28 December 2011

CIMB: Domestic Drivers to steady the ship in 2012

CIMB research remain cautious on Malaysia's growth outlook for 2012 as several factors will put the brakes on growth - slower export growth due to the fragile western economies as well as slower consumption and investment growth due to heightened uncertainty and volatile financial markets. The implementation of ETP and stimulus measures cannot take up all the slack left by weak exports.

Slowing growth, rising risks
We expect GDP growth to slow to 3.8% in 2012 from an estimated 5% in 2011. The factors that shape the prognosis are:

  1. continuing weak global growth, pressured by volatile financial markets and Europe's sovereign debt worries;
  2. a downturn in Malaysia's export cycle;
  3. an expected slowing of consumption and investment due to worries over economic conditions

What to expect in 2012?
While not forecasting a global recession, a combination of fiscal tightening and a potential bigger financial shock from the debt crisis are expected to result in weaker global growth in 2012.

  1. Limited growth for the US economy. Its recovery is fragile and could succumb to any big external shocks, especially from Europe. This could lead to a double-dip recession. The sluggish recovery of the labor market as well as housing deflation will dampen household spending.
  2. The Eurozone is already in recession in 4Q11 and this will persist in 2012 as the persistent sovereign debt worries, volatility in financial markets and fiscal austerity will weigh significantly on growth. These braking factors will certainly raise the risk of more severe deleveraging, credit contraction and economic drag as the negative feedback loop between the banking system and the real economy becomes entrenched.
  3. China and India to continue growing, albeit at a slower pace due to the laggard impact of monetary tightening measures as well as a less favourable external environment. There are still fears of a hard landing for China.

Domestic demand cushions against weaker exports
With the export engine throwing a spanner in the works, the pressure is on domestic demand to keep the economy going, underpinned by both private spending and public investment. The key drivers of consumer spending are stable income and favorable employment prospects. But concerns over weaker growth prospects and volatile stock markets will bite into discretionary spending. Also, global uncertainties will throw a damper over the investment activity.

Macroeconomic policies: What to expect?
For 2012, the government is not straying from its path of fiscal sustainability as it targets to bring down the budget deficit from 5.4% of GDP in 2011 to 4.7%. The high level of debt constrains the government's ability to take on additional risk on its balance sheet. If the country does not commit to a credible fiscal reduction plan, it runs the risk of a downgrade of its credit rating in the event of a major change that pushes the fiscal deficit off track.

Monetary policy will continue to support activity
There is still a risk of food inflation. For 2012, inflation was expected to moderate to estimated 2.2% due to:

  1. weaker economic growth;
  2. easing commodity prices;
  3. a high base due to the fuel and sugar price hikes in 1H11

Persistent growth concerns, both global and domestic, coupled with expectations of easing inflationary pressures will enable the central bank to maintain an accomodative monetary policy. The tone of its policy statement on 11 Nov 11 suggests that growth is more of a worry than inflation, signalling the central bank's readiness to reverse its monetary course if domestic conditions deteriorate. An early rate cut in 1Q12 is still a possibility and end-2012 OPR to be targeted at 2.50-2.75% (3% at end-2011).

Source: CIMB Research

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