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Gloom gathers over world economy

BBC News | May 18, 2005

Investors are growing gloomier about prospects for the world economy and are expecting weaker growth, a survey of fund managers has indicated.

Fewer than a quarter of the 339 managers questioned in the Merrill Lynch poll expected growth to increase.

It was the most negative result since 2001, reflecting a stark reassessment of economic views, the bank said.

Latest US economic data gave little cheer, with industrial production falling 0.2% in April.

Fears of a resurgence in US inflation were stoked by a 0.6% rise in producer prices, increasing the likelihood of further short-term interest rate increases.

Soaring energy costs were largely to blame, with big increases in the price of oil and higher residential natural gas prices.

Downturn expected

Merrill Lynch researchers said their latest poll, conducted between 6 and 12 May, showed there had been a "truly breathtaking" shift in attitudes in the last two months.

A total of 56% of fund managers surveyed now expect global growth to weaken slightly or a lot over the next 12 months, while only 23% expected a stronger world economy, the investment bank said.

A clear majority also expected corporate profits to deteriorate slightly, while inflation was seen as likely to increase.

Investors expressed concern about the euro, which was seen as the currency most likely to depreciate over the coming year - especially if the French electorate were to reject the EU constitution in the 29 May referendum.

Merrill Lynch said its previous month's survey had highlighted a split between investors in the US and Europe, who had expressed caution about the future, and their counterparts in Asia, who had been more optimistic.

That had now changed, the bank said, with investors across Asia appearing to reassess their expectations and taking a more negative view.

"Investors in Asia, it seems, can't escape the concerns weighing on their colleagues around the world," the bank's report said.

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