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Saturday, 3 September 2011

Credit Suisse cuts M’sia GDP forecast


It says Asian growth set to slow more sharply

PETALING JAYA: Credit Suisse AG has cut its real gross domestic product (GDP) 2011 growth forecast for Malaysia to 4.6% from 5.3%, as the Western world is teetering on the brink of recession and large parts of Asia remain highly susceptible to growth developments in the United States and Europe.

It also cut its 2011 GDP forecast for other Asian economies such as Thailand, Hong Kong and South Korea.

In an economics research yesterday, Credit Suisse said Asian growth was set to slow more sharply over the coming months.

 “With the fiscal support provided during the global financial crisis removed and the lagged effects of higher interest rates working their way through, we had expected the Asian economies to soften from second quarter of 2011.

“Now that the Western world is teetering on the brink of recession we believe the outlook has dimmed further,” it said.

In addition to cutting its GDP forecast for this year, Credit Suisse trimmed next year's forecast to 4.8% from 5.8% previously. The new 2011 and 2012 GDP forecasts imply annualised sequential growth rates of an average 3.5% in the second half of this year and 5.5% for next year.

“What has kept us from cutting our growth forecasts further is the likely support from domestic demand. We think more investments from the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) should come onstream, especially in the oil and gas sector which benefited from high oil prices.

“Also, the Government has underspent its budget in the first half and we expect it to increase spending in the second half to meet its target,” it said.

It added that some factors that exacerbated the slowdown in the second quarter were likely to be temporary but Credit Suisse did not expect domestic demand to be shielded from a further weakening in external demand.

“Moreover, Malaysia's growth is vulnerable to a collapse in commodity prices if this were to happen,” it said.

In the report, Credit Suisse said it expected Bank Negara to keep the overnight policy rate unchanged at 3% until the end of next year (it previously expected one 25 basis points hike).

With the global growth outlook highly uncertain and inflation slowing, it suspects that the central bank will be in no hurry to raise the overnight policy rate further. However, a severe global recession could see rates being cut.

“In contrast, we think there is little scope for the Government to stimulate the economy through fiscal policies above and beyond the existing high deficits they projected (5.4% of GDP for 2011).

“Even as things stand now, Malaysia would probably need to undertake significant fiscal adjustments over the next decade if it wants to bring its relatively high debt to GDP ratio down.

“A prolonged weakness in growth would increase the risk that the Government would further delay its plan to cut subsidies and raise the consumption tax,” it said.

Bank Negara is maintaining its GDP forecast of 5% to 6% for the full year as it expects strong domestic demand and ETP projects to fuel economic growth in second half of the year. Malaysia's second-quarter GDP moderated to 4%, compared with 4.9% in first quarter, dampened by a slowdown in the manufacturing sector and weaker external environment.

AmResearch Sdn Bhd, in a report last week, said that while it expected a full-year 5% growth rate to be achieved given the current climate, possible trigger points for a downgrade included an adverse impact of a very large drop in crude oil prices and any further delay in the ETP projects.

“As a net exporter of oil, Malaysia still relies heavily on crude oil in terms of generating income for the country. As long as the full-year average lies between US$85 and US$90 per barrel, all is well and within budget.

“On a positive front, a sharp fall in crude oil may well mean a reduction in total subsidies spent by the Government. The net impact will, however, be detrimental to the Government's coffers and overall growth,” AmResearch director of economic research Manokaran Mottain said in his report.

For latest GDP reports from the Statistics Department click here