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The International Monetary Fund has revised down its 2017 growth forecast for the British economy. Its move follows a weak first quarter that suggests the country’s exit from the European Union is starting to weigh on consumers and businesses.

In an update to its April forecasts, the IMF lowered its 2017 growth forecast by 0.3 percentage point to 1.7% following weaker than anticipated first quarter figures. During the first three months of the year, the British economy expanded by only 0.2%, lower than any other G7 economy.

In contrast, the IMF upgraded its forecasts for Europe’s main economies, such as Germany and France.

Despite the IMF’s downgrade, Britain’s projected growth is just shy of the eurozone’s expected 1.9% growth.

Eurozone healthy despite pullback

Economic activity across the 19-country eurozone cooled slightly in July as the region struggled to keep up the fast pace of its recent upturn, according to a survey that is closely monitored by the European Central Bank.

Financial information firm IHS Markit said Monday that its headline purchasing managers’ index for the region fell to a six-month low of 55.8 points in July from 56.3 the previous month.

Despite the modest retreat, the indicator pointed to one of the strongest expansions seen in the past six years, with quarterly growth at a still-healthy 0.6%, down slightly from the 0.7% signalled for the second quarter.

Official second-quarter figures are due at the start of August and are expected to show that the eurozone at least matched the 0.6% growth recorded in the first three months of the year.

A run of economic news recently has pointed to a pick-up in growth across the eurozone countries amid rising confidence in the region’s outlook following a series of elections that saw populist politicians defeated.

Chris Williamson, the firm’s chief business economist, says it’s “too early to know for sure whether the economy has merely hit a speed bump or whether the upturn is already starting to fade.”

The evidence, he says, “points to the former,” with the economy “hitting bottlenecks due to the speed of the recent upturn.”

He noted that forward-looking indicators, such as new order inflows, suggest further robust growth in coming months. As a result, job creation is “booming” as companies seek to expand capacity to meet the demand.

The survey is likely to inform the ECB’s deliberations as it mulls when to start reining back its monetary stimulus. Last week, ECB President Mario Draghi sought to be neutral, worried that any indication of any change of course could lead to the euro currency surging. More clarity is expected in the autumn.

Much will depend on the inflation outlook. The chief purpose behind the ECB’s stimulus efforts, which has involved slashing interest rates and buying 60 billion euros ($69 billion) a month in bonds at least through the end of the year, is to stoke price pressures in the economy to get inflation up to its goal of just below 2%. In the year to June, the annual rate of inflation was 1.3%. Monday’s survey suggested that inflation pressures eased in July, which may reinforce Draghi’s belief that there isn’t “any convincing sign of a pickup in inflation.”

The ECB meets next to decide on policy on Sept. 8.

Spain doing alright

Spain’s economic minister says the economy is doing better than the government expected as it continues to rebound strongly from recession.

Minister Luis de Guindos told Spanish newspaper ABC that he expects Spain’s economy to expand 3.2% this year. Last month, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy revised his country’s economic growth forecast for this year upward to 3% from 2.7%.

De Guindos says “it will be very difficult for us not to reach the government forecast of 3%, and it is perfectly reasonable for growth to surpass the 3.2% of 2016.”

Spain emerged from recession in late 2013 and is now one of the European Union’s fastest-growing economies. It still has problems with a 19% unemployment rate, however — the EU’s second-highest after Greece.

Greece to take step forward

Greece will issue a five-year bond on Tuesday, in the country’s first attempt to return to international borrowing markets since a single bond issue in 2014.

The government said Monday the bond issue will be managed by six global banks and that pricing was expected Tuesday, with settlement on Aug. 1.

Greece lost market access in 2010 as the country descended into a financial crisis that saw it receive three international bailouts designed to keep it afloat while it overhauled its economy.

Tuesday’s bond issue will be the first for the left wing-led coalition government of Alexis Tsipras, who came to power in early elections in 2015 on a mandate to repeal bailout-imposed austerity measures.

Japan and China upgraded

As part of its latest world economic outlook update, the IMF has upgraded the economic outlook for Europe, Japan and China for 2017.

The IMF expects Japan to grow 1.3% (up from the previously expected 1.2%) and China to expand 6.7% (versus 6.6%).

While the IMF’s forecast for global growth is unchanged from an April forecast, that’s partly because the U.S. is unlikely to get much help from tax cuts and higher infrastructure spending.

Originally published on Advisor.ca
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