Global economic prospects

The aftershocks of the economic crisis triggered by the 2008 bankruptcy of the financial services firm Lehman Brothers Holdings are gradually fading. The world will be watching for signs of stable global economic growth this year.

Important factors that must be taken into consideration include whether the United States can successfully wind down its quantitative monetary easing, which has lasted for five years, and whether China can stabilize its economic growth by overcoming the dangers of bubbles caused by shadow banking.

U.S. economic indexes as a whole are pointing to brighter prospects. The unemployment rate, which was as high as 9 percent in September 2011, dropped to 7 percent this past November. The rate is expected to fall further to around 6.5 percent in 2014. Automobile sales are picking up and the housing market shows a sign of recovery. Japan’s Cabinet Office predicts that the U.S. economy will grow about 2.5 percent this year, up from between 1.5 percent to 2 percent in 2013.

The U.S. Federal Reserve is expected to start tapering off its quantitative monetary easing on the strength of improving economic signs. But if it makes mistakes in handling this, it will cause undesirable effects for the U.S. and global economies through factors such as high interest rates and the flow of massive funds from emerging economies to the U.S. The latter would cause great confusion in financial markets.

The size of the reduction of the monetary easing in January will be small. Janet Yellen, who will take over the Fed chairmanship from Ben Bernanke in February, will be in charge of full-scale tapering of the easing. We hope that she will give full play to her experience and knowledge so that this process does not create undesirable economic side effects.

The Chinese economy is expected to experience a moderate slowdown due to the excess in production capacity and in housing stock. While China is trying to liberalize financial markets, shadow banking has unduly expanded because of an inadequacy in necessary regulations.

There is a sense of caution over the possibility that large amounts of loans extended by shadow banks may become irrecoverable. To accomplish stable economic growth, China needs to consolidate industrial technologies and reduce risks in financial markets by reining in reckless financial institutions.

The eurozone economy is expected to grow by about 1 percent in 2014, the first growth in three years, thanks mainly to the German economy’s recovery. But lingering debt problems in southern European countries, including France, will continue to take a toll.

Emerging economies, including member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, are for the most part expected to maintain good growth due to strong exports to developed economies. The International Monetary Fund needs to strengthen cooperation with the monetary authorities of various countries to help them properly manage their economies.

Japan, for its part, should take necessary measures if the consumption tax increase from April causes negative effects, including a reduction in consumer spending and an increase in bankruptcies involving small and medium-size businesses.