IMF set to cut growth forecast again

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The Independent Online
THE INTERNATIONAL Monetary Fund will later this month cut its world growth forecasts, reflecting growing concern about the impact of the emerging market crises on the developed world.

The fallout from Russia's debt default and the near-collapse of the Long- Term Capital Management hedge fund has forced the IMF to take the unusual step of revising its estimates in advance of the publication next May of its biannual "World Economic Outlook" (WEO). This is the second successive year that chaos in emerging markets has prompted the IMF to issue emergency revisions to the WEO.

The IMF, which currently predicts global growth of 2 per cent this year and 2.5 per cent in 1999, will publish new forecasts on 21 December.

The Fund's decision to downgrade growth estimates for the fourth time in a year comes amid fears of another bout of emerging market turmoil. There are renewed pressures in Russia, where the rouble is trading close to its crisis low of 20 to the dollar. Yesterday the rouble fell by more than 4 per cent, following the decision of the central bank to start printing money to pay its debts.

Brazil is back in the spotlight after the government failed to win cross- party approval for key parts of its tough fiscal package. The Brazilian stock market was yesterday treading water after Thursday's 9 per cent drop.

Spreads between riskier corporate bonds and low-risk government bonds have widened by 15 basis points this week, reflecting increasing risk aversion among investors, analysts said.

Speaking in Washington, President Clinton said the US economy "is still living in a very turbulent international environment".

Despite the emerging market jitters, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rallied following Thursday's 185-point fall on the back of stronger-than- expected US jobs data.

The US unemployment rate fell to a six-month low of 4.4 per cent in November, according to official Labor Department Statistics.

Non-farm payrolls in the US - which this week entered its longest period of peacetime expansion with 93 successive months of growth - rose by 267,000 last month. Analysts had been expecting a rise of 169,000.

Speaking in London, Robert Shapiro, a key economic adviser to President Clinton, said: "The good news is that the US economy is very sound today. All the fundamentals are strong."

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