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Tuesday, 22 January 2019

What we’re tracking on 21 January 2019

The World Economic Forum gets underway in Davos this morning and runs through Friday. The theme: “Globalization 4.0: Shaping global architecture in the age of the fourth industrial revolution.” Yeah, yeah, we know. But still… Links you may want to consider: the agenda | live broadcast of select sessions | the WEF’s blog.

Why you should care: Mock it as we may for being winter camp for the chattering class, the gathering helps set the mood for the year on the global economy. And it takes on new importance in a year like this, when the question about both the global economy and financial markets boils down to the same thing: Is 2019 going to be “okay” or a “disaster”?

Finance Minister Mohamed Maait boarded a plane yesterday to Davos, according to a ministry statement. Maait, who is on a perpetual roadshow to drum up interest in Egyptian debt, will push the nation’s reform story and talk about new “sovereign financing models.”

Just in time for Davos, the IMF has revised downward its forecast for global growth for the second time in three months in an update to its World Economic Outlook. It blamed weakening demand in Europe and negative sentiment in the financial markets. The fund now projects global economic growth will top out at 3.5% in 2019, the slowest rate in three years.

It’s the same story for emerging markets: The latest outlook forecasts EM growth of 4.5% over the next 12 months, falling slightly below the 4.7% and 4.6% GDP estimates for 2017 and 2018, respectively. It notes that conditions have “tightened modestly” since October on the back of increasing tariffs, rising US interest rates and volatility in the oil markets.

MENA+ will grow just 2.4% in 2019: The forecast for MENA countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan has followed suit, with the IMF now projecting 2.4% growth in 2019, down from the previous forecast of 2.7%. By contrast, every forecast we’ve seen forecasts Egypt to grow north of 5% this year.

Buckle up: Speaking ahead of the Davos summit, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde warned of “significantly higher risks” in the months ahead as trade tensions and worries in the financial markets weigh on the global economy. “The risk of a sharper decline in global growth has certainly has increased,” she said, stopping short of recession-talk. Watch her statement here (watch, runtime: 3:03).

The IMF’s downbeat note hit US and EU shares yesterday, Bloomberg said. The news “merely cemented an already downbeat mood,” the newspaper notes. Asian and US futures suggest lower opens for global markets today. Together with the news that Chinese growth had slipped, the IMF’s warning has sent investors piling into the USD and other safe-haven currencies.

The IMF’s warning is front-page news in the global business press this morning: CNBC | FT | WSJ | Bloomberg | Reuters.

The mood on global economic growth in one image:

And in non-Davos miscellany this morning:

  • Financial inclusion is creating investment opportunities in emerging markets, the head of emerging markets strategy at Jupiter writes in an op-ed for the UK’s Investment Week. Improved infrastructure, communications and technology are also creating opportunities in EM, he says.
  • Brent crude is heading toward USD 65-70 / bbl, BNP Paribas’ head of commodity markets strategy told Bloomberg (watch, runtime: 2:51).
  • Hundreds gathered in Sudan’s Omdurman yesterday to express anger over the latest deaths in earlier clashes with security forces. Protesters are reacting to a deep economic crisis, Reuters reports.
  • Qatar has thrown Lebanon a lifeline by pledging to buy USD 500 mn worth of Lebanese sovereign debt, Bloomberg reports. “It’s a show of support but it won’t be enough to address the challenges the country faces,’’ said Mohieddine Kronfol from Franklin Templeton Investments.

You’re going to have to be selective about which pals you send your favorite meme this morning: As of today, you can’t forward a WhatsApp message to more than five people, down from a previous limit of 20 people. The move is part of WhatsApp’s bid to clamp down on use of the platform to spread “misinformation and rumors,” Reuters reports.

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