The global economy continued on its upwards path in 2011, albeit at a slower pace compared with the prior year. Emerging markets remained the mainstay, although growth in these countries weakened somewhat over the course of the year. The industrial countries, by contrast, suffered from an economic downturn with growth falling overall by nearly half, with unusually high discrepancies between regions; whilst some countries recorded high growth rates, others fell back into recession. Global economic output in the reporting year increased by 3.8% (previous year: 5.2%). However, growth in global trade slowed considerably, from 12.7% in 2010 to just under 7% (IMF: 6.9%, OECD: 6.7%).
|A.03 Global economy: growth indicators in 2011|
|Gross domestic product (GDP)||Exports||Domestic demand|
|Data partially estimated, as at 13 February 2012. |
Sources: Postbank Research, national statistics.
Asian countries again generated the highest economic momentum. Even there, the upturn lost some speed: growth was 7.9% compared with the very strong growth of 9.5% in the prior year.
China’s GDP grew by a robust 9.2% (previous year: 10.4%). Exports increased by 20.3%, down from 31.3% in the prior year. Since imports were up 24.9% (previous year: 38.7%), the country’s trade surplus decreased noticeably from US$182 billion to US$155 billion. The country, however, remains attractive to foreign investors, who made direct investments of US$116 billion (previous year: US$106 billion).
The Japanese economy suffered in 2011 from the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in March. Economic output was down sharply in the first half of the year, a decline that could not be offset by the significant recovery in the second half. Exports, private consumption and investments were nearly stagnant, whilst imports were up considerably. GDP decreased by 0.9% (previous year: 4.4%).
In the United States, the economy picked back up again in the second half of the year after a weak start. Corporate investments trended higher, increasing by around 10% (previous year: 15%). Private consumption grew only marginally again on account of the weak labour market and moderately rising incomes. The economy did not experience a notable uplift from foreign trade despite the fact that exports continued to increase. Instead, declining government spending and inventory investment had a substantial impact on the economic trend. The housing market remained a weak spot. GDP only grew 1.7% (previous year: 3.0%).
In the euro zone, the moderate 1.6% increase in GDP (previous year: 1.9%) was primarily a result of the very good start to the year. As the year progressed, economic output grew only slightly and may have actually declined in the fourth quarter. Gross fixed capital formation and foreign trade provided economic stimulus. By contrast, private households increased spending only minimally. The economy was slowed primarily by the national debt crisis, which continued to intensify. The need to consolidate state budgets in the countries affected continued to rise, with spending cuts and tax increases putting the brakes on private consumption and corporate investment. Developments varied greatly again: whilst Germany and Austria recorded high growth rates, the increase in France was moderate and in Italy weak. Greece and Portugal were in a recession.
German GDP in the reporting year increased by 3.0% (previous year: 3.7%), sparked again by foreign trade. Exports were up by a solid 8%. However, the primary growth driver was domestic demand. Corporate and construction spending was up considerably. Private consumption continued to rise, albeit only moderately. The sustained upturn had a very positive impact on the labour market. The average annual number of unemployed workers in Germany fell by approximately 260,000 to around 2.98 million. The country saw the best unemployment (annual average of 7.1%) and employment rates (annual average of over 41 million) since reunification.