Philippines deemed Better-positioned than others to face Global Risks

THE GLOBAL economy faces continued risks -- particularly from a mild recession in Europe and slowing growth in China - but the Philippines and some other countries should be able to better weather these pressures with support from strong domestic demand, Barclays Capital said in its report for this month, titled: "Global outlook: a cautious step forward."

The Philippines is also one of the countries that "can afford" to ease monetary policy in order to prod economic activity in the face of a global slowdown, the investment banking unit of Barclays Bank PLC said in its separate The Emerging Markets Quarterly 2011 report, also for this month, titled: "Glass half full -- take a sip."

Both reports were released before European Union (EU) leaders meeting in Brussels announced on Friday that they had committed to stricter budget rules but failed to agree to enshrine such controls in a treaty.

"Prospects for avoiding either a double-dip recession or a catastrophe surrounding the euro area debt crisis have improved somewhat over the past couple of months," Barclays Capital noted.

At the same time, it said that while risks of a double-dip recession and "a disaster scenario" for the euro zone have subsided, "there are significant headwinds to growth both in developed and emerging market countries, and the solution to the euro area debt crisis will be bumpy and difficult."

Barclays Capital said failure by EU authorities to deal promptly with the region's debt crisis has already done some damage to their economies.

"We now believe that a mild recession has begun, with negative growth in Q4 and Q1 [2012], before stabilization next spring," it said.

But while "risks of a sharper or more extended contraction are significant" Barclays Capital said "a severe European recession is likely to be avoided, especially if there is progress toward a resolution of the crisis."

"With increasing confidence that the next move in growth is up in most of the world outside of the euro area and diminished risks of disaster in Europe, the probability of a global recession has declined significantly," it added.

At the same time, it clarified that risks to the global economy do not come from Europe alone.

"Europe is the dominant risk in markets today, but it is not the only one," the report read.

"We raise China not because it is the largest, but because it is likely to play out in the near future."

While it said a pronounced economic slowdown in China was "quite unlikely", a particularly weak 6.6% growth Barclays Capital has projected for the first quarter next year could intensify market doubts over the depth and duration of that giant's growth deceleration.

"We think it is a bit early to feel confident that anxiety about the Chinese slowdown has peaked…," the report read.

In the face of "a mild recession in Europe and a soft landing in China," Barclays Capital said "growth in India, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines will likely hold up better, given their domestic demand" as compared to others in Asia and the Pacific.

The Philippine government reported late last month that gross domestic product growth slowed to 3.2% in the third quarter from 7.3% in the same period last year, supported by a particularly strong 7.1% annual growth in household spending.

But the 3.6% GDP growth in the nine months to September had all but put the government's 4.5%-5.4% full-year outlook this year out of reach.

Barclays Capital added that while inflation in so-called "emerging markets" is expected to ease next year, due largely to base effect, and monetary policy bias has shifted from controlling inflation to prodding growth, "we expect only China, India, Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand to cut rates next year."

In its last monetary policy review for the year last Dec. 1, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas maintained policy rates at 4.5% and 6.5% for overnight borrowing and lending, respectively -- the fifth consecutive time it had done so -- but has signaled that it would be ready to ease its policy stance next year should the economy slow further and if inflation remains manageable.

Inflation rate has averaged 4.5% in the 11 months to November, still within the 3%-5% target range and just below the revised 4.53% forecast for the entire year.

Overall, faced with improved prospects for the global economy, Barclays Capital said, "We think it is time for investors to dip their toes in the water and begin to re-engage in measured and careful risk-taking.

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