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Prospects Weekly: Global retail sales volume growth gained traction in August

Global Macroeconomics Team's picture

A revival in global retail sales volume growth gained traction in August, with the median growth rate up across 29 (mostly high-income) countries (3m/3m, saar). Outliers include the United States, where retail sales growth declined at a 2.5% annualized rate over the three-months ending August. While elevated compared with the exceptionally low jobless rates recorded during the boom years (2007-2008), joblessness in those developing countries with data appears to have peaked at below pre-boom averages (median rates). In high-income countries the median unemployment rate may also be declining, but joblessness remains about one percentage point above pre-boom levels and three percentage points above the record low posted during the boom period. Total gross capital flows to developing countries are booming, but the regional and compositional breakdown varies widely.
Global retail sales growth firmed in August, (3m/3m, seasonally adjusted, annualized rates, median of 29, mostly high-income, countries). This upturn reflects strengthening sales in Austria, Belgium, Finland, Germany, Hong Kong (SAR, China), Indonesia, Korea, Norway and the United Kingdom. In contrast, sales growth has lost steam or remains in the doldrums the United States and several Euro Area countries. While retail sales growth in developing countries (such as in Argentina and Chile) has slowed in recent months, it is still significantly stronger than in high-income countries. 
Global unemployment appears to have peaked in July 2010 at 8%, led by a slight fall-off in developing countries (median rate for 48 countries with current data). For developing countries reporting data (mainly ECA and LAC), the median unemployment rate declined slightly to 8.3% after the recent peak of 8.6% in May—well below the pre-boom median rate of 10.5% (2002-2006 average). For high-income countries, the decline has only just begun and may prove temporary. The median jobless rate of 7.8% in August remains well above the pre-boom average of 6.3%. The apparent peak in unemployment rates suggests that improving labor market conditions may increasingly support the recovery. Nevertheless, progress—especially in HICs—is expected to be slow, and unemployment and associated restructuring will remain a front-burner social and political concern. 
Gross private capital inflows have regained pre-crisis boom levels in some developing regions. However, total inflows to developing countries for the first nine months of 2010 remain 31% below the level over the same period in 2007. Both the level of flows relative to 2007 and the composition of flows vary considerably across regions. Total flows to Europe and Central Asia (ECA) are down 60%, with foreign bank, bond, and equity inflows down 71%, 9% and 85%, respectively. Bank lending in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) is down 50% and 63%, respectively. However, in LAC this has been compensated by an upsurge in bond issuance, which also boomed in East Asia and Pacific (EAP) and the Middle East and North Africa (MNA). While bank and equity flows to South Asia (SAR) have regained pre-crisis levels, international bond flows are down (mainly India). 

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