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Jul 17, 2012, 08.56 AM IST
ASIA-ECONOMY:Asia policymakers have means to stimulate, weak exports give motive
That is just as well, since leading indicators, particularly for manufacturing, show that trade across export-obsessed Asia has hit an air pocket that could last for months.
"Exports are about to drop off sharply," warned Frederic Neumann, co-head of Asian economics at HSBC.
"To avoid sudden weakness feeding on itself, measures are needed to bridge the lull in growth," he argued, proscribing a dose of fiscal spending and regulatory reform.
The response also would not need to be as aggressive as after the global financial crisis, since there was no sign of the snap-freeze in trade finance that so badly damaged Asian exports in 2008 and 2009.
Inflation has also been easing in most parts of the region, giving central banks and governments more room to ease policy or launch fresh stimulus than many developed nations.
Neumann noted that industrial production in the United States and euro zone is still below its pre-crisis peak, yet in emerging Asia it was now over 40 percent higher.
Crucially, this recovery was driven by Asian demand and not, as traditionally, by exports to the West. That was a major reason it took just 11 months on average for emerging Asia to recoup all the output losses of the global recession.
"All that's coming is another trade shock, and one that is likely to be much shallower than in 2008 as trade financing remains available," argues Neumann. "All we need is stimulus, and the region will quickly fire up again. Please deliver."
Policymakers have already done a lot, and still have far more ammunition remaining than their counterparts in the United States, Europe, Britain and Japan, which are running out of tools to jump-start demand.
Interest rates are at or near record lows across much of the region while most countries have not had to cut spending like their western counterparts.
The latest move came from the Bank of Korea which surprised last week by cutting rates a quarter point to 3 percent, its first easing in more than three years. It characterised the cut as a pre-emptive strike and left the door open for more stimulus if necessary.
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