the US economy to expand by 2.4 per cent this year and just 1.6 per cent next year.

But he also expects the slower US economy's impact on Asia to be offset by a stronger euro zone, and he is less bearish on China than most.

"The major stepdown in the pace of growth in China, in our view, has already materialised," he said.

"We see more easing coming - not just from monetary policy, but also with the recapitalisation of the policy banks that will mean we're going to see faster growth coming even from the older parts of the economy and the accelerated approval of investment projects.

"We've already seen the approvals; now we just need to see shovels going into the ground."

Mr Mann also noted that China is the only major economy where fiscal policy is being loosened to boost growth.

The Federal Reserve in Washington, DC. Mr David Mann, chief Asia economist at Standard Chartered Bank, says the US central bank has consistently guided the market to be over-optimistic with its growth forecasts for the economy every year over the past five years. -PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

He emphasised that Asia is in a "post-credit boom world" where the levels of household debt in the three largest economies of China, India and Indonesia point to room for sustainable stimulus measures.

In China, household borrowing is 37 per cent of GDP. In India, it is 18 per cent and in Indonesia it is 17 per cent.

"So the largest economies also have the most potential to use leverage in a healthy way to grow faster and to be more resilient to shocks - which is one of the key points of having the use of leverage to begin with," he said.

Mr Mann was speaking to about 300 business people from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) at the conference, held at Raffles City Convention Centre.

The guests were respondents to the annual SME Development Survey out last week which found more SMEs are doing business overseas although the proportion of revenues generated outside Singapore has been falling since 2013.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 18, 2015, with the headline 'Fed 'may swiftly reverse rate hike''. Print Edition | Subscribe