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Embracing Optimism in Turbulent Times

Mohd Shukri Mohd Hariri

6 minit masa membaca

As January concluded, it is the perfect time to reflect on our resolutions and assess our progress.

No matter whether the resolutions are recently made or have been in our list since ever, it is crucial not to veer off course from our individual goals and to stay focused amidst the turbulent and challenging macro environment.  

Despite the inevitable ups and downs, recent macro developments point towards the global economy evolving in a direction that offers a glimpse of optimism.  


Uncle Sam Defies Gravity 

One case in point is the recent upward revision to global growth outlook by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), a supranational entity.

Thanks to significant boosts in US and China’s growth projections, the IMF projects sustained global real GDP growth of 3.1% in 2024. That exhibits a leap of faith compared to their October forecast.   

But wasn’t it widely anticipated that US will be in recession?

Yet, the economy continues to defy gravity thanks in part to a robust job market where there are more jobs available than unemployed individuals.

This translates to healthy consumer spending, the lifeblood of the US economy. While arguably the sustainability of the current consumption trend is a question mark, things are looking good for now.

Additionally, American citizens still have some pandemic savings tucked away, estimated to last till June.   

June also holds another potential ace in the hole: the Federal Reserve may start cutting interest rates if inflation continues its final descent towards their 2.0% target.

The recent Federal Open Market Committee meeting indicated no rush by the Fed to cut rates, but the removal of tightening bias means the Fed is not looking to hike anymore in this current cycle.

All in all, the US economy stands on solid ground, defying recessionary whispers for now.  

China’s Efforts to Bolster Economy 

Meanwhile, China’s growth forecast also received an upgrade by the IMF on the back of higher fiscal support, especially government spending on capacity building against natural disasters.

While the country is still reeling from issues in its property sector, additional reforms related to the property sector could reignite consumer confidence and bolster private demand.  

On the diplomatic front, thawing relations between Washington and Beijing have American companies viewing China more favorably, according to a recent survey by the American Chamber of Commerce in China.

Whether this translates to actual investment is another story, but improved sentiment is music to China’s ears.  


Malaysia: Riding the Wave 

With both economic giants projected to grow faster than previously expected, this may provide some additional boost to our domestic economy, particularly in terms of external demand.

Considering around 40% of Malaysia’s exports belong to the electrical and electronics sector, we are well-positioned to capitalize on rising global demand, especially for semiconductors.  

Adding to the good news, our inflation is showing signs of cooling down, with December’s headline inflation rate remaining at its lowest since February 2021.

While reconciling official figures with the man-on-the-street experience can be tricky, the downward trend is undoubtedly welcome news.  


Challenges on the Horizon 

But let us not get carried away. While the global inflation tide is receding, ongoing geopolitical tensions remain a thorn in the side of price stability.

This, in turn, will influence central banks’ narratives and decisions in the coming months with regards to setting their monetary policies.   

Continued instability in the Red Sea region throws a wrench into price chain stability.

However, thanks to improved inventory management and steady demand, this is unlikely to cause a repeat of the previous crisis. 

In fact, economies most affected by the disruptions, like the UK and eurozone, are reporting improved business outlooks according to the recent Purchasing Managers’ Index.  

January’s flickering hope may not be forever, but even a small candle can dispel a lot of darkness.

Let us continue donning our rose-tinted 3D glasses on, seize the opportunities hidden within every challenge, and navigate these challenges with strategic thinking.