Impact on Global Economy:
The global economy could shrink by up to 1 per cent in 2020 due to the corona virus pandemic, a reversal from the previous forecast of 2.5 per cent growth, the UN has said, warning that it may contract even further if restrictions on the economic activities are extended without adequate fiscal responses. The COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting global supply chains and international trade. Millions of workers in these countries are facing the bleak prospect of losing their jobs. Governments are considering and rolling out large stimulus packages to avert a sharp downturn of their economies which could potentially plunge the global economy into a deep recession.
The UN-DESA’s (UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs) World Economic Forecasting Model has estimated best and worst-case scenarios for global growth in 2020. In the best-case scenario – with moderate declines in private consumption, investment and exports and offsetting increases in government spending in the G-7 countries and China – global growth would fall to 1.2 per cent in 2020. In the worst-case scenario, the global output would contract by 0.9 per cent – instead of growing by 2.5 per cent – in 2020, it said, adding that the scenario is based on demand-side shocks of different magnitudes to China, Japan, South Korea, the US and the EU, as well as an oil price decline of 50 per cent against our baseline of USD 61 per barrel.
According to the forecast, lockdowns in Europe and North America are hitting the service sector hard, particularly industries that involve physical interactions such as retail trade, leisure and hospitality, recreation and transportation services. Collectively, such industries account for more than a quarter of all jobs in these economies. The DESA said as businesses lose revenue, unemployment is likely to increase sharply, transforming a supply-side shock to a wider demand-side shock for the economy.
The economic damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is largely driven by a fall in demand, meaning that there are not consumers to purchase the goods and services available in the global economy. This dynamic can be clearly seen in heavily affected industries such as travel and tourism. To slow the spread of the virus, countries placed restrictions on travel, meaning that many people cannot purchase flights for holidays or business trips. This reduction in consumer demand causes airlines to lose planned revenue, meaning they then need to cut their expenses by reducing the number of flights they operate. Without government assistance, eventually airlines will also need to reduce lay off staff to further cut costs. The same dynamic applies to other industries, for example with falling demand for oil and new cars as daily commutes, social events and holidays are no longer possible. As companies start cutting staff to make up for lost revenue, the worry is that this will create a downward economic spiral when these newly unemployed workers can no longer afford to purchase unaffected goods and services. To use retail as an example, an increase in unemployment will compound the reduction in sales that occurred from the closure of shop fronts, cascading the crisis over to the online retail segment (which has increased throughout the crisis). It is this dynamic that has economists contemplating whether the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to a global recession on the scale of the Great Depression.
Economic Slowdown Impact on Financial Market:
Fears of a broader outbreak and its economic impact spread to financial markets last month, and most international indices are nearing bear market territory (declining at least 20 percent from the 52-week high) as investors process the lower corporate earnings that will result from the virus. The S&P 500 fell 7 percent to open the March 9 session, triggering a “circuit breaker” that briefly suspended trading for the first time since 1997. Overall, the index is down about 17 percent from its record high on February 19. Amid the equity rout, investors have fled to safe haven assets such as U.S. Treasury bonds, leading to record low yields. Low yields translate into low borrowing costs for the U.S. government, but low interest rates may not benefit private companies or individuals (or even all sovereigns) who may find financial markets too risk adverse to extend credit in light of such uncertainty. The longer the virus spreads, the more economic and company performance will be impacted, raising concerns about debt sustainability, especially for highly indebted countries and companies, absent official support.
Economies and Sectors which are vulnerable to COVID 19:
At the sect oral level, tourism and travel-related industries will be among the hardest hit as authorities encourage “social distancing” and consumers stay indoors. The International Air Transport Association warns that COVID-19 could cost global air carriers between $63 billion and $113 billion in revenue in 2020, and the international film market could lose over $5 billion in lower box office sales. Similarly, shares of major hotel companies have plummeted in the last few weeks, and entertainment giants like Disney expect a significant blow to revenues. Restaurants, sporting events, and other services will also face significant disruption. Industries less reliant on high social interaction, such as agriculture, will be comparatively less vulnerable but will still face challenges as demand wavers.
Government’s response to cushion the economic fallout:
In China, the epicentre of the outbreak, officials announced billions in special-purpose loans to companies facing liquidity constraints as well as financial support to specific sectors such as aviation. In the United States, the Federal Reserve cut the policy rate in an emergency action on March 3, and on March 9, in coordination with other U.S. bank regulators, it encouraged financial institutions to “meet the financial needs of customers and members affected by the corona virus,” a move aimed at supporting financial conditions to prevent the growth shock from turning into a broader financial crisis. On March 9, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York also announced expanded overnight repurchase operations by $50 billion to avoid a deeper credit crunch.
The European Central Bank and Bank of England are expected to take action when their monetary policy committees meet later this month. On the fiscal front, President Trump previewed his administration’s plans to seek a payroll tax cut and assistance for impacted hourly workers and industries. Countries announcing fiscal measures just this month include Japan ($9.6 billion, or 0.19 percent of GDP), South Korea ($9.2 billion, 0.56 percent of GDP), and Italy ($4.1 billion, 0.20 percent of GDP). The adequacy of such spending will depend on the virus’s path as well as the effectiveness of other measures to contain negative pullovers from the growth shock.