Asia Economic Outlook 2018

Economics: We expect Asia’s sweet spot of solid growth, strong capital inflows, tame inflation and low interest rates to stretch into 2018, underpinned by a durable global tech upcycle, continued quantitative easing by the European Central Bank and Bank of Japan and still-loose regional macro policies.

We forecast Asia ex-Japan’s aggregate GDP growth to rise, but this masks growing divergences such as faster growth in India, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand; stable growth in Malaysia and Korea; and slower growth in China, Hong Kong and Singapore. We believe that 2018 will be the year that China starts to address its moral hazard problem, with banks and bondholders repricing credit and demanding a higher risk premium. This would subsequently cause a continued widening of spreads between high yield and high grade credit. We forecast Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation to rise in nearly all countries, albeit from low levels and mostly due to higher oil prices. We expect the central banks in Malaysia, Korea and Philippines to hike rates in 2018, but only Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) to hike more than the Fed.

However, Asia’s sweet spot looks stretched to us and we forecast a rising risk of a potentially painful snapback, possibly in Q2 and Q3. Asia’s high debt leaves it exposed to a global repricing of credit risk, possibly triggered by inflation surprises. Also, the recovery in Asian exports masks structurally weak private domestic demand in several economies, leaving the region more exposed than it may first appear to a number of downside risks. Looking further out, our fundamental view is that Asia’s “tiger cubs”, namely India, Indonesia and the Philippines will replace Northeast Asia’s ageing and debt burdened tigers as the core of the region’s economic dynamism, with scope to lift potential output growth.

Read the full report here for a more extensive outlook into 2018.


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